Summer Camps

Best Summer Camps: Day Camps

You don’t have to run for the hills to find a great camp experience.

By Sarah Gish March 3, 2014 Published in the March 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Houston Zoo’s Camp Zoofari. Courtesy of Houston Zoo

My obsession with summer day camps began in 2002, when I was a full-time working mom with a 7-year-old son. The summer after his kindergarten year, it dawned on me that his year-round daycare no longer worked as a summer option—he needed more stimulation than that—and I was surprised to find that no comprehensive resource on Houston summer day camps existed. So I started filling an accordion file with brochures and information. Then one day, I took the folder out at a park and moms began gathering around, asking questions and pulling out pens to take notes. 

The file would soon become The Summer Book: A Guide to Houston Day Camps and Classes for Kids and Teens, born in 2003 and updated annually at my website, A lot’s changed in the decade since. Where once there was a preponderance of church, arts, and sports camps, today, there are day camps specializing in every possible childhood interest, from cooking to robotics, Mandarin Chinese to standup comedy, fencing to bookbinding and opera. Here’s a list of some of our favorites. (All camps are in Houston unless otherwise indicated. Sessions vary camp to camp, so check websites for more information.) 

Arts Camps

Art Mix
713-552-9028 • Ages 3–11

Kids love Art Mix because they get to play with so many different kinds of artistic media, and parents love it because the kids learn about artists and cultures around the world.

Blaffer Art Museum
713-743-2255 • Ages 6–12

The museum’s annual series of art workshops encourages students to think creatively and experiment with materials and techniques in their own artwork.

Clay and Craft Camp
281-827-8656 • Ages 6–11

Kids learn to work with clay, creating several pieces and glazing them, as well as learning crafts such as T-shirt printing, bookmaking, and sewing. 

Mad Hatter Arts Camp
713-863-8988 • Ages 5–11

The Amazing Ancients, The Middle Ages & Renaissance, and The Age of Modernism are the themes for Mad Hatter’s day camps for 2014, and kids will explore them through art, drama, dance, creative movement, history, and world cultures.

Museum of Printing History
713-522-4652  • Ages 5–17

Kids learn the historic art of bookmaking, from making paper to binding books. 

Educational Camps

Asia Society Texas Center
713-496-9901 • Ages 7–13 

Camp ExplorAsia brings exotic adventures home as kids take virtual journeys to China, Southeast Asia, India, Japan, Korea, and Central Asia.

Bayou Bend/Museum of Fine Arts
713-639-7300 • 5th graders

Bayou Bend’s collection of early Americana is the jumping-off point for exploring how children lived 250 years ago; at Summer History Camp, kids mold candles, write with quill pens, wear 18th-century clothes, and play colonial games.

Camp Invention

Many locations throughout the Greater Houston area
800-968-4332 • Grades 1–6

Created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, this summer program is focused on creativity, innovation, real-world problem solving, and the spirit of invention.

The Kinkaid School
713-782-1640 • Grades Pre-K–12

Kinkaid’s summer programs offer academic enrichment, arts and crafts, and sports activities to Kinkaid and non-Kinkaid students alike.

Nature Camps

Armand Bayou Nature Center
281-474-2551 • Ages 4–13 

Using Armand Bayou Nature Center as a living laboratory, kids get to fish, ride in canoes, view live animal demonstrations, and take nature-related classes.

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
713-681-8433 • Ages 5–12

“Goosebumps and Mysteries” and “Grossology” are just two of the camp themes offered at this 155-acre nature sanctuary, where kids enjoy the great outdoors firsthand.

Nature Discovery Center
713-667-6550 • Ages 5–10

Kids learn about science and nature through experiments, crafts, play, games, and other activities. 

Animal Studies

Houston Zoo • 713-533-6500 • Ages 4–12

Camp Zoofari is an action-packed, hands-on, weeklong day camp where kids learn about the natural world, wildlife conservation, and the animals that call the Houston Zoo home.

Moody Gardens

Galveston •
800-582-4673 • Ages 3–14

Pyramid Kids Camps generate excitement about wildlife and wild places through educational activities and visits to the Rainforest and Moody Gardens Pyramids in Galveston. 

Reading and Writing

Institute of Reading Development

Many locations throughout the Greater Houston area
800-964-2030 • Ages 4 and up

These programs are designed and taught by professionals from the Institute of Reading Development, helping participants develop and improve skills in phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and speed-reading.

Writers in the Schools & Rice University 

Houston, Clear Lake, Sugar Land, Katy
713-523-3877 • Ages 5–18

Creative Writing Camp offers a supportive environment where children engage in writing stories, poetry, essays, and plays, as well as simply reading for pleasure.

Foreign Languages

Crossing Borders Group

Many locations throughout the Greater Houston area •
281-465-0899 • Ages 18 months–12 years

Experienced, native-speaking instructors teach students through play, games, music, and conversation. Kids can choose from Spanish, English, French, and Mandarin camps.

French Alliance
713-526-1121 • Ages 4–16 

The French Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes French culture, offers two three-week camps for kids this summer, taught by native speakers using the immersion method.


Building Brains

Many locations throughout the Greater Houston area
888-552-8453 • Ages 3–12

Building Brains teaches science and math, as well as engineering principles, through Lego and K’Nex educational building kits. 

Houston Museum of Natural Science
713-639-4629 • Ages 6–12

Xplorations Summer Science Adventures features weeklong, hands-on science summer camps exploring robotics, physics, social studies, and more.

Mad Science of Houston

Many locations throughout the Greater Houston area
713-663-7623 • Grades Pre-K–6

With the help of resident Mad Scientists, kids learn about science through hands-on activities and exciting demonstrations.

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Bayou Bend's summer history camp.


Recipe for Success Foundation
713-520-0443 • Ages 8–11

Kids enjoy camp at the Recipe House, where they cook, garden, and learn how food is developed and marketed. 

Rice Epicurean Cooking School
713-783-8203 • Ages 5 and up

Rice Epicurean offers unique culinary camps for aspiring chefs in the cozy kitchen of the grocery store’s Fountain View location.


Houston Grand Opera
713-228-6737 • Ages 9–17

With different programs tailored to different age groups, kids learn songs and perform in their own operas. 

TUTS’ Humphreys School of Musical Theatre
713-558-8801 • Ages 4–12 

Kids have fun singing, dancing, and acting as they learn the art of musical theater. TUTS also offers a summer camp at the River Performing and Visual Arts Center for children 4–19 years old with disabilities.

University of St. Thomas Music Preparatory School
713-522-7911 • Grades 3–12

The University of St. Thomas offers camps in guitar, piano, chamber music, and strings; there’s also a math and music academy.


Alley Theatre
713-228-9341 • Grades K–8

The Alley’s summer camps focus on playmaking, ensemble building, and the design process.

713-868-1444 • Ages 8 and up

This camp offers tweens and teens the chance to work alongside the standup comedy pros, laughing, having fun, and learning some of the games played in improvisational performances. 

Main Street Theater
713-524-9196 • Ages 4–18

Students take charge of all aspects of creating a theatrical performance, while teachers (arts and education professionals) provide guidance and support.


Discover Gymnastics
713-680-0045 • Ages 3–17

Discover's summer camps offer gymnastics instruction, group activities, team-building and coordination games, arts and crafts, and in-house entertainment.

Salle Mauro Fencing Academy
832-778-8745 • Ages 5–12

The academy’s Cavalier Camps are designed for beginners, featuring games that increase conditioning, coordination, and quick thinking.

Yoga 4 Kids

Kingwood •
281-441-9642 • Ages 4 and up

Children discover inner peace through playful yoga poses, animated breathing exercises, yoga art, writing, music, and cards and games. 


Claire School of Dance
713-880-5565 • Ages 4–12

Themed dance camps nurture a love of dance through individual attention and generous positive reinforcement.

Hope Stone Kids
713-526-1907 • Ages 1½–12 

Divided by age, students study dance, theater, and music.

Houston Ballet Academy
713-227-2787 • Ages 4 and up

Taking place at the beautiful Houston Ballet Center for Dance, Swan Lake and Nutcracker camps culminate in performances at the end of the sessions; there’s also an intensive camp for boys.

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