We gathered a list of fun activities to keep you and your family busy this summer. Plus, check out the Bay Area Parent website for two recent issues devoted to summer activities.
Virtual Programs Offered by City of Palo Alto
Free Virtual Camps
- Camp Caribou: This is a free summer reading program with 100 days of activities, featured books and themed reading categories. The first theme will be “Courageous Conversations: Anti-Racism,” and they’ll be adding additional books about anti-racism throughout the summer.
- Camp Tinkergarten: This is a free, eight-week summer course you can do at home. Filled with all sorts of fun like a printable "trail map," reading summer list, songs and rituals for camp, plus articles and resources for parents, each week focuses on a different core Tinkergarten skill: persistence, empathy, creativity, focus and more.
- Camp Wonderopolis: Keep your kids learning (and having a great time) this summer with Camp Wonderopolis, a great free program that incorporates science, music, reading comprehension and more. Choose from themes including space travel, the Olympics and city building.
- Varsity Tutors: Get learning time in this summer with Varsity Tutors’ weeklong, totally free virtual summer camps. Running June through August, kids can sign up to make their own LEGO movie, crack detective cases and create their own worlds in Minecraft. Space is limited, so grab your spot soon.
- Family Maker Camp: Get your whole crew involved with Family Maker Camp—it’s a great way to flex your imagination and create something new. Join in on one of their live streams or pick something that sounds interesting out of their project library. Before you know it, you’ll have built a hovercraft or a musical instrument.
- Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: If you need an incentive to get the kids to go screen-free every once in a while, check out the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program. Download a reading journal from the Barnes & Noble website, then have your little bookworm log each book as it’s completed. Once they’ve read eight books, bring the completed journal to your local Barnes & Noble between July 1 and Aug. 31 to get a free book.*** Score!
- LEGO Mini Builds & Magazine: Every month this summer, download the free instructions to a new LEGO mini build. In addition, your master builder can receive a free magazine as part of the LEGO life program. There are stories, activities and news updates for kids ages 5-9.
- Microsoft Kids Camp: Microsoft normally offers free kids camp at their stores during the summer, but they've moved online for now. Kids can sign up for free online workshops to tour the Smithsonian, plan a virtual road trip, put their Minecraft skills to the test and more. Ages range from 6-14, and while the camps are free, advance registration is required.
- Scholastic's Read-a-Palooza: Your avid reader can help underprivileged kids gain access to books by keeping track of his total minutes read this summer. Sign up on Scholastic's new Home Base to get started. As kids track their reading streaks, they’ll unlock fun videos, book excerpts and other exclusive summer content. For every two days in a row kids track their reading streaks, Scholastic, with the help of other sponsors, will donate a book (totaling up to 100,000 books) to underserved kids across the country. You can register here, and check out the info for parents here.
- Ranger Rick Photo Contest: If you’ve got a budding Ansel Adams at home, the Ranger Rick photo contest is a great way to keep her busy over the summer. First, head for the great outdoors (or your own backyard) and have her take nature photos. Then, select her favorite one and send it in with proper sizing (2 MB or smaller, JPG format, at least 600 pixels wide or 600 pixels tall). If your kid doesn’t have a digital camera, no worries! Phone images are also accepted. Recent winners (this is an ongoing contest) are entered into the running for Ranger Rick’s "Your Best Shots" Magazine Award and are selected three times a year. Each winner receives a certificate of achievement and copies of the magazine featuring the winning image!
- Kids That Do Good Volunteer Program: It's never too early to instill the habit of giving to others. Have your little philanthropists sign up with Kids That Do Goodthis summer in order to spend time giving back to their local community. The online (kid-founded!) resource allows kids to get involved with a cause or charity of their choosing—or, if you’ve got real go-getters at home—create their own! Once you’ve created an account and found an organization, kids can track their service hours via social profiles and certificates. During Covid-19, they're highlighting ways that you can volunteer safely from home, including sewing masks, transcribing historic documents and more.
- Apple Camp:The very popular Apple Camp returns for the summer. Designed to help spark the imaginations of kiddos ages 8-12, this three-day workshop allows kids to explore and expand on their digital creativity. They’ll choose one of three tracks, and spend 90 minutes of each day working on their project. Be sure to sign up here to get an email announcing open registration—spots fill up quickly!
- Home Depot Maker Classes: The Home Depot offers workshops that are perfect for mini-makers. Simply pre-register online, and then show up on the selected Saturday to build fun projects like a putting green. At the end of the two-hour workshop, kids receive a certificate of achievement, a workshop apron, and a commemorative pin while supplies last.
- Camp PBS Kids: PBS Kids offers different, parent-led learning activities with themes like dinosaurs, space, and books, among others. Often, the activities are connected to a different PBS program and are designed for kids ages 2–8.
- Kids Need More Virtual Camp: Dip and and out of different Zoom activities as you need them; sessions include princess visits, LEGO building, baby meet-ups, and performances.
- Little Tikes Camp Play@Home: Starting June 15, Little Tikes will offer ideas for affordable, easy-to-do camp activities for young kids over social media and email, which parents can do at home at their own pace.
- Miss Megan's Camp Kindergarten: Megan Jessen, a former kindergarten teacher, does lessons, music, and storytime on her Facebook group, which has close to 100,000 members.
- Too Cool for School: This Facebook group offers parent-to-parent live classes, along with ideas for crafts, arts, physical activities, and games.
- MOCA Art Camp: MOCA North Miami is offering a virtual contemporary art experience with free Virtual Art Camps this summer. Kids ages six to 13 will be introduced to mixed media, painting, drawing and textile arts during Zoom workshops, and their final projects will be featured in a virtual exhibition on MOCA’s website. Space is limited, so be sure to sign up while you still can!
- Numerade: If you’re worried about getting your middle or high school kids up to speed in the new school year, Numerade has a fabulous (and free) solution. They’re offering free STEM summer camps covering SAT test prep, precalculus, physics and more.
- Gigi’s At Home: With the onset of Covid-19, GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers were forced to temporarily close, but they were able to bring a ton of content to their website tailored for families with Down Syndrome. Browse more than 20 programs for all ages, covering everything from math to cooking.
- Walk & Talk from Marathon Kids: Research shows that kids connect when they're participating in an activity with you whether it's cooking, playing outside or being creative. Non-profit organization Marathon Kids, which works to ignite the joy of physical activity in kids, is launching a free summer program in hopes of making this easier for parents. Simply walk a mile and talk while doing it. Each day you'll receive a new prompt, there's a special mileage tracker, and by the end, you'll have walked the length of a marathon (26 miles) while getting to know your child better.
- Kids Bowl Free: Budding bowlers can perfect their technique all summer long thanks to Kids Bowl Free, which allows them to play up to two games a day free of charge. All that's missing is a pair of those sweet bowling shoes. To find a participating bowling alley near you, click here.
- Kids Skate Free: Xanadu your heart out and head for the local roller rink this summer. Whether your kids like to skate or rollerblade, a few laps will get their blood pumping, and the cool, A/C-induced temps are a total bonus. The Kids Skate Free program allows families to take advantage of this offer once a week (during summer months). Click here to find out if it’s happening at your local rink.
- National Park Jr. Ranger Program: If you’ve got a National Park nearby, be sure to sign up your mini explorers for the NPS Junior Ranger Program. Each kiddo will be outfitted with a handy Junior Ranger guidebook that's filled with historical facts and cool tips about all the National Parks. Every adventurer also gets the chance to complete a series of activities, share answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate. Click here to learn more.
- Museums on Us: If you are a Bank of America or a Merrill Lynch cardholder, you can snag free admission at more than 150 museums, science centers and botanical gardens across the country on two days every month just by showing your card. Find out if your favorite museum is participating, and on what days, by clicking here.
Virtual Camps for Art, Music, STEM, and More
- Act One Theatre Camp: Kids ages 6–15 can spend the summer singing, dancing, and acting in one of three different themed theater sessions.
- Bake-a-Camp: Each week, campers will get a baking box featuring four themed kits from Baketivity kits for kids ages 6–11; the recipes will get more advanced and explore different topics, themes, or cuisines.
- Broadway Plus: Broadway stars offer lessons and virtual masterclasses for older students. Dates and pricing are to be determined.
- Camp:ASPIRE: UBTECH Robotics, maker of the JIMU line of robot building kits, offers at-home summer programs for kids 8+ in robotics and engineering using hands-on STEM learning activities and design challenges. Courses go from June 15 to August 24.
- Camp DIY: Given through the DIY app, this camp has 80+ DIY project ideas for your little maker to choose from. Activities come in seven themed "packs" and also branch out onto science, engineering, and cooking.
- Camp Hullabaloo: For kids ages 2–8, the Hullaballoo Book Company is hosting a 12-week, go-at-your-own pace summer camp; if you sign up, you'll get 12 new books with accompanying of kid-friendly craft ideas and activities to go with them.
- Camp KiwiCo: Starting June 22, KiwiCo will offer five-day sessions filled with videos, DIY activities, downloadable printables, creativity challenges, all themed around a different crate they offer. Campers are split into four different age groups covering kids between the ages of 2 and 9.
- Camp Whatever-It-Takes: This camp offers teens and tweens experiences in entrepreneurship and empowerment.
- The Center for Contemporary Art Virtual Summer Art Camps: Choose from full-day or half-day art classes for kids ages 5–15. There's also a special needs program available.
- Connected Camps Minecraft Classes: If your house is all Minecraft, all the time, Connected Camps offers dozens of Minecraft-related classes for 8- to 13-year-olds that cover everything from Minecraft art to coding.
- PAFA Summer Art Camp: For serious artists ages 6–15, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will host a virtual camp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday. A box of supplies for that week's activities will come in the mail each week.
- Smart Buddies Camp-in-a-Box: Smart Buddies fans ages 7–11 can get extra enrichment with a camp that includes small meetups (socialization!) along with activities and assignments to sharpen those coding skills.
- Super Soccer Stars @ Home: Livestream virtual soccer lessons in small-group settings, where kids can get one-on-one attention with activities designed for small spaces.
- The Be Kind People Project: provides over five weeks of virtual classes to explore ten American landmarks through interactive videos, hands-on projects, music, recipes and virtual souvenirs. The classes offer a fun approach to project-based learning with a focus on kindness and youth development.
- Raddish Kids: If your kiddo is interested in cooking, you’ve got to check out Raddish Kids’ virtual cooking camp. Each week covers a different theme, from Around the World to Bake Shop. The camps are designed for kids ages 8 to 13 and run daily for one week each. Follow their page on Outschool to be notified when you can sign up; you can also check out their recorded one-time classes in the meantime.
- MarcoPolo World School: Keep the summer boredom away with this fun digital learning platform. Kids ages three to seven can learn STEAM concepts while watching videos and participating in interactive online activities. You can try it out with a 30-day free trial; after that, it’s $9.99 a month.
- Camp Creativity at Michael's: Does your artist dream of paint, paper, glitter and glue? If so, Michael’s Camp Creativity is the perfect way to beat summer brain drain. Kids come in on Mon., Wed. and Fri. from 10:00 am-12:00 pm to work on projects that have fun themes like Zoo Adventures, World Explorers and Sea Treasures. There are new crafts each day, Friday is a slime-themed project, and kids get stickers and coloring pages to collect for each session they attend.
Virtual Camps That Offer a Little of Everything
- Activity Hero Camps: Kids ages 6–16 can find an e-learning camp that interests them, from forensic science to cartoon-drawing. You can even find classes that brush up on skills like public speaking or entrepreneurship.
- Blue Sky Kids Virtual Camp: Daily, hourlong private or semi-private sessions move at the pace of your child, exploring interests like coding, cooking, comedy/improv, art, chess, magic, or songwriting.
- Brain Chase: Give your kids an exciting and engaging adventure this summer by joining forces with Mae Merriweather from the Grayson Academy of Antiquities. Starting on Jun. 1, 2020, your tiny treasure hunter can join other participants from all over the world to work hard, have fun and decode the clues that will lead one lucky winner to the mysterious Sunstone of Cortes. How does it work? Kids will choose three electives out of 15 (depending on which package you select), including math, engineering, cooking, typing and even yoga, to solve each weekly challenge. Once solved, an original webisode containing the next hidden clue will be unlocked. The first treasure hunter to solve the mystery will jet off to unearth the real buried treasure—$1,000 in gold!
- Camp Cloud Virtual Camp: Kids ages 8–17 are placed into different teams, which meet every day, and activities that kids can complete on their own are also emailed out every day. Campers can focus on different topics, like pet care, STEM, or performing arts.
- Happy Camper Live: You can find sports, art, music, cooking, and performing activities, along with quintessential camp experiences like campfire songs at this site, co-created by a camp expert: Steve Slavin, creator of the show Salute Your Shorts; many of the activities are available for free.
- Camp Supernow: New sessions for kids age 5–11 start every Monday, and each week has a new theme, including fables and fairytales, Renaissance Fair, and Explorer's Club. Campers are sorted into virtual cabins of 6 to 8 students and meet daily for counselor-guided activities, and then there are optional camp-wide activities kids can also join.
- Camp EDMO: This camp offers either half-day or full-day programs focused on social-emotional learning for kids in pre-k through eighth grade. The day mixes counselor-led programming with activities that offer screen time breaks.
- Outschool: If you need to fit camp into a tricky schedule, you can sort through tons of virtual camps via Outschool based on age, meeting time/duration, or level of interest. Classes include everything from Wings of Fire dragon drawing and writing to Harry Potter-themed creative writing.
- Teachers Who Tutor Virtual Summer Camp 2020: If you want to give your kids an academic brush-up to help develop skills they may have not honed during remote learning during the school year, or if you're looking to fight the dreaded "summer slide," Teachers Who Tutor has grade-specific fundamentals for grades K–5 as well as electives for grades K–12.
- Camp OshKosh: Iconic brand OshKosh will launch a virtual summer program kids can access from home. They'll be your camp director and guide activities that'll keep kids occupied and bring up classic camp memories for parents, too. Ideal for kids seven and up, Camp OshKosh will keep them active, inspired and having fun this summer. This fun program will launch on June 15th, and you'll be able to find more details here on that date.