Two months. That’s how long your student has off from school for the summer. While you could see this as a great bonding time with your kids (and it is!), there is one problem: it’s just so. much. time! That’s where summer camps come in to save the day. Teaching your kids new skills, helping them form new friendships, and burning off the copious amounts of energy.
But summer camp can be a major burden on the wallet. Fortunately, there are a number of local summer camps and programs that make enrollment much more manageable. Whether they want to learn more about science and technology, grow as an artist, or gain skills on the field, there is an affordable camp for every age and interest.
To help you make your selections, we’ve rounded up a great list of free or affordable summer camps (using the cap of $300 per week as the highest limit) that you can use to help keep your kids entertained and engaged all summer long. Unless otherwise noted, registration for camps is on a week to week basis.
Dates/hours: varies by location, one-day intensive camps
Apple offers free three-day camps at different Apple store locations in the Delaware Valley: creating characters and composing music; stories in motion with iMovie, or coding games and programming robots. All local Apple Stores are participating and registration fills up fast for these free offerings.
Photo courtesy Flip Out Productions
Flip Out Productions
Dates: June 17–August 24
Age Groups/Hours: 3-6 (9 a.m.–noon) and 6-14 years (9 a.m.–3 p.m.)
An active summer program is in store for your future gymnast, with a focus on gymnastics, yoga, arts and crafts, and more.
Heart to Hand Culinary Camp
Dates: June 18–July 27
Hours: 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Campers learn culinary skills in small hands-on classes, maxing out at 6 kids per class. Focus on seasonal ingredients and recipes, gardening, and kitchen safety. All weekly sessions end in a Friday buffet style tasting for parents.
Northern Liberties Arts
Dates: August 6–24
Ages: 4–9 and 9–12
Hours: 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. (aftercare is available)
Each of the three weeks provides a chance to gain hands-on art experience, with the goal of a project created within the week. Local field trips and opportunities to run and play also available.
Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Dates: July 9–20
Ages: Entering grades 1-8
Hours: 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
The mission of the program is for students to feel a sense of environmental responsibility and campers get a chance to participate in hands-on, outdoor play and exploration
PAFA Summer Art Camp
Dates: June 25–August 10, 2018
Hours: 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (after care is available).
PAFA summer camp includes hands-on art experiences as well as field trips to studios within the school and around the city. Sessions are designed for all skill levels.
Penn Museum Anthropologists in the Making
Dates: June 25–August 17, 2018
Hours: 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (before and after care is available).
Campers explore themes such as myth and legends, understand the key components of anthropology, and tour the galleries. Through these week-long sessions, campers also gain important insights into the diversity of our ancestors and history.
Photo courtesy Portside Arts Center
Portside Arts Center
Dates: June 25–August 17, 2018
Ages: Minnows 4-7 & Sharks 8-12
Hours: 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. (before and after care is available)
Portside offers a summer arts camp experience using a combination of materials and skills. Campers will learn techniques in drawing, painting, printmaking, clay sculpture, mosaic, collage, fiber arts, and more. Each week features a cultural field trip to places like the Fabric Workshop Museum, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Smith Playground.
Philadelphia Parks and Rec
Dates, Ages, and Hours vary by location
With rec departments across the city, more than 100 neighborhood day camps are available at affordable rates. Specialty camps include teen camps, performing and visual art camps, camps for people with disabilities, as well as arts and crafts, and more. Use the department's finder tool to locate a summer program near you.
Rock to the Future Summer Music Camps
Dates: July, depending on age
Ages: 7-12 or 13-17
Hours: 9 a.m.–4 p.m. (early drop off and late pick up available)
Kids learn or develop music skills with camps designed to inspire. Instruments are provided for students to learn guitar, drums, bass, or keyboard. Camp ends when student-formed bands present live for families and friends. Rock to the Future Summer Music Camps are free for low-income Philadelphia youth (scholarship application must be filled out and approved).
Schuylkill Center Nature Camps
Dates: June 11 – August 17, 2018
Ages: 3– 15
Hours: 9 a.m.–4 p.m. (before and after care is available)
Give your kids the gift of nature without ever leaving the city limits with camp at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. The center offers two environmentally-based summer camp programs: Nature Ramblers for younger children and Adventure Treks for pre-teens and teens. Campers explore and learn about nature and environmentalism.
Soccer Shots Summer Camp at Smith
Dates: August 20-24, 2018
Ages: 4 – 8
Hours: 9 a.m.–noon
This summer the national Soccer Shots program is offering a week-long camp experience at Smith Memorial Playground. Camp includes soccer instruction and games as well as crafts and play on the playground.
Photo courtesy Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Dates: July 9–August 10, 2018. Half-day camp: June 18-29, 2018
Hours: 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (Half-day camp: 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m.)
If your child is looking for an immersive cultural experience, check out the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden Summer program. Campers can try their hand at Japanese arts and crafts. Each week culminates in a tour and performance by the campers. Older campers might also want to try their new Manga Immersion program.
Dates: June 11–August 31
Ages: 4 and up
Hours: varies by location and age
With multiple locations throughout the Philadelphia Region, you can easily find a summer camp with the Y that fits your interests and budget. YMCA camp programs focus on social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual development. All campers must be current Y members but you can register your membership when you sign up for camps. Check your local listings for more details.
YMCA—Dragonfly Day Camp
Dates/Hours: One week sessions around camper needs: autism, 22q, explorers, asthma, and hematology
Ages: 4 and up
Designed for campers with special needs and abilities, this affordable day camp includes arts and crafts, performing arts, science and nature, sports, swimming, and field trips while providing the structure and support that help campers build self-confidence and make lifelong friendships.
ZoomDance Summer Camp
Dates: July 9 – August 31, 2018
Hours: 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (before and after care available)
ZoomDance Camp will really burn off the energy for your fun-loving young kids. Kids experience music and dance classes, and also yoga, art projects, and a chance to visit local playgrounds and pools. Costs are daily, not weekly, and they offer discounts for bundles of days. Daily registration is required.