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Summer camps for preschoolers offer big advantages

Keep your preschooler busy with the summer camp advantage

Summer camp can offer your preschooler some educational advantages such as working their eye-hand coordination with age appropriate games, and arts and crafts.

In the past, summers for pre-schoolers have traditionally been much like the rest of their year, settled in daycare or at home with mom or dad. But there are educational activities for the under 5 set in the Hudson Valley. Below is a sampling of what’s available.


Looking for a great camp?

All kids learn at different rates, but there’s a distinct difference between how a pre-schooler tackles a problem versus a 6 or 7-year-old. Many facilities have programs specifically geared toward kids as young as 3 or 4. Check when researching programs. Multi-age classrooms with a variety of content to satisfy the students’ individual needs can also be a boon, with younger children working to emulate the older students. Don’t let your child’s age discourage you from applying – some facilities will even accept a potty-trained 2½-year-old if you ask.


One program specifically for this age group is Rosmarins Day Camp’s special nursery program for kids ages 3-4½. “We have a custom in-ground pool designed for them,” says owner Scott Rosmarin. In addition to swimming lessons, the program features age-appropriate eye-hand games and arts and crafts based on themes explored during story time. Field trips to go boating on a nearby lake are a camper favorite.


Like any childcare situation, parents should check the staff to child ratio for summer programs. Rosmarins has a 3 to 1 teacher ratio, says Rosmarin, who hired a camp director with a degree in elementary school education to run the preschool program. Small group sizes enable parents to feel like their child is well-cared for, but the setting still fosters a new sense of responsibility.


Science disguised as fun


At Mad Science Camp, the Junior Explorers program is geared for kids 4, 5, and 6, although they access each applicant individually. Having a year of preschool experience is a good idea, but there are other ways to determine if a child is ready. “When the parents feel the child is ready for kindergarten in the fall, that’s often a good indicator,” says director Brian Crandall. He says his daughter was “a young five,” so he waited a year before sending her. Where a child’s birthday falls on a calendar may be one criteria, but most camps will make sure children are placed in an age range that will work best for the child.


These children will be participating in similar programs that the older kids get, but geared to the younger age range. At Mad Science, kids are enrolled in a week’s worth of half-day structured science sessions.

Is there a year-round version?


Starting your pre-schooler in a summer art class or a music camp can be a cost-effective way of gauging their interest in a hobby without coughing up the cash for an entire year’s tuition. If your plan is to turn this into a life-long (or at least childhood- long) pursuit, start at a facility that offers both summer and year-round versions of the class so your child can maintain a relationship with their teachers or the facility. Some places like the Mill Street Loft in Poughkeepsie even offer outreach camps in spots around the Hudson Valley to make the introduction more convenient for parents who don’t live in the city. If the summer course is a hit, then parents can decide if it’s worth it to travel farther for the experience.


What does the schedule look like?


Time frames for pre-school summer programs traditionally mirror those of their older siblings’ classes, with part-day or full-day options available. If your preschooler still requires a nap, check with the camp before you sign them up to see if rest-time is structured into the day. For children who have never spent time out of the home, a summer program with structure but some flexibility can be a first step toward kindergarten without overwhelming them.


Jeanne Sager is a writer and mom in Sullivan County. She’s written for Parents, and more and blogs at Inside Out,