Summer is almost here and that means 11 weeks of fun, creativity, and summer art camp at CREATE! While we’re here to make art, what’s even more important to us than the final product is the experience. If your child comes home from camp happy, we consider it a job well done. Here are a few handy tips from the pros to help you and your child get ready for a great summer at CREATE!

Summer Camp 101: Tips to Help Your Child be a Happy Camper!

If your child has been to CREATE camp before, welcome back! If your child is new to our camp, welcome! It can be tough to be a new camper, but there are ways to prepare ahead of time to make sure your child is ready for a great week, month, or full summer of art camp.


It’s hard to show up at a new place, so if your child gets nervous coming to an unfamiliar location consider stopping by for a pre-summer visit! We love it when visitors drop in, and we’re always happy to give a tour of our space to help familiarize you and your camper with our studios. Feel free to contact us to set up an appointment or just stop by! We’re here on weekdays, some evenings, and some weekends. Knowing what to expect from a new place is a great way to help with first-day-of-camp nerves.

“Respect” is our big rule at CREATE. In fact, it’s so important to what we do that we have a brief discussion about it at the start of every camp day! CREATE is a place where everyone is welcome, and respect is key to that. Our campers who show up with that in mind are ready for a successful day!


Art is fun and camp is a blast, but a full day of camp can be a lot for even our most dedicated artist campers. It seems obvious, and it’s good common sense, but our campers who show up having had a good night sleep and a filling breakfast are usually our most cheerful morning participants. The period from morning to lunchtime at 11:30 am is a looooong stretch for campers who forgot to eat breakfast, and we don’t have a built-in snack time. It’s hard to make art on an empty stomach!

And speaking of empty stomachs… Making art is hard work and our campers are ready to eat by the time lunch rolls around! We recommend a filling lunch, a separately packed snack if your camper will be staying for aftercare, and of course a reusable water bottle (hey, it’s also hard to make art when you’re dehydrated). This is the part where we remind you that all food at CREATE camps must be completely nut free. It’s important to us that all of our campers can make art in a safe environment.

As artists young and old, many of us have a creative and unique sense of fashion! And while we love to see your colorful and creative outfits, keep in mind that we are an art space and sometimes we get MESSY! Please have your campers refrain from wearing their favorite, most precious, completely irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, handmade-by-grandma items of clothing. We do our best to get everyone covered with smocks when needed, but sometimes paint has a mind of its own, and art stains happen to the best of us!

Parents – our campers have a wide variety of backgrounds and styles of learning. Any information that you can share with us about how to make your child’s day a success is greatly appreciated! We welcome your emails and phone calls with this information, and we’re always happy to have an in-person conversation if you prefer. Please don’t be shy with this information! It’s important to us that your child has a wonderful time at camp, and we have a lot of experience in meeting each child where they are.

Things to know for your first day of camp!

So now that your camper is here and ready for their first day of camp, what should they (and you!) expect?

The first, and most important, thing for our campers to expect is that we are going to have a fun, art-filled week! CREATE is different than most other camps in that we don’t have camp counselors – we have professional teaching artists! That means that your child will be taught by an experienced professional who has worked hard to create a fun and engaging creative curriculum. Every child who comes to CREATE is an artist, whether they know it yet or not, and our teaching artists are prepared to work with each camper, no matter their level of art experience.

Please try to drop off your child on time. Our official start time is 9:00 am. If your child is not signed up for before care, you are welcome to drop them off beginning at 8:45 am. We try to stick to our start time as much as possible. It can be hard on our campers who arrive late (especially on the first day of the week-long session), because they miss group introductions, as well as the instructions for the first art project of the day. Of course, we always do our best to help late-arriving campers to catch up, but it’s not an ideal situation for camper or teaching artist. If you know that your child will be late, we always appreciate an email or phone call to give us a heads up.

We have three separate art studio classrooms onsite at CREATE. When we have enough campers to fill multiple studios, we separate groups by age. We are happy to consider requests for specific campers to be grouped together, as long as they are sent to us at least one week before the first day of camp, and we accommodate those requests when possible. For siblings and friends of different ages who would like to be in the same group, please know that our policy is to put the older child with the younger group. If you would like your children to be grouped together, please make sure that they are aware of this.

What does a typical day of summer art camp look like?

The projects and details change from day to day, but most days of camp follow a similar schedule.

Before care begins at 8:00 am. We’re big fans of relaxed mornings, so our campers in before care can work on free draw with basic art supplies, read (we have a small library, and campers are absolutely encouraged to bring books from home), socialize, and relax. One of the things we love about our CREATE campers is how many of them ask our teaching artists if they can assist with morning set up (the sign of a future artist!).

As mentioned above, the regular camp day begins at 9:00 am, and we like to begin as soon as possible to maximize our creativity time. During the morning, teaching artists lead an art lesson and campers generally work on one large project or several smaller projects. The week-long summer camp sessions provide our campers with the opportunity to work on larger and more involved multi-day projects, allowing our campers to take a deeper dive into their artworks and use more advanced materials.

Around 11:30 am we take a break for at least an hour (sometimes longer, based on our campers’ energy levels). Campers eat lunch, relax, play games, and socialize. If the weather is good, we like to utilize our front porch and a nearby green space to get some fresh air and stretch our legs.

Our afternoon work time looks similar to the morning. Our teaching artists lead campers in a new lesson and project, or continue work on a multi-day project. We like to mix things up to make sure that campers use a variety of different materials and techniques throughout the day. It helps to keep things interesting!

The regular camp day ends at 3:00 pm. If your child is not staying for aftercare, the pickup period is from 3:00-3:15 pm. Any campers who haven’t been picked up by 3:15 pm are automatically added to (and charged for) aftercare, so please give us a call if you are running late. We are all way too familiar with traffic in the DC area, so we are generally pretty understanding!

Aftercare runs from 3:00-6:00 pm and we want your children to have as much fun in aftercare as they do during the camp day! We can’t provide any food, so please be sure to pack a separate snack for aftercare. Hungry children are hangry children! Once snacks and stomachs are sorted, our aftercare leaders organize games, lead craft projects, and generally ensure that your child has a fun time until pickup.

And speaking of pickup… Aftercare ends at 6:00 pm, and as we like to remind parents who pick up their campers late, your child doesn’t have to go home but they can’t sleep here! We charge $1/minute (cash only, paid to the aftercare leaders) for any pickups past 6:00 pm. It’s never fun being the last camper picked up long after all of your friends have left, so we appreciate on-time pickups.

At the end of each week of camp, your child will come home with a large portfolio full of artwork they created throughout the week. We recommend that all CREATE families buy refrigerators with extra-large front doors, because you will definitely need a big space to display all of their amazing artworks!

We hope that these tips will help you and your child to get ready for a great time at art camp. Summer is the CREATE staff’s favorite season, and our goal is for your child to have a wonderful and creative summer!                                                                         Authored by CREATE’s Summer Camp Team