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May 18, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Your Guide to First-Time Day Campers

Lots of local summer camp programs are specially designed just for youngsters!

Photo credit: YMCA Camp Widjiwagan.

Camps, camps, camps! Seems everybody’s talking about summer camp programs for kids. But what if your little one has never gone before? Surely you have questions. It’s not always easy to let your little one go, but fortunately lots of local summer day camps have programs perfect for kids as young as 3. And even better news? When kids are allowed to go to camp they discover that, hey, being on your own isn’t so bad afterall … in fact … it’s fun! Here’s a guide to help you navigate your way toward finding the perfect summer day camp for your child.


Sending your child to summer camp for the first time is exciting, and there’s a lot to consider. Middle Tennessee boasts myriad day camps, several with options for little ones as young as 3 years old (see page 31).


There are many positive benefits to a kid’s day-camp experience. Camp nurtures social skills, enhance self-confidence, model healthy living, foster teamwork and encourage personal growth. Camp also helps ease the summer slide while getting kids to unplug and build new friendships.


It’s a no-brainer that your child’s temperament and interests are the first things to consider. Start by making a list of camp features most important to your child and you, and be sure to include your child in the decision-making process.

“We went solely based on our daughter’s interests and with what sounded like the most fun,” says Nashville mom Shalene France Gray, recalling daughter Zazou’s first camp excursion at 5-and-a-half. “As it was her first camp experience, it was more important to pick something she was interested in as there were too many other factors to be nervous about,” she adds.

With many local options, your best bet for research is with Nashville Parent’s premier Summer Camp Directory.

Your best point of reference is going to be from other moms and dads, so ask around. “There is no better way to zero in on great programs than word of mouth from other parents,” says Hendersonville mom Ginger Hartsock. “The experience behind those recommendations is priceless.”

France Gray offers a final suggestion: “Every child is different, so being sensitive to the type of child you have is incredibly important. If they help choose where to go and what type of camp, it seems that they’re so excited when the big day comes and less likely to chicken out,” she says.

Camp Director Questions

• May I come by and visit the camp first?
• Where do your counselors come from, who will be with my child throughout the day and what is the camper to counselor ratio? Also, how do you screen your counselors?
• What kind of training do your counselors have? What about safety training?
• What sets your camp apart from the rest?
• What is your protocol should bullying or fighting happen? How are disciplinary actions handled in general?
• What procedures do you follow if my child gets injured?
• How does your camp accommodate special needs, including food allergies, medical, behavior, etc.?
• Can you put me in touch with current camp families as references?
• What is your camp’s return rate?

Is Day Camp Better With a Friend?

“At least he’ll know one person” is the thinking behind the should-I-send-my-first-time-camper-with-a-friend question. The answer is always: it depends on your child.
    Seasoned camp directors say don’t panic about sending your child solo. The right camp for your child will be nurturing, and new friendships will be made. The best reason to send a first-time day camper with a friend is for the parents who need to carpool. It makes it a lot easier to share the drop-off and pick-up duties each day.
    When you pick the right camp for your child, you don’t have to worry that he will need a friend to go with him because he’ll make new friends there. That’s one of the best parts about camp. Shared experiences and activities yield new friendships. Camp directors often say they would gladly trade off the pre-camp comfort of a known friend for the development of friendship making skills that will last for years to come. In preparing for first-time at day camp alone, convey confidence and excitement to your child, and know that this will be a growing experience for him.


What if my child has an allergic reaction to a food or a bee?
Know that camps have food allergy safety plans in place. Many have alternative meal plans available. In the event of an allergic reaction to a bee sting or poison ivy, you will be contacted but first-aid measures will be taken right away.

I got a call saying my child broke his wrist — what do I do?!
All camps have emergency contact forms for parents to fill out so you are able to specify your preferences for your child.

What if I’m running late on pickup?
Many day camps offer extended care for an additional fee, some even by the hour.

There’s stormy weather in the forecast. Will camp be canceled?
Most camps accommodate for this type of weather and move activities inside. If the weather is severe, the camp will notify you with a plan of action.



Boost Gymnastics
801 Percy Warner Blvd., Nashville
Week-long camps feature gymnastics, arts and crafts, stoytimes, playtime and more.

1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville
Three parent-tot day camps for ages 2 – 3 include Arty Animals, Garden Art and Mini Masters. The camper-only Adventure Cheekwood for 4-year-olds includes daily nature walks plus experimenting with different art-making materials.

Christ Presbyterian Academy
2323-A Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville
Ages 3 – 5 can sign up for Preschool All Sports Camp; ages 4 – 5 can sign up for Preschool Olympic Adventure and Preschool Art Adventure.

Dance in Bloom
7982 Coley Davis Road, Nashville
Tiaras & Tutus Ballet Camp starting at age 3 is a half-day camp including dance, stories, crafts and games.

Ensworth School
7401 Hwy. 100, Nashville
Cubs Club Enrichment Camp for preschoolers (age 4 by March 1, 2018) includes indoor and outdoor activities, water play, music, crafts, stories, walks and more.

Franklin Road Academy
4700 Franklin Road, Nashville
Camps for kids in grades PreK4 – K include Let’s Go Camping and Calling All Superheroes with activities, academics and crafts.

Harding Academy
170 Windsor Drive, Nashville
A variety of options for preschoolers includes games, athletics, crafts and more in a variety of themes.

Harpeth Hall
3801 Hobbs Road, Nashville
Two Little Girls Camp options — Superheroes and Moana — start at age 4 and feature singing, dancing and craft activities. Also, check out All Sports Junior Camp that starts at age 4.

Little Art House
2104 Acklen Ave., Nashville
Mini Camp starts at age 3 and features art making, book reading and snacks.

Lipscomb Academy Summer Experience
3901 Granny White Pike, Nashville
SEED day camps start for kids in PreK and include options like art, drama, coding, dance, robotics and more.

Montgomery Bell Academy
4001 Harding Pike, Nashville
MBA’s 1st Camp Sports Camp for rising PreK – K kids lets them play a variety of sports. Other day camps of interest for littles include Habitat Kids Yoga Camp, LEGOS: Pre-Building Blocks and LEGOS: Young Jedi Master Training Camp.

Nashville Children’s Theatre
25 Middleton St., Nashville
Drama Makers camp starts at age 4 and features favorite stories through theater, crafts, song and dance.

St. Paul Christian Academy
5033 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville
Several options start at age 4 including Princess Camp, Space Camp, Summer Safari, Masterpieces, Dinosaur Discovery and Pirate Camp.

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan
3088 Smith Springs Road, Antioch
Pathfinder Nation, an introductory camp for first-timers, starts at age 4. The structured schedule allows kids to sample a little bit of everything from Widji’s offerings.


Bill Taylor’s Bushido School of Karate
1911 Business Campus Drive, Murfreesboro | 615-890-6755
1820 NW Broad St., Murfreesboro | 615-893-6003
Martial Arts camp starting for potty-trained 3-year-olds is available at both locations.

Discovery Center at Murfree Spring
502 S.E. Broad St., Murfreesboro
Spark Camp for ages 4 – 5 (not entering Kindergarten in the fall) includes Beautiful Oops! and Rainforest Adventure.

Early Learning Center at MTCS
204 MTCS Road, Murfreesboro
PK3 and PK4 students can enjoy daily Bible activities, hands-on learning, arts and crafts, community service, special guests and more. 2018 dates TBD.

Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center
100 Sam Ridley Pkwy. E., Smyrna
Growing Up Wild Camp for 4-year-olds features nature-based activities. Camp may change and more may be available.

Spotlite Dance Studio
4075 Luke Court, Murfreesboro
Summer camp starts at age 2 and includes ballet, tap, jazz, tumbling, hip hop and lyrical.

YMCA North Rutherford
2001 Motlow College Blvd., Smyrna
Camp Little Y is for potty-trained kids ages 3 – 5. Campers enjoy indoor and outdoor time, arts and crafts, swimming and games.


CenterStage Performing Arts Academy
250 Hancock St., Gallatin
The Princess Camp for ages 3 – 4 features fairytale crafts, dancing to princess music, singing, manners and more.

David Deaton Karate
761 W. Main St., Hendersonville
Starting at age 4, children can begin learning martial arts in the Little Dragons program.

Master’s School of Gymnastics
1052 Avondale Road, Hendersonville
Preschool camps start at age 3 and include Ninja Camp in June and Gymnastics Camp in July.

Pope John Paul II
117 Caldwell Drive, Hendersonville
615-822-2375, ext. 6007
Camp JPII offers camps that start at age 4 including Dance, Making the Ordinary Extraordinary, The Music Experience, Baseball and Dinosaur Dig.

United Soccer Club
Drakes Creek Park
120 E. Main St., Hendersonville
Socceroos summer camp starts at age 4.


Ann Carroll School of Dance
1121 Harpeth Industrial Court, Ste. 500
Brentwood | 615-790-6468
Kids starting at age 2 can participate in Pre-School Camp.

Battle Ground Academy Summer Camps
336 Ernest Rice Lane, Franklin
Kids starting at age 3 can participate in full- and half-day camps.

David Deaton Karate Studios
204 D Ward Circle, Brentwood
Please see listing under Sumner County.

Let it Shine Gymnastics
1892 Gen. George Patton Drive, Franklin
Funtastic summer camps start at age 3.

My Gym
330 Franklin Road, Brentwood
My Gym Camp is a drop-off program filled with fitness games, non-competitive gymnastics, crafts and more starting at age 3.

School of Nashville Ballet
500 Wilson Pike Cir., Ste. 119, Brentwood
Half-day camps start at age 3 and include Degas and the Little Dancer, Carnival of the Animals, Peter Pan and Ferdinand the Bull.


David Deaton Karate Studios
1249 North Mt. Juliet Road, Mt. Juliet
1029 W. Main St., Ste. F, Lebanon
Please see listing under Sumner County.

Universal Gymnastics
5003 Market Place, Mt. Juliet
A Princess Dance Camp starts at age 3.

Local Summer Day Camps for Kindergartners


Adventure Science Center
800 Fort Negley Blvd., Nashville
Kids entering Kindergarten can sign up for any of the 10 Science Quest camps this summer.

Camp Davis, Gordon JCC
801 Percy Warner Blvd., Nashville
Rishonim (“Starters”) is for rising kindergartners (must be 5 by Aug. 30). A different theme each week with sports, art, music, nature and Jewish culture.

Camp Invention
Several Nashville locations
Rising kindergartners can enjoy a week of hands-on challenges that encourage creative problem solving, teamwork, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Camp Sugar Falls at Widjiwagan
3088 Smith Springs Road, Antioch
615-298-3066, ext. 3339
Diabetic kids as young as 5 years old can participate in traditional camp activities with a medical team overseeing them. Priority is given to newly diagnosed kids.

Christ Presbyterian Academy
2323-A Old Hickory Blvd. Nashville
Five day camps available to rising kindergartners include: American Girl Camp, Beginning LEGO Robotics, Kindergarten Readiness, LEGO Builder and Art in a Day.

Franklin Road Academy
4700 Franklin Road, Nashville
Three themed Junior Panther camps are Safari, All Sports and Five Senses. All camps include themed activities, academics and crafts.

Harpeth Hall
3801 Hobbs Road, Nashville
Rising kindergartners can sign up for Parks, Picnic & Play, All Sports Junior Camp and Astrology Camp.

Street Theatre Company
6727 Charlotte Pike, Nashville
Five-year-olds can participate in the Summer Musical Theater Camp where they will learn music, dance and acting to create a unique, original performance, complete with costumes.

USN Summer Camps
2000 Edgehill Ave., Nashville
More than a dozen day camp offerings for rising kindergartners include Track & Field FUN; Tiger Tennis Camp; Rainbows & Unicorns; Cooperative Games; Hoop Dreams Basketball Camp; Dragons Lair Book Club and more.


Dance with Stacey
1450 Hazelwood Drive, Smyrna
Week-long summer day camps start at age 5 and feature themes like princess, animal kingdom, circus and more.

Discovery Center at Murfree Spring
502 S.E. Broad St., Murfreesboro
Summer camp offerings for kids beginning in grade K include Creative Makers, Beautiful Oops!, Lights in Life, Rainforest Adventure and Robot Workshop.

E.T.C. Gymnastics
1137 Haley Road, Murfreesboro
1932 Almaville Road, Smyrna
Gymnastics summer camps start at age 5.

Lucky Ladd Farms
4374 Rocky Glade Road, Eagleville
Summer camp starts at age 5 on the farm. Kids can enjoy a day filled with animals, pony rides, gardening, games and more.

Middle Tennessee State University
All camps at MTSU start with kindergartners and include STEM Camp, Women’s Basketball Lil’ Raider Camp and Men’s Basketball.

Providence Christian Academy
410 Dejarnett Lane, Murfreesboro
Themed day camps for kindergartners start in June.


Hendersonville Parks and Recreation
Held at Whitten Elementary
140 Scotch St., Hendersonville
Summer Fantastiks camp starts at age 5. The Kids Club summer program is open to children with disabilities.


Camp Beech Creek
Currey Ingram Academy
6544 Murray Lane, Brentwood
615-507-3242, ext. 276
Themed weekly sessions for rising kindergartners.

Creekside Riding Academy and Stables
2359 Lewisburg Pike, Franklin
Five-year-olds can participate in one-week, half-day camps featuring riding lessons, safety, grooming and more.

Deer Run Camps & Retreats
3845 Perkins Road, Thompson’s Station
Traditional one-week day camp adventures for kids beginning at age 5.


Langford Farms
5219 Rustic Way, Old Hickory
Kindergartners can enjoy summer camp filled with swimming, tennis, field games, arts and crafts, performance arts and more.

Mt. Juliet Afterschool Connection
495 N. Mt. Juliet Road, Mt. Juliet
Kindergartners can enjoy structured programming and fun recreational activities.

Universal Gymnastics
5003 Market Place, Mt. Juliet
Gymnastics, dance and more start at age 5.

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