Many parents are accepting that 2020 is not going to bring with it a typical summer. Many parents are also accepting that this new reality means making the most of the situation, getting creative, and utilizing technology in many new ways. While cabins and rec centers may not be in the picture this summer, virtual camps and activities for children are readily available to supplement the usual adventures.
While it’s great that so many schools and organizations will be taking their events online this summer, the large amount of options is causing overwhelm for some parents and families. We’re here for you! We have asked around, researched, and made a shortlist of the best virtual camps and activities for children and teens, both with structured curriculum and other types of learning. We hope this will help you to make the most of this most unusual of summers!
Summer 2020: virtual camps and activities for children
Pre-school and younger children
Length: Various self-guided curriculums to last all summer long.
Emphasis: PBS provides curriculums in topics ranging from arts and crafts, space, upcycling, and of course, reading. It covers the basics needed to keep kids mentally active during the summer months, with a special spin that only PBS can give.
Why it’s great: Besides the fun, interactive lessons, parents are also able to print out a summer bucket list, a reading list, and an activity book to use in this virtual summer camp. Additionally, daily activity ideas are emailed through the summer.
Length: Most courses last one month.
Emphasis: STEM plus literacy subjects
Why it’s great: A great approach for early childhood education, MarcoPolo’s curriculum focuses on engaging the child in a topic and then incorporating educational skills into the lesson. Online content is paired with how-to videos for children to implement their learning at home. Memberships also come with a parents’ area where children’s progress can be tracked.
Cost: Free seven-day trial and then a monthly membership of either $9.99/month or $69.99/year.
Length: New themes released monthly, with new activities released each week.
Why it’s great: The wonderful team of the Westchester Children’s Museum is truly bringing the magic online to support families this summer. A large selection of activities to do at home are provided each week, along with drop-in virtual activities. Lessons released already include chalk art, balloon clouds, learning about wheels, and many more.
Other online activities for young children
Elementary school-aged Children
Length: Self-led through the summer
Emphasis: Reading and activity units in 24 topics ranging from animals, financial literacy, time travel, inventing, cooking, sports, and art.
Why it’s great: Reading Rockets is one of the most-talked-about online programs so far this summer. The concept is to start with one of the books on their reading list, and then build an entire week of activities around the topic. The wide range of topics make it accessible to all children.
Cost: Free, though some books and supplies are required.
Three hours of live instruction each day.
Length: 1 week each
Dates: 1-week sessions starting June 1 through June 22.
Emphasis: theater, dancing, puppetry, drama, drumming, art.
Why it’s great: This virtual camp provides the structure that will benefit both the children and parents. Three hours of live instruction each day, along with activities to do in between sessions, will ensure that you get your me-time while the kids get their learning in. The virtual camps include a lot of physical activity, helping to ward off cabin fever.
15-20 hours of live instruction/week along with 15-25 hours of self-guided instruction
Length: 1 week
Dates: Variety of 1-week classes offered from May 25-August 7
Why it’s great: If you have a child who is interested in anything design related, this is the virtual camp to keep them busy and feeling accomplished this summer. It will give your child a special opportunity to learn exciting new design skills, while also staying sharp on other STEM skills.
Cost: $200-$300, with many virtual camps and activities including a package of equipment sent to the home prior to use.
Emphasis: Six different tracks of scientific exploration including health, music, engineering, zoology.
Why it’s great: Wonderplilis includes both interactive online activities and hands-on activities. The courses are highly unique, highly stimulating, and academic. Students are given access to an online dashboard to track their progress as well as an online bulletin board to interact with instructors and other students. Parents can register as counselors to keep track of their children’s progress and engage with them on what they are learning.
Cost: Free for campers. Parents can register as counselors and receive a camp guide for $25.
Other online activities for elementary school children:
Junior high and early high school
Length: The zoo will be releasing new courses throughout the summer. Each week five one-hour modules are released.
Emphasis: Wildlife and endangered species.
Why it’s great: If you have a student with any interest in nature, wildlife, animals, or the great outdoors, the San Diego Zoo has you covered for the summer. In-depth weekly courses range in topic from cats, monkeys, endangered species, and many more. This is a one-time, unique opportunity to access the educational resources of this prestigious zoo for free.
Cost: free for now
Length: 1 week with 2 hours of instruction each day
Dates: Every week starting June 8th through the end of the summer
Emphasis: Art, books, computers, cooking, games, Lego, wellness, photography, theater.
Why it’s great: This virtual camp has both structured, interactive time and online activities each day as well as take-home projects for participants. A variety of topics will allow teens to pick multiple camps and stay busy all summer.
Cost: Free, registration required
Length: June 1-June 26
Emphasis: Entrepreneurship and creativity
Why it’s great: This virtual camp is perfect for the junior high or high school student who is ready to do their own thing. Students are encouraged to think about their dreams and will then be guided by experts and well-known industry leaders to construct a plan to make it happen. Courses include structured time and activities to do at home.