By Tracey Dowdy
For many parents, summer 2020 looks a lot different from summers’ past. Many states have flattened the curve and are beginning to re-open, while others have seen a spike and are forced to roll back their plans.
That means pools, playgrounds, and other family-friendly venues remain closed until further notice. One of the biggest losses is, of course, summer camps. Social distancing, wearing masks, the need for frequent sanitization of surfaces as well as other CDC guidelines mean many camps have been canceled or moved online. While it can’t take the place of real-world adventure and exploration, virtual summer camps are a great way to stay safe but still have fun. They’re also a perfect opportunity to experience a subject they’d otherwise never have a chance to explore.
If you feel like the last months of virtual learning were a bit of a bust, you can stimulate those foggy brain cells with week-long camps through Varsity Tutors. Kids can learn a new language, solve brain teasers, practice creative writing, learn the science behind magic, or train a dog. Tailored for specific grade levels—kindergarten and up. (Free)
Camp Wonderopolis offers fun STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programs. This year’s camps include Symphony of Wonders, Build Your Own Wonder City, Wonder Food Truck, and Mission to Wonder. Camp Wonderopolis is guaranteed to make science enjoyable by answering questions like, “Why are bowling shoes slippery?” “Where’s the world’s fastest roller coaster?” (Free)
Kids ages 5 to 11 can join a virtual “cabin” of six-eight other campers at Camp Supernow They’ll meet daily on Zoom for crafts, games, field trips, and more. Included in the camp tuition are additional Super Shows that involve the whole camp – think sing-a-longs, magic shows, and movement classes designed to foster community when we’re all feeling a little disconnected. Each session lasts two weeks, and they’re currently offering a free trial day to see if your kid enjoys it. ($199 per camper)
Tech-savvy older students may enjoy iD Tech’s virtual classes. Classes are designed for kids seven and up and focus on computer animation and app-building – kids can even learn how to design for Minecraft. The camp isn’t cheap, but once you pay for one child, a sibling or friend can join for free. ($399 with code TOGETHER as long as social distancing is in effect – savings: $100).
The “Start with a Book” program from Reading Rockets is an online book club for kids ages six and up. With 24 topics to choose from as varied as dinosaurs, bugs, the moon, art, geography, mysteries, and superheroes, there’s a stream for everyone. Kids are matched with the books to check out along with activities, apps, and ideas to keep the fun going even after they’ve finished the last chapter. (Free)
UNICEF USA’s CAMP@HOME provides campers with a philanthropic summer camp experience. Kids will watch videos on sports, crafts, and cooking, and then be prompted to take what they’ve learned and apply it in the real world. As kids complete the videos, food packets are “unlocked” for UNICEF to send to malnourished children worldwide. Participating campers can even unlock donations for COVID-19 supplies for their communities. (Free).
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.