Free summer camp resources to help your kids through quarantine

These online resources encourage kids to press play, then go play.
boy reading in tent in side yard of house
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Remember summer camp? The campfires, the friendship bracelets … the child care?

For working parents, the closure of many camps in 2020 pushes the struggle of distance learning through the summer, except this time without the help of a teacher or curriculum.

By now, you have probably tried the old school approach (drink Tab and lock them outside.) And you have probably tried the newer approach (screens. So many screens.)

If you are running out of ideas, you can still use many free home-schooling resources, or take advantage of these free 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.

Free Virtual Camps

  • Varsity Tutors is offering free, week-long Virtual Summer Camp sessions for kids ages 5 to 18. Free classes include the secrets of magic, a movement course with Julianne Hough and a free SAT prep course.
  • 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 building mythical worlds, for grades K-8.
  • Wave Learning Festival offers free classes taught by college students from across the country. Three-week courses cover everything from historical speeches to standup comedy and sign language.
  • Outschool is hosting online summer camps from those across the country that have gone virtual. Most of their interactive classes cost $5 to $15, but for summer 2020, they are offering $1 million in free classes to eligible families.
  • YouTube's Learn @ Home program has put together #CampYouTube with experiences around STEM, Arts, Sports and Adventure. Each channel brings together DIY experiments and lessons from sources like TED-Ed, KIDZ BOP, the American Museum of Natural History and National Geographic.
  • Amazon is teaming up with the Boys & Girls Club of America to offer Camp Prime, which offers free activities like cooking and gardening lessons to everyone (not just prime members).
  • Sawyer, the service for booking online and local activities, is launching Summer of Sawyer, with a few free activities like yoga and world music among its paid classes.
  • Monster truck fans can sign up for a free week of Monster Jam camp starting July 27.
  • Radio Flyer is also doing a free camp including nature exploration and other activities on its Instagram page.

STEAM and DIY

  • Tinkergarten, the outdoor learning organization, is providing eight weeks of free activities for kids from babies through elementary school. Camp Tinkergarten includes guides for activities that promote “purposeful play" and plans for a nationwide camp out (or in) on August 15.
  • 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.
  • Entertaining and crafts expert Darcy Miller is hosting Camp Darcy on Instagram with crafts and activities designed for families to do together.
  • 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 Creativity, 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.
  • Camp by Walmart is offering free activities on the Walmart app, with hosts including Drew Barrymore and Neil Patrick Harris.

Sports

  • 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.)
  • Go Noodle is offering Camp GoNoodle this summer to get kids up and moving with dance parties, yoga sessions and mindfulness activities.
  • The sports network Overtime launched OT Summer Camp with daily workouts and activities.

Arts Camps

  • Illustrator Wendy Mac has been hosting #DrawTogether lessons during school shutdowns and is now offering a virtual camp on Instagram.
  • 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 has closed registration for its summer camp, but is offering many of its activities online for grades 3 to 12, including arts and crafts and storytime.

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: