In these economic times, the discretionary expense of summer camp may not make it to the top of the list. It could get there if it were considered a holiday gift, perhaps even one others give to your kids or one that you provide for your grandkids. Summer seems a long time away, but planning for camp can happen now.

In a world where kids get more and more “stuff” it seems that giving the gift of experiences might be a better value. Kids need to get away too. They need to learn things surrounded by new friends and in new environments. Recently we provided a review on a culinary camp in San Francisco, one that can be utilized year-round – especially if you want help with those holiday cookies!

You could also use a camp search engine such as They seem to list many camps in the U.S. However, you will have to dig a bit deeper to find some of the gems.

Here are some favorites: – “Keystone Science School is a residential field science school that challenges students to develop critical thinking skills as they explore nature and science education.” We know real-live participants that think it’s the best for adventures in the wilderness that are challenging, and “not scary at all” (comment after camp at age 9). – Internal Drive offers summer tech camps for geeks ages 7-18 with stimulating courses including 3D video game design, web design, Flash®, programming, robotics, video editing and more at universities like Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern Princeton and MIT.

Pali Adventures Camp where the choices range from Hollywood Stunt camp, culinary institute camp, make-up artist camp, to secret agent camp tucked in the mountains outside of fabulous L.A. – Woodward at Copper – the crazy indoor arena for snowboarders, skiers, skateboards and all sorts of flipping enthusiasts to practice stunts with names like: Corkscrew 540, the Crippler, McTwist or a Rippey flip.

See our full reviews on these (and more to come) in the Progeny – Experiences that Rock section. Camp gifting might just be the perfect surprise and a welcomed deviation from the normal things on the list.