Keep Kids Busy with Online Summer Camps

By Tracey Dowdy

Looking for ways to fill those summer days? Online summer camps offer more than hours of uninterrupted screen time; many of them take kids outdoors to explore the world all around them.

It’s more than a way to answer the dreaded cry, “I’m bored!” Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that students lose an average of 2.6 months of Math and reading skills over the summer. Kids from  low-income homes suffer a substantial loss of academic skills over the summer months according to research conducted by Johns Hopkins. As a general rule, these students don’t get to go on vacations where they’re exposed to museums, national parks, or are exposed to different cultures or geographic environments.

This is why online camps are a great option for students from every demographic by providing creative, educational – and yes, fun – activities and experiences for kids. These are some of the best.

Camp Wonderopolis is the “free online summer-learning destination that’s full of fun, interactive STEM and literacy-building topics boosted by Maker experiments!” This year’s focus is the magic of music, but past camp kits are available for topics including engineering, health and fitness, and different branches of science. Each topic includes lessons, outdoor activities, videos, and additional reading suggestions for all age groups. Free for campers; optional $25 instruction guide for parents; age 7 and up.

Connected Camps offers hands-on instructions so kids can learn to design, create and code. The online summer programs are week-long, coed and girls-only, and geared to campers 8 to 13 years old. Each course is taught by qualified instructors who will teach kids: Coding, design, and media production skills; problem-solving; teamwork and collaboration; planning; and the value of community. $69-$99; age 8-15.

Start with a Book provides 24 learning themed guides to allow families to explore a variety of subjects together. There are age-appropriate book suggestions, activities, websites and apps to access and supplement the fun. The topics cover pretty much every subject imaginable from dinosaurs, bugs birds and animals to money, cooking, heroes and superheroes, time, and time travel, plus many, many more. Free, ages 3 years and older.

Camp PBS Parents provides hands-on learning experiences for you to do with your kids at home. There are loads of downloadable and printable activities like the Summer of Adventure Activity Book, Explore Your Neighborhood, and Explore Your World. There’s links to other summer activities and adventures including PBS Kids shows screenings at Alamo Drafthouse and fun summer themed activities at Reading is Fundamental. Free, ages 3 years and older.

Brain Chase lets you join other students from all over the world in a real-world treasure hunt. Students choose either The Sunstone of Cortes or The United Way Service Challenge (open to Arizona residents only). Brain Chase partners with Rosetta StoneGoogle BooksKhan Academy, and Credentialed Teachers, and each child’s adventure is customized to their academic needs and abilities. Students who complete all seven weeks compete for a $5000 scholarship. The program comes with a money back guarantee – you get a full refund if you cancel within the first week. $79-$249, includes option to register as a family, open to 2nd – 8th graders.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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