No matter the season, summertime is a time for kids to experience the world. But before you can pack up the car and hit the road, ask yourself this dreaded question: “What will I do with my kids this summer?” While many day camps and sleepaway camps might not yet be happening, there are still tons of cool online programs that are keeping costs very low or even free. From cooking classes to reading challenges, these kid-approved summer programs are the best way to fill your time this summer.
As many parents know, the cost of summer programs can be considerable, especially if they want to sign their kids up for a variety of camps. Luckily, there are options out there to help keep the price down.
Even as adults, summer gives us a chance to feel like kids again. We can relive the fun we had in our youth and make new memories with our families. The best way to do this is to plan so you aren’t left scrambling all summer long to keep your kids entertained.
Table of Contents Hide
- What are summer programs?
- 1. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
- 2. The YMCA
- 3. Sur La Table Summer Series Cooking Classes
- 4. Montessori Summer School Programs
- 5. Sylvan Academic Camps
- 6. The Salvation Army Summer Camps
- 7. Local library programs
- 8. National Geographic’s Planet Possible Family Challenge
- 9. MOCA Art Camp
- 10. Walk & Talk from Marathon Kids
- 11. Microsoft Kids Camp
- 12. Brain Chase
- 13. Scholastic’s Read-a-Palooza
- 14. Ranger Rick Photo Contest
- 15. Kids That Do-Good Volunteer Program
- 16. Apple Camp
- Frequently asked questions about best summer programs for affordable kids
- How much does a summer program cost?
- Are virtual summer camps worth it?
- What should parents look for in a high-quality summer program?
- How long does summer camp last in America?
- At what age do kids go camping in America?
What are summer programs?
Your kids have been going to school all this while and you are also going to your place of work. Everyone has been busy doing and they do every day, then… the school closed! It is the holidays. Not just a few days’ holidays, this is a lengthy one -the summer holidays.
You are suddenly stuck with your kids (not that, just that you have to stay back to look after them). There are programs and events by reputable organizers that help to keep your kids busy and you have a good time playing with them. These are the summer programs.
There is a small issue; summer programs can be very expensive, and as a parent try to make things happen, many are discouraged or dread the havoc it will wreak on their finances if they go to these programs.
So below, I will discuss those programs that are tailor-made for a stringent purse.
1. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are organizations for youth in the United States. Both organizations provide programs that promote STEM-related activities using a variety of methods, including hands-on experiments, field trips, and community service projects. Scouts participate as campers, staff members, and/or through merit badge opportunities.
The official names of these organizations are ”’Boy Scouts of America” and ”’Girl Scouts of the USA”, but they are more commonly referred to as simply ”’Boy Scouts” and ”’Girl Scouts”’.
Both organizations aim to foster leadership skills that can be used throughout a person’s life. Both programs cost $25/year, plus additional fees.
2. The YMCA
The YMCA throughout the United States serves 1.4 million youth and adults annually, including 970,000 kids and adults through summer day and overnight camp programs and more than 439,000 youth, teens, families, school, and retreat groups through group camping overnight programs.
Prices vary depending on location and are often open to all with options to adjust fees based on income levels. The YMCA offers day camps for $25 per day.
YMCA of the Rockies offers them from June 3 to August 16 for $38/day.
3. Sur La Table Summer Series Cooking Classes
Nationwide culinary supply stores offer five-day summer classes for kids and teens that cost about $250. The courses are available for 8-12 years old and 13–17 years old.
4. Montessori Summer School Programs
Montessori camps around the country encourage physical and emotional growth in children through art, music, science, culture, and more.
Prices vary for a 9-week camp in Plainsboro, New Jersey for kids 5-12 that costs $275 per week plus a $25 registration fee. Check out the main Montessori site for your local options.
5. Sylvan Academic Camps
Sylvan Learning Centers provide a variety of programs to keep children intellectually stimulated before the start of the new school year.
One example is the Study Skills camp for fourth through twelfth graders, which runs about $299 a week.
6. The Salvation Army Summer Camps
Many Salvation Army sites have programs that offer low-income families a chance to unwind and recharge over the summer.
During the day, campers swim, play sports, create music, make art, and scout, while at night they are helped by trained counselors as they navigate the complicated emotions and struggles of their lives back home. Look for locations near you on the Salvation Army site.
7. Local library programs
Your local library has information on summer camps and programs, including the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s two-week summer camp, BCAP (Brooklyn Children’s Arts Program), which includes games, experiments, creative arts, and exploration.
8. National Geographic’s Planet Possible Family Challenge
An eight-week series from National Geographic introduces families to ways in which they can get outdoors and explore the habitats that surround them, thus giving their kids the ability to better understand why it’s so important to protect them.
Each week of the series will have three components:
- a project that will help kids explore microhabitats,
- activities or prompts designed to cultivate their interest and understanding of biodiversity, and
- tips on protecting microhabitats.
9. MOCA Art Camp
MOCA North Miami is providing art-focused summer camps, featuring workshops in mixed media, painting, and drawing. Six- to 13-year-olds will be able to create works of art inspired by contemporary art, and the final products will be featured in a virtual exhibition on MOCA’s website.
There will be five two-week sessions, beginning on June 14 and concluding on August 20. Reservations are made on a first-come, first-serve basis. Cost: $10 a day, $50 for a week, or $90 per full two-week session.
Read: 13 Ongoing Yale Summer Programs in 2022
10. Walk & Talk from Marathon Kids
Nonprofit organization Marathon Kids is launching a free summer program in hopes of making it easier for parents to get their kids moving. The program includes daily activity prompts, mileage tracking, and parent-child bonding.
By the end, you will have walked as far as a marathon (26 miles) with your child. It is free of charge.
11. Microsoft Kids Camp
Microsoft usually hosts free kids camps at its stores during the summer, but it’s currently holding online camps instead. Kids ages 6-14 can sign up for free online workshops to tour the Smithsonian Museum, plan a virtual road trip, put their Minecraft skills to the test, and more.
Advance registration is required.
12. Brain Chase
Brain Chase’s 4 Treasure Hunt programs will be an exciting opportunity for your kids to learn while they play this summer. There are four different programs, including The Jungle Book, the Sunstone of Cortes, The Mask of Tomoe Gozen, and The Globe of Magellan to choose from.
Your child will get to pick three elective courses out of 15, including math, engineering, cooking, and typing to solve each weekly challenge.
Once solved, a surprise webisode containing the next hidden clue will be unlocked for their team and the first treasure hunter to solve the mystery will jet off on an all-expense-paid trip to unearth the real buried treasure — $1,000 in gold!
Registration is 99$ upward.
13. Scholastic’s Read-a-Palooza
Scholastic is running a summer reading program called Home Base. Kids who register here can track their reading streaks, unlock fun videos, book excerpts, and other exclusive summer content for every two days in a row they read.
With help from other sponsors, scholastic will donate up to 100,000 free books to underserved kids across the country. It is free of charge.
14. Ranger Rick Photo Contest
If you’ve got an aspiring photographer in your home, this contest is a great way to keep her busy over the summer. First, tell her to head out into nature (or even just to your backyard) and take some photos. Then, select her favorite one and send it in with proper sizing (must be 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! Participation is free.
15. Kids That Do-Good Volunteer Program
Kids That Do Good’s mission is to make philanthropy fun for kids and families. This summer, Kids That Do Good is helping kids sign up with volunteer organizations of their choice (or create their own) as a way to help make a difference in the community.
Additionally, Kids That Do Good is highlighting ways that you can volunteer from home by sewing masks for people with disabilities, transcribing historic documents, and more.
During Covid-19, Kids That Do Good is highlighting ways to volunteer safely from home—and make a difference!
16. Apple Camp
Apple Camp is a popular program that helps stoke the imaginations of kiddos ages 8 to 12. Developed by Apple, this three-day workshop allows kids to explore their digital creativity.
Each day, campers choose one of three tracks—iPad Basics, iPad Art, or iPad Video—and spend 90 minutes on hands-on projects.
Frequently asked questions about best summer programs for affordable kids
How much does a summer program cost?
The average weekly rate for day camp ranges from $199 to $800, while overnight camps will set parents back between $680 and $2,000 a week, according to the American Camp Association. And while those figures are from 2018, Novoa says there’s no real reason to believe that things will be cheaper this year
Are virtual summer camps worth it?
An online summer camp is an excellent option for kids who get bored easily, need constant stimulation, and thrive in social environments. Following a set schedule for the summer weeks ahead will undoubtedly provide your child with a familiar structure and
What should parents look for in a high-quality summer program?
Balanced programming with daily opportunities for reading, math, cultural enrichment, and recreation.
High-interest, engaging activities.
Positive interaction between kids and caring adults.
A safe, structured learning environment.
How long does summer camp last in America?
Most Summer Camps start between mid-May and late June and run for about 9 weeks. You’ll spend 9 to 12 weeks out in America as part of your Summer Camp experience. It’ll be the time of your life!
At what age do kids go camping in America?
You’ll be working in an environment with children aged between 6-16. Parents have trusted camps with the wellbeing of their children. Camp is fun, but it’s hard work too. You’ll have time off to explore and recharge during your time at camp (along with 30 free days to travel after camp).
Summers are the most exciting time for kids. It is for the parent also albeit the expenses to be accrued. Listed above are the pocket-friendly camps for your kids. Some are even free of charge. Do go through them to make your choice.
- mommy poppins – 20-free-online-summer-camps-in-2021
- Parent.com – summer-programs-for-kids-that-dont-cost-much
- Living well spending less – budget-friendly-summer-programs
- Tiny beans – national-summer-programs-for-families