9 great camps that will make your kid’s summer

You meant to sign up for a summer camp earlier, but your crazy busy life kept moving it to the bottom of the to-do list. We get it. Now with school winding down, a bit of panic is probably setting in. The good news is that it’s not too late to give your kid an amazing summer. We found 9 great camps your child will love (and they still have a few spots available if you hurry).


Get your kids out of their comfort zone with plenty of climbing, exploring and fun. In addition to all the climbing and rope work, Funtopia’s week-long and day-long summer camps in Glenview will challenge kids and leave them with confidence and a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention providing a summer of fun and new friends.

Kids do not need to know how to climb to attend camp; in fact, kids who are a little wary often get the most out of camp, the director says.

The camp is created with flexibility for family schedules, so campers can do week-long or day-long day camps. The days are filled with high-energy games, climbing, cave exploration and team building for ages 6-14.



Curious kids who like to build will find inspiration and kindred spirits at the new KSI STEM youth coding summer camp in Skokie. Projects include building robots, programming drones and actually writing code to make things work. Flexibility is the name of the game; boys and girls 12-16 can pick a week that best fits their summer plans and a project to complete from a list of 15 cool options.

“We want to make it fun summertime camp,” says Gabriel Smith, camp programs coordinator.

What makes the camp particularly special is that its faculty at Knowledge Systems Institute normally teach graduate students, so they know how to best inspire passion in kids, he says. The camp holds open houses every Wednesday 6-7 p.m. and every Saturday and Sunday 1-2 p.m.



The first goal at Music House School of Performing Arts Fine Arts summer camp is fun, says assistant director Ashley Trumbo, and the staff really love showing kids why art, theater, music and dance should be and can be just that. Trumbo, whose favorite class is the rock band class, says she hears kids always telling parents they never want camp to end.

Different than structured music classes or lessons, the full-day camps are perfect for exposing kids ages 3 ½-12 to the arts for the first time or building on what they already know. No day of camp is ever the same, Trumbo says. Completely family focused, they understand difficult schedules so the week-long summer day camps are all about flexibility and offer before/after care, she says.



If you have a kid who has a real spirit of adventure and likes to try new things, then they will love the week-long day camps offered by Chicago Sailing this summer. Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend every day on our beautiful Lake Michigan?

Its Sails & Serves camp, ideal for ages 9-16, is the only full-day sailing and tennis camp in Chicago, giving kids two sports they can do the rest of their lives, while its Adventure Sail is a new STEM-focused camp that combines a lot of sailing and a lot of hands-on science and math. With four campers per instructor on a 22-foot sailboat, campers are sure to be competent sailors by camp’s end, says Graham Sauser, director of operations at Chicago Sailing.



Who tells your story? Kids who have experienced death of a parent this year can attend Hands Together, Heart to Art, a performing arts day camp at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago. Taken from the Broadway smash Hamilton, the camp teaches them how to tell their own stories, Camp Director Colt Neidhardt says.

In addition to 10 healing artists, professionals from Chicago’s arts community, such as the Joffrey and Steppenwolf, help kids learn how to express their feeling through acting, singing and dance in ensemble and individual work. At the same time, they find other kids going through the same thing so they don’t feel so alone.

Two sessions are offered — July 10-21 for kids 7-10 and July 24-Aug. 4 – for ages 11-14. Cost is kept low so that it’s not an obstacle – $50, with scholarship assistance available for families who need it.



If your child loves soccer, they will love the Chicago Fire day camps where professional coaches will fuel their fire for the game hopefully for life, says Chicago Fire’s Lee Hannant.

And the day camps couldn’t be more accessible, with 220 camps offered throughout Chicagoland. Hannant says they intentionally keep the cost low to make sure the camps remain available to everyone, from beginners at age 2 to high-level travel players.

Kids get a player evaluation to help with their development, a jersey and ball and ticket to a Chicago Fire game that serves as camp graduation. “We create an unbelievable memory during camp and give them something lasting to take away,” he says.



Get mindful, get gritty, get thrifty. In addition to an endless amount of climbing built into their day, kids at the Brooklyn Boulders Summer Adventures will leave with lessons about loyalty, kindness and determination, says Claire Bao of Brooklyn Boulders in Chicago.

Some camps also will feature partners, such as West Loop Soccer Club and MSA Circus Arts, for even more new experiences. This summer Brooklyn Boulders also is teaming up with Mathnasium for an after-camp program.

The ideal camper will be kids who aren’t afraid to fail and like to try new things, she says. In addition to team-building, the camps have enough flexibility to cater to each child.



Remember that amazing feeling of freedom you felt the moment you set off on your bike without training wheels for the first time? This year, you can give that feeling to your kids at the Pedalheads bike camp. Whether you don’t have a sidewalk or the patience, it can be really hard to teach a kid to ride a bike these days. Pedalheads’ trained instructors can get kids as young as 3 on two wheels by the end of camp.

Better yet, the kids, ages 3-10, will make friends who are also learning about bike safety and other skills needed to ride on our busy Chicago streets, in the parks and around the neighborhood.



There is something special about a child and a horse, and this summer, the skilled, competitive horse show instructors at New Traditions Riding Academy in Palos Hills want to not only teach kids to ride, but also to give them skills they will use the rest of their lives: confidence, friendship and compassion.

Day campers will ride every day, and kids can also have fun with the donkeys, sheep and chickens living on the farm, plus play lots of games. At camp’s end, they put on a horse show for parents. Pony camps start at age 4, with kids learning to ride and care for the ponies. Horse camps cater to everyone from beginners with no riding experience to the most advance riders.


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