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Summer Camp Alternatives

Summer is in full swing, which means many families are having to make alternative plans now that summer camps and seasonal vacations have been canceled. Parents are struggling to find ways to fill the time staying at home and kids are being faced with long, unstructured days. Personally, I know my granddaughter and her parents are having a hard time adjusting to these sudden changes.

The good news? There are plenty of options to replace traditional, in-person summer camp that will keep your kids entertained and help develop important social and educational skills.

Just like the school year took a hard right into the virtual world, so too did youth summer camp programs. While online summer camps have been around since before the pandemic hit, there are now more choices than ever — for all ages and all interests.  Even if a camp isn’t right for your little one, parents and grandparents can still find ways to avoid hearing “I’m bored!”

Virtual Camps

Children who can follow along autonomously and stay on track with online camps have no shortage of choices for virtual camp. A quick Google search will provide plenty of results to sort through but these are some top picks.

Camp PBS Kids — The educational resource and TV channel that your kids know and love are offering a summer camp option with themes that include art & music, DIY crafts, and even kindness. It’s free and allows families to move at their own pace.

YouTube Camp — Do you have a little (or bigger) kiddo who just loves YouTube? This free digital experience offers a collection of curated videos to help with STEM-related learning, lessons that help them learn how to play musical instruments, and even yoga lessons.

Brain Chase — Designed for kids ages 7-14, this academic scavenger hunt camp costs only $100 but offers 6 weeks of learning fun. Camp attendees can choose three areas to focus on to find the (virtual) golden egg.

Connected Camps — Featuring a girls-only option for ages 8-13, these programs help with coding skills and run 5 minutes a day, with 90-minute sessions each day. Connected Camps also have a year-round option to keep up with skill-building

Camp Wonderopolis — STEM and literacy skills are the focus of this free camp program. Ages 7 and up can choose from a variety of themes for this free camp led by counselors that include teachers, parents, community leaders, and even library staff.

Fun Activities

For parents who are looking for cost-efficient ideas that may be a little less structured, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Pick and choose from a variety of online lessons, interactive experiences, and project ideas that will encourage offline engagement.

Gaia — Online kids’ yoga lessons that can give parents a quick 30 minutes to tackle work, household tasks, or even a quick adult yoga sesh of their own.

Hope, Love & Magic — Keep social distance while your kids interact with character actors that look and act just like their favorite movie princesses and heroes.

Code.Org — Don’t let the learning stop even if school isn’t officially in season! Hour of Code helps you get some alone time while kids brush up on coding.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan — CMOM lets kids explore their museum exhibits from the comfort and safety of their own homes with themed tours.

DIY.org — This is where the crafty kids can get step-by-step instructions on how to create artsy projects designed specifically for young users.

Other Great Ideas

Introduce your kids to chores — If you haven’t already, now is a great time to put up a chore chart and have your kiddos pitch in to help around the house. Toddlers especially can gain a great deal from being a part of helping around the house, as they can build fine motor and prosocial skills that can help them when they head off to school.

Stay away from screens — It’s easy to tap into streaming apps or hand over the tablet to help keep children occupied, but there are a ton of other options that don’t involve technology. Scavenger hunts, talent shows, puzzle fun, and sidewalk chalk art are just a few fun activities on this great list we’ve compiled and shared on our blog.

Grab the grandparents — If Grandma and Grandpa are a part of your socially distant lockdown “bubble”, recruit them to help out as substitute camp counselors! Send everyone for a neighborhood walk, get them together to create a meal using family recipes, or have them work together on a puzzle that helps all ages boost memory and critical thinking skills.