17 Popular Preschool Summer Camps in NYC
Finding an engaging and enriching summer camp that's right for your kid always takes a bit of work. Finding one that's a good fit for your first-time, preschool-age camper can be downright nerve-racking. You want their initial camp experience to be fun, safe, and memorable, but not over-stimulating or overwhelming. With so many high-quality camps for NYC preschoolers, it's hard to figure out which one to choose.
That's why we turned to the experts: our friends at the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey. They've selected a handful of excellent New York City preschool summer camps offering a well-rounded summer experience filled with games, arts, sports, socializing, and plenty of outdoor time. Through the years, we've added more kid-tested, parent-approved picks of our own. Best of all, many of these preschool summer camps grow with your child, accepting kids in elementary school and beyond.
Keep in mind: Every camp has its own philosophy and program, so check out the website, call the director, and, if possible, attend an open house to get all the information you need before registering. Check out our Summer Camp Guide for more ideas, or these Brooklyn and Queens preschool summer camps for more outer-borough options.
Note that summer camp information for the 2020 season is changing daily. Please click the links to the individual camps below to see which ones are offering programs this year.
Note: The ages specified are for preschool summer camps, but many of these organizations provide summer camps for big kids, too. Be sure to click through for more information.
92Y Camp K'Ton Ton – Upper East Side
1395 Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
Specifically created for preschoolers and managed by the lauded nursery program at the 92nd Street Y, this camp offers creative art projects, imaginative activities, music, movement, gymnastics, sports, and science, as well as periods of unstructured, child-directed play. Outdoor fun includes romping at one of the Y's three outdoor play spaces, bike-riding lessons, and swim instruction.
Get your city kid involved with nature this summer at The Art Farm.
The Art Farm in the City – Upper East Side
Trevor Day School, 312 East 95th Street
The folks behind this innovative, animal-focused play space offer half-day camps for children ages 3 and 4, and full-day options for 4 and 5 year olds, all at the Trevor Day School. Campers participate in art-making, animal-care, gardening, and more. Those who spend a full week at camp get swimming lessons at the 92nd Street Y twice a week. True to its name, animal time is incorporated into every day.
At Bank Street Summer Camp, children learn to become careful observers, experimenters, and creative thinkers.
Bank Street Lower Camp Village – Upper West Side
The Bank Street School, 610 West 112th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive
At the Bank Street Lower Camp Village, activities are designed to develop a child's cognitive skills with an emphasis on play. Campers spend a lot of time exploring the city. Campers are divided into age groups and led by head counselors who are usually teachers at the Bank Street School for Children or graduate students from Bank Street College. Participants go on weekly field trips to places like the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Carousel, and other developmentally and age-appropriate spots. Swimming lessons take place three times a week at Riverdale's outdoor Skyview pool.
Enjoy some old-fashioned summertime sprinkler fun during The Bronx House day camp.
Bronx House – Morris Park, the Bronx
990 Pelham Parkway South
Bronx House's experienced early childhood education staff leads a tremendous first summer camp for youngsters. Over the six-week session, kids explore the local neighborhood, spend plenty of time splashing in the sprinklers, enjoy picnicking in the great outdoors, and pick up new friends and skills along the way. Full- and half-day programs are available, but campers must register for the entire summer.
The Caedmon School Discovery Camp – Upper East Side
416 East 80th Street between First and York Avenues
Campers are organized into three separate groups according to age: Ages 2.8-3 attend half-day sessions throughout the week; 4-year-olds go for the full-day and attend an end-of-summer field trip; 5-year-olds go on one off-site trip per week. Attendees of all ages enjoy arts and crafts, cooking, science, yoga, music, recreation, and sports daily. One day a week, the whole camp participates in a themed event, such as a carnival day or a dance party.
Campers embark on adventures daily during Camp Apple Seeds.
Camp Apple Seeds – Chelsea
10 West 25th Street
This popular play space offers a half-day preschooler summer camp that runs in two-week sessions, and parents can choose between two, three, four, or five-day options. The kids get to play in the gym, as well as explore early-learning subjects like dramatic play, storytelling, science, cooking, and more. They take daily "adventures" to explore their surroundings, too.
Chelsea Piers offers a variety of sports camps!
Chelsea Piers Sports Camps – Chelsea
21st Street and 11th Avenue
Little athletes can hone their skills at Chelsea Piers' spectacular facilities. Campers ages 3 and 4 can participate in half-day programs in gymnastics or ice skating. Junior campers, ages 4-5, spend five hours on-site and can choose from a gymnastics or ice hockey camp. Find an early bird registration deal in the Mommy Poppins Directory.
The JCC uses cooking to teach science to its campers.
Day Camp @ the JCC – Upper West Side
The JCC in Manhattan, 344 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street
This Jewish camp aims to give first-time campers unique and new experiences. Kids enjoy yoga, music, science, and cooking lessons while learning about Jewish values. Sports, swim instruction, and plenty of outdoor play at the JCC's rooftop playground and nearby green spaces round out the fun.
Dwight Summer Day Camp – Upper West Side
144 Riverside Blvd. at 66th Street
This year's Discovery Camp takes place at Dwight's new Upper West Side location, the Dwight Riverside Campus. Campers participate in a varied curriculum that includes sports like soccer, yoga, tennis, swimming, and basketball, along with dance, arts, and crafts.
The 14th Street Y – East Village
344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues
Children as young as 1 1/2 can attend this popular summer program held at the venerable East Village community hub. The Mini Camp (ages 17 months to 3.5 years) is a parent-and-me camp with caregivers and tots attending abbreviated 1-hour, 45-minute sessions packed with arts and crafts, sing-alongs, and sprinkler time at the Y's rooftop playground. For children who have successfully separated from their parents, On Our Way (ages 2.4-3.5-years) offers more of the same in two weekly, half-day drop-off sessions. New Town Day Camp (ages 3-6) offers full- and half-day sessions, and participants can take advantage of the Y's excellent facilities, including an indoor pool, community room, theater, art studio, and fabulous rooftop playground. The Junior Camp (ages 2.4-3.5) offers a four-day per week, extended-day experience.
La Escuelita – Upper West Side
225 West 99th Street
La Escuelita is well known for its Spanish-immersion preschool program, and those interested in introducing their kids to a second language appreciate the summer camp offerings here. Half-day programs are offered for 2 to 5 year olds. All programming is in Spanish.
Little Red Summer Camp – Greenwich Village
272 Sixth Avenue at Bleecker Street
The lower camp at Little Red offers half-day programs for campers who will be 4 by the end of the year and a full- or half-day program for children who are 4 by July 31. Campers spend ample time playing outdoors at the nearby Downing Street Playground as well as the school's well-equipped rooftop play area. Full-day campers also enjoy a "choice class" during select afternoons. There are weekly theme days like Big Green Meadow and Deep Blue Sea, and Fridays are for field trips to spots like the Central Park Zoo and carousel, Green Meadows Farm, Teardrop Park, the Staten Island Children's Museum, and Central Park's Victorian Gardens amusement park.
New York Kids Club – Multiple Locations
Visit the website for a list of locations
This chain of kiddie gyms offers half- and (nearly) full-day programs for kids ages 2.5 to 6 years old. Kids enjoy thematic adventures each day with guided play designed to engage campers academically and physically.
Oasis Early Start Imagination Camp – Multiple Locations
Oasis, the popular day camp for older kids, also offers an Early Start Imagination Camp, which is a modified version of its high-energy activities for the preschool set. Tots enjoy arts and crafts, dancing, music, and sports in shorter periods accompanied by snacks and nap breaks. Participants also have swim lessons daily.
RELATED: Best Summer Camps in Brooklyn
Park Slope Day Camp participants get to enjoy field trips to city institutions.
Park Slope Day Camp: Pee Wee Camp — Multiple Locations
With five Brooklyn outposts, this program's Pee Wee Camp strikes a balance between indoor entertainment and outdoor activities in Prospect Park. Along with weekly swimming lessons and field trips, campers enjoy music, arts and crafts, gymnastics, and even learn circus skills.
Staten Island Academy — Todt Hill, Staten Island
715 Todt Hill Road
This private school offers both half- and full-day programs for its youngest campers. Camp activities are housed in the early-childhood classrooms, and youngsters have the run of the large playground as well as time to romp on the spacious campus. All full-day campers receive swimming instruction, too.
YMCA — Citywide
The city's YMCA branches offer affordable summer day camps for all ages, including the preschool set. Its Kinder Camp, for ages 3 to 5, is especially perfect for those little New Yorkers headed into kindergarten in the fall. It's offered at nearly all 20 branches and includes swimming, indoor and outdoor activities, and science and literacy projects designed to prep kids for school in a hands-on, fun way.
Find out about other cool camps for preschoolers in our Summer Camp Guide.
Thanks to our friends at the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey for helping to create this post.
Photos courtesy of the camps
This article, first published in May 2014, is updated annually.