Traditional camp or specialty camp?Hundreds of thousands of New Jersey children go to day or sleepaway camp each summer to enjoy learning about leadership and independence, to meet new friends, and to try new activities. There are many different summer program options for parents to choose from, and the good news is: there is a camp for every child. But often parents wonder if they should send their child to a traditional summer camp or a specialty camp. What's the difference and how do parents know which camp program will mean success for their child?

Traditional Summer Camp

At traditional summer camps, children get a varied camp experience with many different activities such as baseball, swimming, arts and crafts, drama, canoeing and much more. If parents are hoping their children come away with social and developmental growth, and learn skills such as self-esteem and resilience, the traditional camp will provide these experiences. When a child goes to a traditional camp, he also becomes part of a community and will enjoy typical summer camp diversions such as bunk activity days, carnival, Olympics and color war, to name a few.

Specialty Camp

When a child attends a specialty camp, she focuses on a specific camp activity or related camp activities for a given period of time. There are many different types of specialty camps available for just about every interest, such as tennis, drama, gymnastics, computers, or basket­ball. If your child has an interest in a specialized activity, there is bound to be a camp geared towards that interest.

How to Choose the Right Camp

So, how do you know which type of camp would be best for your child?

Consider your child’s age.

Young children often don’t show a specific interest in just one activity because they are still figuring out what they like to do. A traditional summer camp gives children the opportunity to play multiple sports, try their hand at activities such as arts and crafts, and develop a variety of skills and values.

Often, older children and teenagers have narrowed down what they like and show a keen aptitude for a particular sport or skill. Or they may have developed a passion for the performing arts, sciences, or technology. In these cases, a specialty camp may be a good option for them.

Keep in mind that many traditional camps offer focused programs where campers can specialize in an activity of their choice while still enjoying the benefits of the traditional summer camp experience. Often, traditional camps hire top athletic coaches to teach as specialists so campers receive top instruction in sports and activities.

Consider your child’s interests.

Does your child play basketball but also perform in the school plays? If the answer is yes, he may like a more varied day and may prefer a traditional camp where he can participate in many different activities. Does your child focus on one passion most of her time? Is she really focused on one skill? If the answer is yes, your child may prefer a specialty camp where she can concentrate on this one activity.


This information was provided by the American Camp Association. For help finding a camp for your child and for more information, visit, or call 800-777-CAMP.