Remember summer camp? The campfires, the friendship bracelets … the child care?
For working parents, the closure of many camps in 2020 pushed the struggle of distance learning through the summer, except this time without the help of a teacher or curriculum.
In 2021, vaccines are more readily available and the coronavirus pandemic appears to be slowing, but parents may still question whether or not in-person summer camps will be safe for kids this year.
If you are running out of ideas, you can still use many free home-schooling resources, or take advantage of these virtual online camps. Virtual camp may sound a long way off from digging in the dirt and chasing fireflies. But most encourage kids to get inspiration, then go play offscreen.
- Varsity Tutors is offering free, week-long Virtual Summer Camp sessions for kids ages 5 to 17. Free classes include a brainteasers class hosted by "Mythbusters" host Kari Byron and a class for aspiring young animators.
- Virtual 4-H Camp is offering kids at home a range of camp activities, from creating duct tape wallets and singing to learning to code or cook.
- Camp Kinda offers weekly activities around themes like crawling into the kingdom of bugs, for kids ages 3-13.
- Wave Learning Festival offers free classes taught by college students from across the country. Three-week courses cover everything from filmmaking to philosophy.
- Outschool is hosting online summer camps for kids ages 3-18. Most of their interactive classes cost $5 to $15, but this year, Outschool is donating up to $300 in financial aid to qualifying families.
- Sawyer, the service for booking online and local activities, offers paid classes for toddlers, kids and teens that cover topics like exercise, cooking and performance arts. Summer camp registration costs are currently 20% off on the site.
- Monster truck fans can sign up for a free week of Monster Jam camp throughout the summer.
- Radio Flyer is also doing a free camp including nature exploration and other activities in its website, in addition to several printable activities like crafts and conversation starters.
STEAM and DIY
- With an online membership to Tinkergarten, the outdoor learning organization, kids from babies through elementary school can attend online classes featuring songs, movement and inspiration to get outside and play.
- The subscription service Little Passports has posted many free (and screen-free) DIY activities on its blog, including an easy homemade birdfeeder and a DIY soda bottle sprinkler.
- Khan Academy's Camp Khan includes classes to help kids get ready for the next grade level. Younger kids can enjoy themed activities on Camp Khan Kids.
- The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has curated a collection of home science experiments, like dissecting a flower, dusting for fingerprints or creating a Lego brick drop.
- At Sur La Table, young chefs ages 7-17 can sign up for 5-day online cooking courses on topics like cooking basics or global street food.
- Wide Open Schools, curated by CommonSense Media, offers a variety of online classes on topics like math, citizenship and art to let kids follow their interests.
- Let kids in on the joys of sourdough starters and banana bread. Download the Raddish Kids cooking camp challenge for free.
- Microsoft Stores are offering free virtual camps that let kids build their own apps or take virtual field trips to different corners of the globe.
- The craft store Michaels has Camp Creatology, with instructional videos for a range of camp-style arts and crafts.
- Clothing brand OshKosh launched Camp OshKosh, with crafts and activities featuring Molly Sims and her kids.
- Camp by Walmart is offering free activities and tutorials on topics like tie-dying t-shirts and giving bedrooms a summer refresh.
- Online learning resource Supernow offers summer online programming for kids ages 4-10 as a part of their monthly membership. Themed classes and at-home missions will keep kids busy discovering summer fun.
- Our friends at NBC Sports created NBC Sports Camp to keep kids moving in partnership with the sports training complex Chelsea Piers. Campers get four weeks of mini sessions with beginner-level sports instruction on skills and techniques, led by Chelsea Piers instructors and NBC's roster of gold medal Olympians, Paralympians and world champion coaches.
- Unicef’s Camp @ Home includes short videos of sports instruction, cooking, arts and crafts and more from its Kid Power program. (It also gives kids a chance to give back.)
- Illustrator Wendy Mac has been hosted #DrawTogether lessons during school shutdowns and has now gathered each episode in an easy-to-access YouTube channel.
- The Children's Museum of Manhattan offers daily museum activities at home, including concerts, arts activities, readings and more.
- In addition to its summer reading program, the New York Public Library has a free camp with new activities each week tailored to pre-schoolers through middle school.
- The Met Opera offers a collection of videos from their Global Summer Camp on YouTube, which feature activities like arts and crafts and story time.
Summer Reading Programs
Many summer reading programs provide prizes to participants. Check with your local library, consult our summer reading list and try one of these:
- Penguin and Parents magazine launched #Readtogetherbetogether, offering an online recommendation hotline and low-priced versions of classics.
- Scholastic’s Summer Read-a-Palooza lets kids track reading streaks for prizes.
- Marathon Kids has a run and read program, to run (or walk) 26.2 miles and read 26 books this summer.
- Barnes and Noble will give kids a free book if they show they have read eight this summer.
- Pizza Hut's Book It program rewards kids with a personal pan pizza for meeting reading goals.
- The reading app Epic! is offering 30 free days to new members, along with a series of "boredom buster" activities based on popular series like Cat Ninja.