Summer camps cultivate character, forge friendships, and build bravery during the often awkward adolescent years. The late Charles William Eliot, an American academic and former Harvard University President (1869-1901), once opined that “a few weeks spent in a well-organized summer camp may be of more value educationally than a whole year of formal schoolwork.” Recent research supports his claim, suggesting that children who attend summer camps are more resilient to life stressors and are more equipped for psychosocial development (Psychology Today, 2012). Tom Holland, CEO of the American Camp Association, notes that “quality camp experiences help children develop healthy emotional and social skills necessary to grow into strong, considerate, competent adults.” Summer camps are the perfect place for children to learn important life skills such as embracing self-efficacy, treating others fairly, and communicating effectively.

Since most parents aspire for their children to evolve into independent and responsible teens, and in an effort to keep boredom at bay during the summer months, the decision to enroll their kids in an enrichment summer camp is an easy one. Fortunately, Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens offer a wide variety of camp programs. However, sifting through a summer camp guide is both exhausting and time-consuming. As such, Golden Bear Realty ventured straight to the source and asked a few area residents, all under the age of 12, which camps they recommend. In no particular order, here are their top picks:

1. SURF CAMP: What better way to make connections with other kids than hanging 10 together? Ronan and Finola Evans of Palm Beach Gardens recommend Blue Water Surfing Camp in Jupiter. Not only do students learn how to surf, they also participate in other activities such as Indigo boarding, dodgeball, surf yoga, paddleboarding, tubing, wakeboarding, and snorkeling. “Founder and professional surfer, William Kimball takes pride in making sure the kids have a blast,” says their mother, Senta. “Yeah, he gives us nicknames and, on the last day of camp, we have an awards ceremony and pizza party. It’s so fun!” exclaims Ronan. The camp also employs surf-savvy teenagers who are always watching the kids in the water and leading different activities.

2. RIVER CENTER CAMP:
Another water-focused program, the Loxahatchee River Center in Jupiter exposes children to different habitats of indigenous aquatic life. Limited to just 16 participants, campers spend the day paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, hiking, making crafts, playing eco games, and learning about the River Center aquarium care. For brothers Dillon and Cian Hoban of Jupiter, Florida, the River Center camp is at the top of their list. “I mostly like sports camps,” says Dillon, “but the River Center camp was a lot of fun because we did different things each day.” “And we learned about nature and different fish species, too” adds Cian. The cost of the camp is $215 and runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with extended hours available at an additional charge. Because of its popularity, early registration is highly recommended.

3. JUPITER FISHING CAMP: Fishing enthusiasts flock to the Town of Jupiter’s Fishing Camp, which is held at at Jupiter Community Park. Campers--affectionately referred to as “little anglers”--learn how to bait a hook, cast a rod, reel in a fish, tie knots, and identify Florida freshwater fish. “The one camp that my boys, Campbell and Oliver, ask to do each and every year is the Jupiter Fishing Camp,” says Kara Davidson of Jupiter, Florida. “The counselors make it really fun,” says ten-year old Oliver. “On the last day of camp, we have a fishing tournament and they give out prizes for whoever catches the most fish and for whoever catches the biggest one.” “The winner of the tournament gets a trophy,” adds Campbell, age 12. The week-long camp is from 9 a.m. until noon and the cost is $130 for Jupiter residents ($167 for non-residents). Each camper gets his or her own rod and reel and a camp t-shirt.

4. PREDATORS SOCCER CAMP: The Davidson brothers also suggest Palm Beach Gardens Predator Soccer Camp, a week-long camp that focuses on soccer fundamentals, skills, and scrimmages. “Even though they play competitive soccer all year long, they still beg to do the Predator camp,” says Kara. “We like seeing the different coaches and hanging out with some of our teammates,” says Oliver. The camps, which are are associated with the City of Palm Beach Gardens, are held at Duncan Middle School, Mirasol Park, or Klock Soccer Complex, depending on selected dates. The cost for a full day (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.) of camp is $250 and half day (9 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.) is $160.

5. LIGHTHOUSE ART CENTER: Art aficionados and siblings Cara and Maeve Martin adamantly approve the Lighthouse Art Center camp in Tequesta. “The camp exposes us to a variety of art forms from still life to sculpture. And even though the hands-on projects are guided by a topic, we are given creative freedom to produce the art the way we want,” says Maeve. “The girls just love the instructors and teenage volunteers. They come home with multiple completed projects at the end of the week. It’s definitely a family favorite!,” says mom Amy. This year, the camp focus is on developing children’s stories and illustrations. In addition to drawing, painting, and ceramics, campers will visit the local galleries and learn about art history, cultural influences, and artistic style.

6. DESERT ROSE RANCH: Horse crazy sisters Lilly-Kaye and Wren Vance enthusiastically recommend Desert Rose Ranch in Jupiter. A beautiful equestrian facility located within the gated neighborhood of Ranch Colony, Desert Rose Ranch offers week-long camps that include daily riding lessons, horsemanship, crafts, trail rides, swimming, volleyball, and more. Owner Pam Livechi has a host of well-groomed school horses, including several former National Champions. The 20-acre ranch is exceptionally clean, and the trainers and staff ensure a safe environment for both novice and experienced riders.

7. VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL: Singing, dancing, playing, crafting, learning, and smiling for three hours straight is what J.J. Vance likes most about Vacation Bible School (VBS). Many area churches offer this weeklong experience for free or for a minimal cost. First Presbyterian of North Palm Beach, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Juno Beach, Trinity United Methodist Church in Palm Beach Gardens, and Generation Church in Jupiter are just a few of the local churches that offer a vibrant VBS program every summer. Because of its popularity, early registration at the VBS church of your choice is highly recommended. Registration may be submitted via the church website.

Apart from these tried and true camps, both the City of Palm Beach Gardens and the Town of Jupiter offer weekday camps at their respective community centers. These camps include swimming, arts and crafts, and weekly field trips and are ideal for working parents. Parents can pay for specific weeks or can register for the entire summer. The recreation departments also offer specialty camps throughout the summer including lacrosse, baseball, golf, dance, gymnastics, and more. No matter what summer camp you choose, your precious children are certain to make lifelong memories and learn important life skills.

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