7 Summer Camp Alternatives for Kids of All Ages

Updated: July 7, 2021
If you're skipping summer camp this year, we're here to help with ideas for keeping kids busy and engaged all summer long. We have compiled a complete list of DIY, virtual, and educator-approved summer camp alternatives that are sure to keep boredom at bay.
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Whatever your reason may be—low on funding, coronavirus concerns, lack of programming in your area—you have decided you will not be sending your kids to summer camp this year. Therefore, you need some fun summer camp alternatives to keep your little ones busy and engaged (and not driving you crazy all summer!).

More: 5 Fun and Educational Activities to Keep Kids Learning this Summer

We have compiled a complete list of DIY, virtual, and educator-approved ideas to get you ready for a summer that is sure to keep boredom at bay! So, whether you are aiming to have a virtual summer, or are looking for some hands-on summer programs, let’s dive in and take a look at these pandemic-proof ideas for your little campers.

Outdoor Classes

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Many day camps and specialty schools are offering completely outdoor day camp alternatives this summer, with social distancing indoors as a last resort for severe weather days. Depending on the climate where you live, they may even have outdoor canopies and tents set up to protect campers from mild weather, such as heat and rain, so all the activities can remain outdoors.

Check with your local county or city camp programs and your local YMCA, JCC, JCYS, or child care facilities near you to see what type of outdoor camp experiences are being offered.

Library Events

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Where I live, nothing beats the programming from the county library. Almost all of it is free, and most libraries have their content calendar printed online for easy access. The local library is an excellent resource to take advantage of as they typically have crafting activities, storytime, music classes, and physical activity classes. Many of these classes are being presented as a virtual option or as outdoor activities.

My local library is hosting sidewalk chalk drawing parties this summer as a repeated event and virtual book clubs for all ages. Libraries have activities for children and adults, so whether you have a toddler or a teen, they can find something that interests them.

Virtual Classes

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While many of us may have Zoom Fatigue, online classes and virtual tours are still an excellent resource if you are looking for ways to engage your children. Besides, why not put that screen time to good use by attending a virtual camp?

I have seen virtual camp options available for space, dance, theater, art, coding, animals, history - pretty much everything! If you are not sure if this style will hold your child’s attention, especially after a year of virtual schooling for many kids, try just a virtual class first.

Outschool is a popular and trustworthy virtual class site that offers affordable class options on pretty much any topic you can think of.

Nanny or Mother’s Helper

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If you and your kids need a break from each other (and we are not judging you if you do!), consider hiring a part-time nanny or mother’s helper for the summer to engage your kids and take them out and about so you can still get your work done.

High school and college students are always seeking ways to make extra cash, and they are much more affordable than hiring a professional nanny or sponsoring an au pair for the summer.

A part-time nanny can take your kids on field trips to museums and nature centers. And, they can handle pool duty, trips to the local park, and the movies while providing some low-stress summer fun for your kids.

Day or Weekend Trips

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I love to travel, and I have instilled that love in my kids as well, and one of our favorite things to bust the boredom is to take a day or overnight trip to somewhere close. Where I live, I have access to New York City, Philadelphia, Hershey, Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington D.C., and Ocean City, Maryland, all within a four-hour or less drive making it a prime spot for day-tripping.

If you can’t pull off a big vacation this summer, consider taking two or three day trips to local amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, or beaches. Attend a local theater production or outdoor concerts in the park. If you can handle the closeness, cram the whole family into a cheap motel or hotel for the night to extend the trip! Kids love staying in hotels because it automatically makes it feel like a vacation, even if the destination is not all that far away or spectacular.

There are many fun ways to engage your kids in summer activities and for them to get away without the big-ticket price tag that overnight camps bring.

Homegrown Fun

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If you are looking to keep the fun closer to home, you can do many fun options with your child right in your own backyard or house. For example, consider taking an online cooking class together or signing up for a meal-kit subscription that you can cook together.

You can also order science activity kits, art and craft kits, and coding kits. In addition, there are several printables online to go on neighborhood and household scavenger hunts and fun worksheets, puzzles, word searches, mazes, and more!

Purchase a fun sprinkler attachment, water sprayers, and outdoor toys and set up a DIY sandbox using a large plastic bin or kiddie pool. Just be sure to cover it when not in use, so animals and stray cats don’t get in!

Weekly Classes

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If you’re looking for a way for your child to socialize this summer but don’t want to go the full camp option, consider signing them up for an activity that meets once or twice a week. You could sign up for gymnastics, swim lessons, dance classes, summer sports leagues, music, or art classes - just to name a few!

This option is usually more cost-effective, and it provides something for your child to look forward to every week. You can then use that break to grab a coffee, run errands, or simply relax while your child is happy and engaged. If you need more fun, outdoor ideas, check out our Ultimate Summer Bucket List for Kids and Families