By Jeff DeHayes, CNN
(CNN) - With schools letting out for summer all over the country, it's time to talk about summer camp.
For some, camp is something to look forward to all year long, where new friends are made and old friends reconnect. For others, watching “The Parent Trap” might be the only summer camp experience they have.
However you remember it, camp serves up memories of cabins, sleeping bags, campfires, ghost stories, shaving cream fights, catching lizards - and for fans of that movie, possibly discovering you have a long lost twin.
Summer camp can serve multiple purposes. It can fill what might otherwise be an uneventful couple of months when hanging out in front of the TV isn't an option. Camps also provide much-needed childcare, especially in households where both parents work.
Whether it’s a luxury or a necessity, summer camp has been a mainstay of childhood for decades. According to the National Camp Association, summer camps started gaining popularity in the early 20th century, and many of those original facilities are still open today.
There are nearly 10,000 summer camps in the United States. About 60% of them are sleep-away camps; the rest are camps where parents drop their kids off for the day.
Camps can be privately-owned family businesses or run by organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, YMCA or local church groups. Many camp owners combine backgrounds in education and recreation with a great love for the overall summer camp experience.
That experience can last as little as a week or as long as a couple of months, with prices varying depending on the type and length of the camp. Generally, parents can expect to spend between $400 and $1500 a week, depending on the particulars. Be aware that some camps require deposits, some of which may not be refundable.
Many camps offer summer adventures that have been enjoyed for generations – fishing, hiking, did I mention shaving cream fights? These facilities can put a twist on the camp experience by using traditional activities to inspire campers to expand their knowledge around a theme. For example, campers may start the summer going for a swim, and end it knowing how to snorkel.
The "Epic! Summer Camp" in Marietta, Georgia is an example of a themed day camp. This year's focus is the "7 Natural Wonders of the World," and parents are free to register their children for anywhere up to ten weeks. Campers are encouraged to explore their summer with activities like field trips, community outreach, arts and crafts, and learning leadership skills.
Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute includes several summer camps designed to offer a variety of choices and experiences during the summer. Campers can explore the wonders of marine science at Camp Sewee. At Camp Voyager, a problem-solver can thrive with video and digital cameras, paintball and go-carts, climbing walls and sailing down zip lines.
Princeton University offers a recreational summer day camp for children ages 6-13, five days a week. Campers enjoy sports, games, arts and crafts, and other various activities for 1-8 weeks at the Princeton University Summer Day Camp.
Then, there are the not-so-traditional camps, where young people can learn a skill or experience a life-changing event.
The Patriot Camp in Paxtang, Pennsylvania offers children the opportunity to learn about and develop an interest in the history of the United States. The camp is a week long and is packed with curriculum covering American history themes, including the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers, the three branches of government and "cast your vote."
Interested in learning juggling, magic, clowning, miming, puppetry, face painting and more of what you'd expect to find at the circus? You may want to check out the Circus Camp, a week-long day camp that even offers the experience of walking the high-wire or learning the flying trapeze.
These are just a few examples of the thousands of camps available around the United States. Whether you need a place to send a child for the summer or want to use the summer "down-time" to enrich a young person’s life, chances are there's a camp for you.
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