20 Virtual Summer Camps to Keep Your Child Busy When the Days Are Long
When school lets out for summer, the excitement is palpable...there’s no homework, so much ice cream and, of course, camp! But what to do if COVID-19 has closed down the camps in your neck of the woods? Fear not: There’s a Zoom for that. (And some of them are actually pretty innovative and pretty adept at keeping your children active.) Read on for our roundup of virtual summer camps, which offer something to keep every type of child entertained this (long, long) season.
1. Varsity Tutors
These week-long camp sessions allow parents and kids to test the waters of virtual summer camp before diving into a longer commitment. Varsity Tutors boasts a large staff of expert instructors with experience in a wide range of subjects—ranging from uproarious improv games for little ones to mathematical research for the highschool set—and live, interactive learning (i.e., new summer camp friends) is part of the deal. The camp offerings are growing every day so you’re bound to find something that speaks to the specific interests of your young and restless, be your babe mini or just a mini adult. (They grow so fast, don’t they?)
2. The Camp Cloud
The ACA-accredited experiential education gurus from Adventure Links have put their heads together to craft this equally engaging selection of online summer camp for kids ages 6-15. There’s something for animal lovers, rugged outdoors adventurers, and even performing artists—and each program includes interactive screen-based time to provide children the opportunity to meaningfully connect with peers and mentors. That said, the majority of the curriculum can be done on a flexible schedule and consists of enriching at-home activities that provide plenty of fodder for when the fun goes live. (Good news for anyone who has ever brought a kid to a Zoom playdate unprepared and suffered the painful awkwardness that ensued.)
3. Camp Wonderopolis
Bueller? Bueller? Truth: Kids don’t like sitting at desks (actually, neither do we…) and that’s why STEM, with its hands-on approach to learning, has grown so popular with educators and parents. Behold then, the promised land of play-based learning: Wonderopolis is a DIY STEM-based summer camp that involves every skill-building project you wanted to dream up, if only you had the time and patience while simultaneously working from home. The resources range from literacy-boosting games to mind-blowing science experiments, and they’re free. So let’s all raise a glass to professional curriculum for kids that doesn’t jeopardize the college fund.
4. Camp Supernow
The name alone should be enough to convince you that this camp is a kid-pleaser among the target K-6 crowd, but what really makes it special is a commitment to recreating some aspects of a classic stay-away experience on a virtual platform. For each two-week session, the same camp counselor leads an hour of daily interactive fun, allowing children the opportunity to really get to know the new friends they encounter, or to have extended facetime and new experiences with old friends. (Parents can choose to group their child in with new faces, or request to “cabin” up with other participating friends from the hood.) At the end of the session, all the cabins unite for Super Shows—camp-wide activities that bring the larger virtual community together to make lasting childhood memories.
5. Happy Camper Live
Sometimes general camp curriculum on a virtual platform can be a tough sell...and yet your kiddo still needs to do something this summer or everybody will go bananas. Don’t worry, the folks at Happy Camper have your back with a goldmine of activities and pre-recorded videos for every age and every imaginable area of interest. Parents can help kids upload videos of their individual experiences to join a virtual campfire, an epic exchange of fun that provides even more inspiration to engage your little one—short attention span be damned!
6. Camp Edmo
Well-rounded learning is the best way to form youth into well-rounded people—or at least that’s the philosophy behind the Edmo method, and it’s hard to argue with their well-respected approach. Kids from preK through junior high can attend this summer camp, which offers a little bit of everything—nature hikes, art, coding, crafting—in its curriculum. Best of all, the instruction is all done live with the same group of campers throughout the session, so kids have a chance to form new friendships, near and far.
7. Camp Kinda
Parents and children are already reeling from the disruption and uncertainty of life these days, and Camp Kinda is keepin’ it real. (It’s kinda nice not to be gaslit by a summer camp.) Funny name aside, this virtual camp promises to keep kids k-8 engaged with three to four hours of activities a day—and the schedule is particularly forgiving of working parents. Advance notice of the curriculum, flexible participation and a focus on mostly independent activities (movie-making, history’s mysteries) are among the camp’s many attractive qualities. In other words—no, you don’t have to help your kindergartener papier-mache the solar system while on a conference call. Oh, and did we mention that Camp Kinda is free?
8. Tech Revolution
Technology is indispensable these days, even for summer camp—so it’s only fitting that tech skills are the subject of this virtual education experience. This highly praised STEM summer camp relies exclusively on live interaction and small group learning for kids ages 6 to 14, and the curriculum was built by leaders with serious academic chops. Sign your child up this summer and you might end up with a future Harvard grad on your hands.
9. Connected Camps
Parents and kids rave about this online STEM camp, where children develop valuable critical thinking skills by learning to code, design, build and more through a curriculum that includes computer games like Minecraft. And, in our experience, selling your child on playing Minecraft all summer is really not a hard sell.
10. Wide Open School
The folks at Common Sense Media have partnered with a host of other organizations—National Geographic, PBS, and Khan Academy to name a few—to put together a truly impressive virtual summer camp for kids of all ages, PreK to 12th grade. Each week of the camp focuses on a different theme and wide open school provides parents with free materials including activities and project ideas, so it’s a cinch to keep your kid occupied without a screen.
11. Challenge Camp @Home
Customize your kiddo’s camp experience this summer for full-day learning that neither bores nor disappoints. Challenge Camp @Home allows parents and children to pick their own class selection so every minute of the day is packed with fun activities that focus on your child’s personal areas of interest. All the instruction is done live by skilled educators who know how to keep kids engaged and multiple screen breaks are built into the schedule so your kid doesn’t turn into a Zoom zombie.
12. All-Day Virtual Wolf Camps
If you’re hoping to find a virtual experience that keeps your child engaged from nine to five, Wolf Camps might be a good fit. This all-day program comes recommended by the ACA and the outdoors STEAM curriculum is downright cool, sending kids off to independently explore their environment, then reining ‘em in with regular live meetings that function like a kind of discovery show and tell. Go forth and be free, young explorers!
13. Virtual Summer
A skillful blend between distance learning and a classic, carefree summer camp experience. Every session 14 campers and two instructors come together and the group stays intact, providing a sense of community and peer connection. (Maybe even future pen pals?) The morning starts with a group meeting but from there the schedule includes a lot of flexibility and choice. The day is peppered with four periods, spaced out by several hours, but the periods are particularly appealing because children get to choose an activity from six different options. After all, you can lead a kiddo to the art supplies but you can’t make her draw.
14. Le Club EFBA
Bilingual education boasts a whole host of benefits but it’s a pretty big job to take on at home, even if there’s a bilingual parent present. Give the gift of language learning to your child this summer with an online version of the acclaimed EFBA summer camp original. This immersive French program has earned the seal of approval from the ACA’s updated list of virtual camps, and it’s a pretty cool way to give your bebe a cosmopolitan experience this summer sans travel—n’est-ce pas?
15. New York Chess Academy
A game of strategy hones attention skills, critical thinking, memory, spatial reasoning, confidence—the benefits of chess are legion. As luck would have it, children can learn the ins-and-outs of this brain-boosting classic board game virtually, and even preschoolers can sacrifice pawns to protect the monarch. (Instant hit.) Don’t worry if your own game is a bit rusty--the New York Chess Academy will give everybody a crash course—and half day sessions are available so no one’s head explodes.
16. Avid4 Adventure Online Camp
Energetic kids can get an outdoor camp experience with this interactive online program. Live virtual instruction teaches outdoors skills while offering up summer fun with camp games, outdoor yoga and more for kids in grades one through five. Half-day sessions are available in both the morning and afternoon at this ACA-accredited camp, so parents can pick a schedule that suits everyone’s needs.
17. Pacific Art League Online Camp
Budding artists will stay inspired all summer with the selection of skill-building virtual fine art classes offered by the Pacific Art League. Each weekly session provides an hour and a half of instruction per day on topics that include pottery, painting, mixed media collages, and building and design. This daily dose of art is easy to work into a hectic schedule and sure to keep your kiddo’s creative juices flowing.
18. The Boom Writer Haunt
The more you read, the more you know—and the better you write. This ingenious summer program is designed to encourage literacy and creativity in children grades three through six. Here’s how it works: your kiddo (independently) reads an assigned chapter, which ends with edge-of-the-seat suspense. Next, the happy camper pens the next part of the story and submits a draft for revision by real teachers. Of course, there’s no better motivation than a dose of competition, so final drafts are reviewed and a winner declared. Still, there are no losers in this educator-supported, invaluable introduction to the writing process. Consider it the first step towards a future oeuvre.
19. Bronx Zoo Online Wildlife Camp
Animal lovers will delight in this virtual summer experience, courtesy of the largest metropolitan zoo in the country. While the grounds of the Bronx Zoo are currently closed, youngsters who participate in the online camp can get a behind-the-scenes look at the wildlife with virtual close-ups while learning about each species from the scientists and animal caretakers who know them best.
20. The Children’s Theater Company Virtual Academy
Your future Oscar winner can learn on screen about...how to be on screen. This camp offers interactive lessons for small groups so kids can learn the art of screenwriting, improv, acting and even Broadway dance. Best of all, these fun classes are designed to get kids active, so your child will be doing much more than passively sitting in front of a computer or TV.