Camp Cancelled? Keep Kids Busy With These 6 Summer Camp Alternatives
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Camp Cancelled? Keep Kids Busy With These 6 Summer Camp Alternatives

A ton of top-rated summer camps may have closed this year, but don’t worry, nothing can cancel summer! There are an enormous number of summer camp alternatives ripe for the plucking. Here are a few ways to keep kids busy:

1. Online Programs For Kids

Rather than outright closing for the season, many camps have pivoted to a virtual model. This can mean significant changes to what camp looks like. 

Co-founder of San Francisco-area day camp Rock Band Land, Brian Gorman, found the virtual transition tough, but worth it. Gorman told CNN that their new virtual camp, the RBL Donkey Camp Show, would “have many of the same elements, but also [be] so different that they'll almost be like something entirely separate. It's a hard pill to swallow, but I'm also confident that we will create a unique and thoroughly engaging and creative experience for our kids.”

Even if your preferred local camp didn’t make the switch, The New York Times has put together a pretty nifty list of online classes and virtual activities to help you keep kids busy:

  • Camp Wonderopolis, which offers online instructions and videos around theme-based educational content.
  • Creativebug has over 100 pre-recorded art and craft classes for kids on a free 30-day trial (ranging from farm-animal finger puppets to abstract painting).
  • DIY for Kids: Two-week free trial for creative projects and courses on drawing, science, inventions, and even Minecraft video production.
  • Outschool. Live small-group virtual camps on specialized themes like My Pretty Pony or Harry Potter potions.
  • Wide Open School. Common Sense Media curates this bank of free resources and offers proposed daily schedules!

2. Camp-In-A-Box!

That’s right—you could just bring camp home with a carefully designed mail-order delivery box service. There are a ton of these summer camp alternatives out there. Here are three:

Club SciKidz, for example, offers monthly boxes that keep kids busy with lab kits, collections of STEM-based hands-on activities, experiments, projects, secret formulas, science quotes & riddles, theme-based outdoor activities, and a full set of supporting videos—all with safe box pick-up at your designated location.

3. Family Getaway Camp

Vacation rentals are a great way to build your own mini-camp getaway with friends and family. Try inviting another family or two on a shared vacation where you rent a couple cabins in the woods or a seaside cottage with a bunch of bedrooms. Kristen Johnson did this in South Carolina, so the seven collected kids (between 3 families) could spend their days with one of the moms on outings like fishing trips and scavenger hunts while the working parents got stuff done on their laptops.

4. Reading Club Camp

Check out the local public library for reading program opportunities. A book club experience is great for social distancing since most of it is done independently (reading). Discussions could be in person or even virtual, according to the program. Even if your local library doesn’t do something like this, they’d likely assemble a great reading list for your kids, maybe even with discussion guides. Or, with a bit of parent organization, you could start a virtual book club for your kids and some of their friends!

5. Neighborhood Day Camp

Get a few families on the block (or nearby) organized around a planned outdoor activity each day for a week. The small group of kids can gather for yard golf, LEGo projects, puppet shows, chalk art, skateboarding, picket fence painting, kite-making, or anything else. Each parent offers to keep kids busy outside for one day of the week.

6. Just-Get-Outside-While-I-Work Camp

Working remotely? Find a green space to set up with your laptop and headphones while the kids play in the sprinkler, on a swing set, or throw a ball. Take a break halfway through to have a picnic. Even if it’s just an hour or two a day, it’s a chance to get outside and be active.

Whatever you choose for your summer camp alternatives, don’t be hard on yourself. Wii Sports and a movie each day is okay. As psychology professor Roxanne Donovan told the Washington Post, “This pandemic presents a unique opportunity for parents to slow down and lower their expectations to work in the gray area of our usual all-or-nothing binary thinking.” Summer camp will be missed while it’s closed, but we’re all going to get by alright just doing what we can.