Camp Guide: Find the Right Fit for your Creative Child

From Rosemont to Wynnewood and Bryn Mawr to West Chester, this downloadable PDF is refrigerator-worthy.

Hedgerow Theatre camps

Exploring creativity is one of the best parts of being a kid—and summer camp is the perfect place to nurture those forays. Technical skills are only the beginning in arts-based programs. Children learn how to work in a group, express ideas, follow directions, be on time and complete tasks, all while thinking outside the box.

Top Row: Music Training Center camps; Bottom Row, Left to Right: Main Line Art Center camp, Hedgerow Theatre camp,  Main Line Art Center camp


Click to download the full local camps roundup (pdf).“The ability to think creatively is a critical element not just of the arts, but of medicine, technology, teaching and other fields,” says Penelope Reed, producing director of summer camps at Media’s Hedgerow Theatre. “Our kids learn that here and take it into the world with them.”

Problem solving is another takeaway. “They might run into obstacles with the tools and materials available, and have to figure out how to make it work,” says Stacie Brennan, Main Line Art Center’s education director. “Or, if the project doesn’t come out the way they expected, they learn from it and move forward.”

Kids also get the experience of presenting their work to an audience, whether through exhibits, theater productions or live performances. “Once you learn to do that, you can carry that confidence into many different areas of life, from classrooms to office meetings to personal interactions,” says Darryl Schick, founder of the area’s five Music Training Centers, where students get to play in front of 200 people at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. 

Campers also learn to collaborate with kindness and respect. “We teach kids to develop a language for evaluating other people’s work, as well as their own,” says Brennan. “They learn how to give critiques in ways that are helpful. And we give kids experience in receiving that feedback and processing it, so that they can improve their work without getting discouraged.”

Overall, the goal is to teach kids to be members of a creative community—something they learn differently in camp than in schools, where the focus is more on producing the play or the concert than developing individual abilities. Often, say Reed and Schick, the leading roles or solos go to the same kids year after year. Not only is that discouraging, but it also deprives them of instruction and attention from the teacher or adviser. 

Reed and Schick firmly believe that every child can fulfill some sort of role—and finding that role should be the goal of the camp. “We’re more concerned with what they can become, not their existing skills,” says Schick. “We might see things that, with a little nurturing and education, can develop into a talent.”

Schick points to songwriting as an exercise kids might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore. School bands and choirs don’t normally perform original songs. At MTC camps, every band writes its own tunes. “It’s like being on a sports team, where everyone plays a part,” Schick says. 

In camps that focus on fine arts, some kids don’t yet know what medium they’d most enjoy. “Experimentation is critical,” Brennan says. “You don’t have to do just one thing or just one project.”

Schick advises parents to investigate
the instructors, the size of groups in which kids work, the sort of supervision they have, and the technologies or other creative tools available. Actually visit the camp to see what the culture is like and  that its principles are in sync with yours. 

“Camp is a lot of time for a kid to be in a community,” says Reed. “Parents should make sure their own values are being reinforced, and vice versa. Whatever kids do at camp should be applauded at home by their parents, who are their first and most important audience.”