Academics Featured Posts

Learning Pods To Support Online School

Learning pods are small, in-person groups of children who learn together with the support of a teacher or facilitator.

These ‘pandemic pods’ are rapidly gaining support as parents find new ways to support their child’s virtual learning. Working parents and families with multiple children are struggling to find a path forward while balancing work and home responsibilities. Other children need specialized learning support, better facilitated by a tutor or licensed teacher.

Types of Learning Pods

  1. Enrichment Provider – held in a facility, or in family’s home
  2. Parent co-op – coordinated by a few families
  3. Micro School – one or more teachers who may be credentialed
  4. Digital or Virtual pod – a group that meets online 
Learning pods to support online learning by teachers, parent co-ops and enrichment providers.

Enrichment Provider Learning Pods

Learning pods coordinated by local businesses are in very high demand. These small groups are either held on-site at a facility or in a host families home. These types of pods are a good fit if a parent is not able to oversee distance learning support at home.

The credentials and experience of the facilitator vary by program. While some might offer a licensed teacher, others may employ tutors or camp counselors. In most cases, each student would need their own computer, headphones, face covering, and other school supplies.

Many provider learning pods will follow the child’s distance learning school curriculum – keeping the child on task and engaged with their teachers via Zoom. Some providers offer both distance learning support and an after school enrichment program for extended care.

Provider learning pods are in very limited supply across the country due to both the new concept and the small group size. Therefore, available programs are filling up very fast on ActivityHero.

Find Learning Pods Near Me>>

Are you a business offering learning pods in your community? Learn more about creating a listing on ActivityHero.

Parent Co-Op Learning Pods

Provider learning pods can be costly and have limited availability. As a result, some families have opted to form Parent Co-Ops. These parent-led groups help share the responsibility of both childcare and distance learning support. These types of pods can help parents who may have some flexibility with their work schedule. However, they may need the support of other parents for specific days or subject matters.

Parent led groups, in collaboration with your child’s online learning curriculum, are a very affordable alternative to full-time child care. Families often agree to take turns watching the small group, splitting up the responsibility of keeping children engaged during the day.

To support neighbors working together, ActivityHero has created a free option for parents to post available spots in their local pod.

Create a free listing indicating your child’s school and ages to coordinate with other families in your area. Host your own pod and receive an ActivityHero Live class for FREE each week for all your pod members for one month! (up to $400 savings value).

Start a Learning Pod at Home >>

Use our Planner feature to collaborate with other families in your learning pod. You can add custom events to detail your pod schedules and find providers with after school activities that fit your children’s needs. 

Micro School

The term micro school existed prior to 2020, but the idea has gained popularity amid school closures. A micro school is often a co-op but with a credentialed teacher facilitating learning for a small group of children.

A micro school is a great option for families seeking more specialized instruction by a credentialed teacher in their home. Multiple families with children of similar ages are able to hire a teacher and split the cost.

If you are a teacher or tutor, you can now offer your services to families in your area. ActivityHero has made it extremely fast and easy to create your custom listing – describe your experience, availability, and set your own price. For more information, read more about the licensing requirements for launching a micro school.

Teach a Learning Pod>>

Digital or Virtual Learning Pod

Each family has different needs when it comes to supporting their child’s distance learning. For some children with health concerns or those who live with a high risk family member, virtual learning pods could be a good option.

These types of pods are when a group of children take a series of after school or enrichment classes together. Taking online classes with friends can help support social connections. These are also a great option for homeschool families. Use the ActivityHero Planner feature to set up a calendar and invite friends to join you.

Find After School Online Activities>>

Best of ActivityHero Featured Posts

Best of 2020

Congratulations to all the children’s camp and class providers who have been named ActivityHero Best of 2020 Award Winners! 36 businesses across the U.S. received this honor, based on the number of votes, reviews and overall rating from families in 2020. 

1st Place: New York Chess Academy

2nd Place (tie): Cucu’s PlayHouse

2nd Place (tie): 3 O’Clock Rock

Award-Winning Children’s Camp and Class Providers

New York Chess Academy: NYCA organizes programs and services for all levels and ages, which include camps, after-school classes, private lessons, and tournaments. They aim to lead by example and encourage a sense of unity and camaraderie among chess players. By offering services at affordable prices, New York Chess Academy strives to ensure that chess, its undeniable benefits, and its welcoming community are accessible to all. 

Cucu’s PlayHouse: Cucu’s PlayHouse is the premiere space for Music classes, Spanish immersion and Open play for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. The Music and Movement Classes in Spanish are their main activity, and they also offer Open Play Times for children to play in a Montessori-inspired playroom with educational, sustainable wooden toys. Cucu’s PlayHouse is currently offering an online version of their popular Music and Movement Class. 

3 O’Clock Rock: Three O’Clock Rock is an after-school and summer music program for kids and adults.  It is also a record label supporting youth musicians. The program offers a unique approach to teaching music and their own curriculum made for all levels of play.   Start a band, play shows, make records, and go on tour!! 3 O’Clock Rock wants to connect people through a community approach and give them a creative voice through music.

Dan Marcus: After 40 plus years of public and private school teaching in Colorado, Dan Marcus is now an ActivityHero teacher specializing in filmmaking and mathematics. He hopes to see his students begin to develop a pure passion for learning and to truly experience the “Aha!” moment when a previously befuddling concept comes to life in my class.  He holds a current highly-qualified Career and Technical Education credential from the Colorado Department of Education in Secondary Math, Audio, Film and Video Technology, Journalism and Broadcasting.

Mathletes: These programs focus on creative problem solving in Mathematics. Students will tackle fun problems and participate in both formal and informal math competitions. Work starts in class and often continues at home. Online curriculum contains problem sets that vary by theme and difficulty. Their ultimate goal is to help students become tenacious problem solvers who love math. If you like puzzles, patterns, and problem solving, give them a try!

Young Intellects: Young Intellects offers programs designed to provide secure, affordable and efficient options for childcare services after school and are also currently offering online classes. They believe in constructive evaluation and have a transparent structure which enables you to track your child’s progress. Young Intellects programs provide structure, offer academic help, and create occasions for children of any age to develop new skills. They also offer enrichment programs like: Arts & Crafts, Oil Pastel Painting, Science & Engineering Robotics, Coding (Scratch & Python), Scrum & Agile, Public Speaking, Science Experiments, Personal Finance, Creative Writing, Budding Entrepreneurs, and Fusion Dance. 

Camp EDMO: At Camp EDMO®, children are inspired to develop their creative capacity, unleash their inner scientist and technologist, and explore the mysteries of the natural world. Their camps are from ages Pre-K to 8th grade, and offer a huge variety of subjects. They have what parents need: convenience, coverage, peace of mind and Sliding Scale Financial Aid. As campers get older, they are given more challenges and more opportunity to explore the subjects they love. 

Digivations Camp Demigod Institute

Digivations Camp Demigod Institute is a camp and academy fusion where literary and media themes incorporating role play serve as the key vehicle through which students learn. Faculty facilitate learning about ancient cultures, languages, music/composition/sound design, visual arts, and drama/theatre. They use imaginative themes from popular young adult literature to teach many subjects. One of their popular online classes is an innovative and engaging Harry Potter Camp where virtual campers might learn components of chemistry, physics and languages! 

LA School of Music: The Los Angeles School of Music offers fun and engaging online music lessons and classes on piano, voice, guitar, and more. Their online classes are always live and interactive. Teachers have music degrees from universities and music conservatories, and many of them perform with groups like the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and even regularly perform at Disney Hall. Most importantly, their teachers are passionate about music education and bringing the joy of music to their students.

Little Champs Learning Center: Little Champs is a STEAM focused after school, summer and online program that provides children with safe, supportive learning environment that enables them to achieve academic success and gain knowledge in areas of interest. These include public speaking, cooking, sports, science, art, and more. Little Champs is your one stop shop for all your enrichment activities and a variety of summer camps for kids aged 5 to 13. 

Top Gun Batting Cages: Top Gun Batting Cages is a Veteran-Owned Small Business dedicated to providing Central Maryland with the very best indoor baseball/softball training experience. Top Gun coaches and staff members care and it shows. Top Gun Summer Camps are the best camps in the area! They keep your kids moving all day with a variety of activities. You don’t have to be a baseball or softball player to love their SUPER Summer Camps!

Future Bytes Tech: Future Bytes Tech is transforming creative young minds into Innovators and Makers by offering Compendious coding curriculum for Grades K-8, specialized in Robotics and Electronic circuits. Kids can learn math, practice coding languages, and face fun challenges with their friends. Future Bytes Tech believes interactive learning and coding allows the students to channel their creativity to create their own world. Come join them as they tap into students’ curiosity about tech and coding through a fun learning environment. 

CD’s Art Studio: At CD’s Kids Art Studio, students get to unleash their creativity using paper-mache, glass, mosaics, paintings, drawing, and much more! Now join CD through her popular online art classes and camps. Helping children find their inner creative artist and to have confidence in their ability is what CD loves best. 

KidzToPros: KidzToPros has built a trusted brand at over 300 schools in the Bay Area, with over 15,000 parents and over 30,000 students who have participated in their programs. From coding in scratch and python to LEGO Masters, graphic design, art skills, sports and more, KidzToPros takes fun and enrichment to the next level! Their STEM, Arts and Sports Live Online Summer Camps & On-site Summer Camps provide the perfect opportunity for your child to develop decision making, critical thinking and creativity skills. Led by top-tier professional instructors who are passionate about teaching and child development, KidzToPros summer camps and programs help your child make the most of their time!

Wizbots: Wizbots combines LEGO robotics, Java coding, and lots of imagination to provide a unique STEM learning experience for kids ages 8-14 all around the San Francisco Bay Area and now available online! Their Robotics & Coding Labs revolve around robotics so as to instantly engage and provide students with a fun, applied way to learn Java programming and creative problem-solving. Perfect for both novices and advanced students, they will all learn coding, engineering, and design in a hands-on, collaborative environment. Campers can join week after week, season after season, and year after year to always learn something new. Parents get to experience all the fun too as their child’s project videos are posted online to see and share!  

Mi Casita de Español: “Mi Casita de Español” is a Spanish Immersion Preschool in Palo Alto. They are a licensed, play-based, and nature-based preschool providing a supportive and engaging environment for children. The teachers work with the children to provide a nurturing, caring, and safe home environment filled with love where the children love to learn in Spanish. Hands-on exploration coupled with loving guidance is how children best learn. Teachers speak Spanish while guiding the children and engage children through interactive activities and allow them to explore and discover the world around them.

Challenge Island – Katy, TX

Challenge Island was founded in 2018 and works on the forefront of S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) education. They provide classes, workshops, camps, parties, homeschooling events, team building, and multi-generational family adventures to children and teens. Challenge Island works to create fun experiences that can engage the playful child and the successful adult of the future.

Seele Stars

Seele Stars offers online and in-person camps in Berkeley, California. Their programs emphasize a multitude of skills including talent development, body awareness, public speaking, cooperation, appreciation of diversity, self-esteem elaboration, and more. Their goal is to continue students’ scholastic-based learning by integrating musical theater into a language arts curriculum. The end of this exciting camp experience can result in a friendship or a showcase for families to view their child’s learning experience. 

Innovation for Youth

Innovation for Youth is focused on delivering fun, enriching, and socially engaging online programs during quarantine. They have worked with many talented individuals to develop effective online teaching methods and online curriculum. They currently are offering three amazing online programs that focus on magic and art. Their curriculums are developed with the overarching idea that important life lessons and skills can be acquired through a disciplined approach to learning magic or art. 

Choreography by Rae

Choreography by Rae is a performing arts and creative arts educational center that was originally founded as a way to help people of all ages amplify their voice through dance. They also offer several additional subjects, such as acting, chess, singing, art, yoga, and much more. Through an interactive student program they help students develop leadership and teamwork skills that transcend the classroom. In addition, they have low student to teacher ratios to ensure that their students are getting an excellent learning experience. 

Science Nature Labs

Science Nature Labs was designed to continue to inspire kids and keep them excited about science and technology. They feature year round camps and online classes that combine fun, hands-on science with a safe, practical experience that children will enjoy. Science Nature Labs is passionate about S.T.E.A.M and strives to make it an exciting atmosphere for children to learn and explore science. Their seasoned team of educators are committed to instilling wonder and curiosity as a foundation for lifelong learning in Science and Technology. 

Best in Class Education Center (South San Jose)

At Best in Class Education Center, their mission is to build better teachers and successful students by strengthening their analytic and reasoning skills. They specialize in Math and English enrichment as well as private tutoring for K-12th grads. Furthermore, their curriculum promotes critical thinking, problem solving, and builds strong foundation skills. Best in Class Education Center utilizes university-educated tutors to provide experienced teachers. Their teaching style uses active teaching, individualized curriculum, weekly tests, and small classes to ensure that students are getting the most out of their learning. 

San Francisco Math Circle

The San Francisco Math Circle is an extracurricular math enrichment program that aims to make math accessible and fun. Students are given a supportive, collaborative, and fun environment to develop their mathematical thinking skills. Additionally, the San Francisco Math Circle employs engaging, hands-on puzzles and games that involve creativity and critical thinking. They promote a positive attitude towards math and are committed to making their program accessible to all children.

Tiny Treks

Tiny Treks was developed as a creative alternative to indoor parent participation programs and is a dynamic, innovative program for children who want to explore their natural surroundings and environments. They focus on interactive experiences which build self-esteem and encourage a love of nature by exploring the outdoors. The administrators and teachers are effective, efficient, and competent for a high quality experience. Whether in person or virtual, the curriculum engages children and provides an invaluable experience for them. 


LearningPlay was founded by Chaia May in 2008 as a comprehensive education program on the joys of learning — particularly music — to all ages of children starting at three months old. Her program is tailored for young learners with unique and special needs. However, she also provides a variety of offerings for adults and families. The staff is led by Chaia May who has been teaching 40+ classes a week, written 25 books, and has been asked to speak at many national education conferences, including NAEYC and CAEYC. With a high teaching experience, LearningPlay provides a quality education for children.

Code for Fun

Code for Fun is a non-profit organization committed to exposing all students, especially girls, to computer science at an early stage, to help grow the next generation of engineers. Code for fun exposes students from Kindergarten to High-School to coding in an interactive way. Code for Fun teaches students a variety of skills that also include mobile app development, Minecraft, Python, Scratch and much more. 

Young Art

Young Art inspires passion, creativity and the power of education for the next generation. Their team is committed to providing creative enriching experiences for young inventors, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs through hands-on learning. The Young Art studio offers ‘drop in’ art lessons and virtual summer camps. Students are able to create artwork with a variety of different compositions to select from. Through detailed instruction in an easy-to-follow format, teachers are able to guide students through the techniques and processes of sketching, cartooning, painting, clay sculpture, and more. 

A Lotte Horses

A Lotte Horses is a camp led by Lotte Swauger and Sushila Wood to explore the outdoors and how to utilize the outdoors to create fun activities. A Lotte Horses is a hands-on experience that allows children to interact with plant dyes and pigments, learn about working with metal and wood, and examine how to use leather and wool. Additionally, A Lotte Horses includes arts and writing activities, such as drawing and poetry. There are currently two sessions per a day to keep the camp size small and safe. 

CodeREV Kids

CodeREV Kids Tech Camps delivers a one-of-a-kind camp experience and is a wonderful way for campers to learn important technology skills and still have a fun-packed time that will create long-lasting memories. CodeREV mixes project-based coding, programming, digital art, design, and team building activities in their teaching style. Project-based learning ensures that students are applying computational thinking to each coding skill they learn and are comprehending the material. Furthermore, CodeREV kids was founded with the goals of providing a comprehensive technology education in a fun, stress-free environment. Their courses aim to give a deeper education than what students learn in schools through highly experienced instructors.

Discover Science Center

Discover Science Center is an informal science education enrichment lab whose purpose is to amplify the S.T.E.A.M curriculum being taught in K-12 schools or homeschool programs. Their classes feature a variety of topics that range from space to marine biology. Their programs were developed by scientists and science educators to take advantage of students’ natural fascination with science. Each exciting, fun session interweaves knowledge development, hands-on learning, and experimentation and creative activities. 

SeaTrek BVI

SeaTrek is a summer camp at sea and features an all around summer adventure program for junior high, high school, and college-aged students in the British Virgin Islands. Lessons revolve around hands-on sailing, learning to scuba dive, and instruction on marine science. In addition to scuba and sailing instruction, naturalists and marine biologists will introduce students to the tropical ecology and wildlife of the islands or reefs. Additionally, interested students can choose exciting community service opportunities and academic credit options. 

AK Martial Arts & Fitness

AK Martial Arts and Fitness provides themed camps, martial arts, agility, tournament, and boot camp training for ages three and up. In addition, they also specialize in an award-winning summer, spring, and winter camps for ages five and up. Their instructors are extremely professional and help create a fun and creative environment with structure. Furthermore, they have online opportunities for classes and continue to help children learn the martial arts with discipline. AK Martial Arts and Fitness prides itself on supporting the community and providing donations for auctions, schools, and non-profits. 


Chiquiticos was founded in 2018 by Maria Huertas after she recognized the important psychological and social functions of music in human linguistics. Chiquiticos is an early development organization and has the goal of promoting the integral development of children. They mainly work using music and playful learning to contribute to the development of memory and to facilitate the expression of feelings or ideas. Through their program, students are given the tools to critically assess concepts, favor their socio-cultural integration, and expand on their linguistic possibilities. 

The ZenTotz Program

The ZenTotz After School and Summer Camp Program presents the building blocks of mindfulness and meditation.  During camps and classes, participants will learn and practice how to breathe, walk, eat, and move mindfully.  

Founded in 2016, it is ZenTotz mission to liberate young minds from future depression, anxiety, addictions, and excessive stress.  They wish for every child to recognize the importance of non-judgment, self-acceptance, grounding, patience, letting go, and gratitude!  

Maker Nexus

Maker Nexus grows makers through education, practical experience, and fostering innovation. Maker Nexus provides the tools and space a person needs to make things – from simple hand tools to complex, state of the art CNC machinery. They provide training classes so that someone with no experience using tools can learn to use them safely. Their programs encourage a love of creating and an ongoing interest in solving problems.

ATX Kids Club

ATX Kids Club has a mission to inspire inspire youth to fearlessly explore and become independent, self-confident individuals through year-round educational and health-minded field trip adventures. Through their field-trip experiences, children learn about their region’s history, art, culture and environment. 

Featured Posts

Black-Owned Business Spotlight

To show our support, ActivityHero is using our marketplace to spotlight Black-owned businesses who educate, enrich and inspire kids.

ActivityHero is fully behind the Black Lives Matter movement and is committed to help fight racial injustice in our country. We believe that we must all do our part to combat all forms of racism, and be active in our pursuits of equality in both living and learning.

To show our support, we are using our marketplace to spotlight Black-owned businesses who educate, enrich and inspire kids. Helping small businesses succeed has always been our focus at ActivityHero. 

Amidst the pandemic, Black-owned businesses have been more impacted than any other demographic group, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. While searching for summer programs for your kids, consider registering for camps by one of these Black-owned businesses.

Black-owned business - summer camps and classes for kids - online classes for kids

Engineering for Kids of Kern: Their mission is to inspire the next generation of young engineers in science, mathematics and technology. They teach STEM to kids ages 4 to 14 in a fun and challenging way through classes and camps with hands-on, imaginative instruction.

Class Act Music Academy: The have created a summer music program that combines exploring music — through the recorder, ukulele, voice, percussion, nature exploration — and arts and crafts. They hope to engage kids with music and the performing arts, no matter their socio-economic status. 

Snapology (Manhattan and Long Island City): Snapology combines play with education. They provide a fun, interactive environment for children to learn science, technology, engineering, art, math, robotics, and video game design. They offer school enrichment programs, summer camps, workshops, birthday parties, scouting events, field trips, play dates, creative play and custom events. 

San Francisco Soccer Camp: This camp provides the opportunity to develop technical skills and game intelligence in a positive and fun environment. All soccer camps are hosted at the Negoesco Stadium in a secure field at the University of San Francisco campus, with USF coaches and players as staff. The owner seeks to give back and fund scholarship spots for kids who can experience camp on a college campus and also see the diverse coaching staff as leaders. 

K-12 Coders: K-12 Coders offer Coding, Robotics, Engineering, Clothing Design, Gaming, and Entrepreneur circuits to students that attend our after-school or Summer Coding Camps. K-12 Coders was created to serve the underprivileged students in urban communities to fuel a child’s desire to get involved in business early by increasing their curiosity with simple, engaging, creative activities in a SAFE environment!

Wiz Kid Coding: Wiz Kid offers a wide range of fun and engaging instructor-led coding programs – including group virtual coding classes, summer and holiday camps, after school programs and STEM workshops. They are committed to making sure that all kids (from all different types of backgrounds) can acquire coding skills as an avenue to enhance their ability to think critically, improve their current academic performance, to expand their future career options and ultimately have fun! 

Hi-Five Sports Zone: Hi-Five was created to be a positive place for youth to enjoy team sports and learn about overcoming life challenges. They offer summer camps, after-school classes, open-gym times, and more to use sports to improve childrens’ well-being. 

Choreography by Rae: In a supportive and inclusive environment, students are encouraged to contribute their own dance ideas to the classroom as they develop leadership and teamwork skills. Choreography by Rae provides self-confidence boosting performing arts and creative arts classes helping students improve social, academic, and problem-solving skills.

“We provide job opportunities and mentorship to young people of color (New York City Summer Youth Employment Program). A 100% black female-owned business, we believe our programming which honors history and celebrates community, empowers our students to view themselves and their teachers as examples of what is possible.”

Lost Boyz Inc: Lost Boyz Inc.’s mission is to decrease violence, improve the social and emotional conditions, and provide financial opportunities among the youth in Chicago’s South Shore community.  With baseball training and competitive participation as the core drivers, their mission is achieved through high-intensity mentoring, intervention, and social entrepreneurship activities. 

Swann School of Protocol: This school specializes in etiquette training and educating students on the core values of Respect, Honesty and Consideration. In addition, their courses focus on six areas that are presented in an interactive way. The areas include: kindness, self-presentation skills, communication skills, proper public behavior, behavior at school, and meal-time manners. Every class addresses all the categories based on the age of the students. Their goal is for students to gain confidence and feel empowered.

De L’or Cakery Corporation: De L’or Cakery Corporation is a 5 Star Artisan Cake catering company that provides tantalizing joy and connections through Sugar Artistry. They offer a trip around the world in every bite with our Caribbean infused cakes, cupcakes, caramel popcorn, and cake pops. De L’or Cakery Kitchen’s mission is to build a more connected and confident community cultivating young minds interested in Sugar Artistry. 

HoneyArtStudio: Honey Art Studio is an art company that features exciting, vivid and creative art activities including: painting, drawing, re-purposed art and fashion, t-shirt design, skateboard design, cupcake and cookie fun and so much more.

“I started my company to offer arts and crafts to children and families who may not have direct access to such activities. I offer free and low-cost programming to families who live in low income communities.”

Find Black-Owned Businesses on ActivityHero >>

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Bay Area Summer Camp Guide for Kids and Teens

This summer camp guide will help you find camps that fit your kids interests and provide some tips on how to make it easier to plan your summer with the greatest ease. 

Adventure Camps | Best Bay Area Summer Camps at Activity Hero

Bay Area kids benefit from a large variety of summer camps — sports, art, coding, outdoor and specialty camps! Many parents describe the camp planning process as a jigsaw puzzle as they try to fit together multiple kids, friends, and camp schedules. 

At ActivityHero, our mission is to make finding and booking summer camps easier for parents. We’ve put together this summer camp guide to provide an overview of all the top camp categories.

Sports Camps

Sports camps are popular with kids of all ages. Summer is a great time for kids to further explore a sport that they love or try something new. Besides keeping kids active, sports camps help kids learn teamwork and perseverance. Sports camps also tend to be less expensive than other camps. 

Boys and girls love soccer camps, and even in the summer, it’s not too hot in the Bay Area to be on the soccer field. The youngest campers have fun playing games and running off all that extra summer energy. Experienced players benefit from extra instruction during the off season.

Family favorites:
Coach Ken Soccer Camps: “Great staff and great experience for my son and daughter! This was our first year and my daughter who is 6 was interested in playing sports like her 8 year old brother. They both had a great time, learned a lot, and it was a great learning environment for the kids. Can’t wait to go back!”

Basketball camps are great for coordination, exercise and team-building. Campers learn the fundamentals of basketball through games and fun drills. Coaches group children by age and skill level, making it a suitable choice for beginner or advanced basketball players.

Family favorites:
Legarza Sports “My son loved his week at Basketball camp. Good instructors who care about the kids. Drop off and pick up were very easy. He’s excited to return next year.

Dance camps are a great way for artistic children to explore their creativity through a variety of different dance disciplines such as modern, jazz, ballet, hip hop, salsa or even aerial dance.

Family favorites:
Grrrl Brigade “A terrific empowering experience that exposes and teaches your child a wide range of dances, music, positive approaches to thinking and expressing themselves. The “show” at the end of the week is very inspiring and the staff is thoughtful, patient and kind in leading the girls through an impressive array of choreography.”

Multi-sport camps are a good way to give kids a variety of several different sports and outdoor games. Bald Eagle Sports Camp proudly says their multi-sport camp is “known for getting even the laziest kids up and moving…and loving it!” 

Family favorites:
Growfit “The staff at GrowFit are simply amazing. I sent both my kids here during the school break and they had an awesome time. The staff went above and beyond when my son was being called names. I really can’t say enough good things about them.”

Coding, Science, and Robotics Camps

Parents know how kids can consume technology for hours at a time on video games, YouTube videos, and social media. So it’s not a surprise that many parents are interested in directing this interest into creating video games, making movies, or coding the next social media app like TikTok. 

Summer is a great time to explore coding for kids because most schools don’t offer coding during the school year. Many coding camps use video camps as the subject matter for teaching kids how to use Scratch or Python to create their own game or learn Minecraft or Roblox mods. Teens may choose Java programming camps to prepare for high school computer science courses or App development camps to explore new app ideas. 

Science camps and STEM camps are popular for girls and boys who are naturally inquisitive. Camps that focus on science, technology, engineering and math challenges are engaging for curious children who like to explore the how and why. For middle and high school students, STEM camps can showcase a wide variety of potential career opportunities.

Family favorites:
Camp Galileo
Destination Science introduces new kid-oriented themes each year, like animals, space, or amusement parks. 

Robot summer camps are like coding camps with an extra element of competition. TV shows like BattleBots have introduced more families to the thrill of designing and battling robots. Many introductory robotics summer camps use LEGO Mindstorms, which is also used by the First Lego League in nationwide competitions for kids. 

Family favorites:

Art, LEGO, and Maker Camps

Creative kids can grow their skills and express themselves in any number of art camps and maker camps. From learning to draw to learning to build, art and other maker camps can bring out the creator in every kid.

At a LEGO camp, kids build LEGO animals, spacecraft, and other creations. 

Family favorites:
Brainvyne LEGO Camps 

For budding master chefs, a cooking camp like Sprouts Cooking Club or Culinary Dude offers hands-on cooking experience and a daily menu. On-demand activities include recipes and video walkthroughs for meals and desserts.

Kids and teens who want to learn to sew will find some creative sewing camps such as Camp Couture in San Mateo, owned by Project Runway finalist Alexandria von Brommson. Sewing camps like this let kids design their own fashions, accessories, and even soft toys. 

Woodworking camp is very popular, even in the high-tech age, but harder to find due to the specialized equipment and instructors. Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale has sewing camps as well as woodworking and industrial arts for kids and adults. You’ll also find woodworking at Tinkering School in San Francisco and Young Builders in Palo Alto. 

Outdoor and Nature Camps

For both boys and girls, outdoor camps are a top interest with kids ages 5-13. This is great news for parents who want their kids to spend less time with screens and more time connecting with nature and playing outside.

The Bay Area is the perfect place for kids to enjoy both water sports and mountain adventures. Kids can take a hike along creeks or try rock climbing, mountain biking, or canoeing. 

Family favorites:
Camp Galileo
Avid4 Adventure

Also popular in the Bay Area

Academic camps are a top interest for kids ages 7-10 who would like to explore a subject beyond the typical classroom curriculum in an exciting and engaging way.

Family favorites:
“My daughter loves math circle. She tells me that she’s not doing math like at school, rather she says she’s doing puzzles and games and that it’s really fun. I love that she’s having fun learning and that math circle helps her develop a positive attitude about math.”

Girls-only camps are a chance for girls to connect with other girls and get a unique perspective on topics such as leadership, teamwork and goal setting. A single gender camp can boost confidence and help girls find their voice while making friends.

Summer Planning Made Easy

Are you juggling a summer camp schedule with multiple children? Or, are you trying to coordinate camps and carpool with friends? ActivityHero has launched a new tool to make inviting friends and teammates even easier. You can now add your favorite summer camps to a saved list, invite friends and share as a group. Parents are able to RSVP that they are interested, registered or unavailable for that camp all in one convenient location. Save time and plan the ultimate summer experience with your child’s classmates, teammates, neighbors and more!

How many camps should my child attend?

It really depends on your child. Some kids can be single-minded and want to enjoy one camp for the summer and focus on their favorite activity, other kids want to take several classes in different areas throughout the season.

You can find these Bay Area summer camps and many more camps near you on ActivityHero or download our iPhone app for faster and easier searching!

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Coding for Kids: a Guide to Choosing a Coding Camp

Find various coding schools and programming courses that teach kids python, java during summer or all year-round. Get expert tips on picking the right coding camp to fit your child.

Coding Camps for Kids | Bay Area | Activity Hero Summer Camps

Technology continues to impact our world at an incredibly rapid pace. As a parent, you may be looking for a way to prepare your child for the future. Introducing a child to programming languages could be either a building block for a career or an entertaining option for your young gamer. If your child has an interest in technology or gaming, a coding camp for kids could be a great option. There are also online coding classes and camps that allow your kids to learn from home.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when choosing a coding summer camp:

  • What is the age and skill level of my child? 
  • Can my child type easily?
  • Who are the instructors?
  • What is the camp schedule?
  • What will my child be learning?

One important note is that coding for kids is not something that can be mastered in a week. It is a process that your child can build on for years, if they are willing and excited to continue learning.  

“My son is at the point where he can envision a problem he wants to solve and begin to develop the code to get there. It reminds me of student development in math and languages–it starts slowly but over time you see real progress and suddenly the child is bursting with ideas,” said a parent review.

Scratch Coding Camps

Scratch is a beginner level program that can be introduced to children in early elementary school. The Scratch coding camps focus on making sure children understand the foundational computer programming concepts. The drag-and-drop format of Scratch does not require a lot of typing skills and is suited for children who have never been introduced to coding. Games and animations are designed through ready-made blocks of code to help students build scripts. Scratch projects will encourage creativity, reasoning and problem-solving skills. More advanced Scratch coding camps will build on previous experience and children can develop more realistic and customized games. 

If a child leaves camp excited to learn more, parents can visit the Scratch website at Scratch can be accessed free online or it can be downloaded for offline usage. 

Minecraft Camps and Java Camps

Does your child love playing Minecraft or spend hours watching Minecraft YouTube videos? If they are curious about how to advance their gaming, Minecraft camps might be a fun opportunity. Introductory Minecraft camps are available starting in elementary grades and are focused on learning the fundamentals of creating fun mods. One important note is that some camps require a Minecraft account, so we recommend checking with your camp director prior to the first class.

Campers will often learn core computer science skills as well as 3D modeling and texture mapping techniques. If your child is an experienced Minecraft user, they may be interested in a more advanced camp where they can create a custom game experience using Java. Java is a widely used programming language, making it a great foundation for students interested in learning more about app development. Java camps are often paired with other coding topics such as Minecraft and Python.

Since Minecraft camps range from beginner to advanced, it is recommended to review class curriculums before selecting a camp. 

Python Coding Camps

Python is a very popular, all-purpose language. The lines of code are shorter and simpler than in other languages, making it easier to learn Python for kids. Python is a great language to learn after Scratch. However, you do not need previous experience if a child wants to skip to an introductory Python camp. While there are some Python camps available for children starting in 4th grade, many are designed for middle school children. The ability to type can be helpful for those starting to learn coding. 

If a child expresses interest in building on their camp experience, intermediate and advanced Python camps are available to take coding skills to the next level. One of the advantages of learning Python is that it is used in real-world applications such as web and software development. 

Web Design Camps

At web design camps for advanced students, Java will be used along with other programming languages such as HTML and CSS. At some camps, students will even learn to program a functional website during the week.  

Video Game Design Camps

If you have a young gamer, they may be interested in specific video game design camps or app development camps. Students will start to learn basic app development principles, including UI/UX design and advanced programming techniques using Javascript, HTML and CSS. Programmers use JavaScript to create interactive features that run on websites, such as games. It is the leading client-side programming language on the web today, making it a valuable learning experience for young coders. 

Roblox Camp

Roblox is an online gaming system where users create avatars and play games in user-generated 3D worlds. According to Roblox,”the types of gameplay on Roblox are just as limitless as the imagination of the creators themselves.”

Roblox camps can appeal to a wide age range of children because users do not have to have a strong foundation in coding to build a game. Younger campers use the built-in Roblox Studio to create 3D worlds without the need for text-based code. More advanced users can use the popular LUA coding language to create game actions, elements and mechanics. At the end of the week, campers can learn how to publish and share their game to the Roblox community.

Summer Explorations

Regardless of your child’s age or prior programming experience, there is a coding summer camp that is the right fit for your family. There are a wide variety of options available, whether your child just wants to continue their gaming or explore a future career interest. Kids can take a free trial class to make sure they like it before signing up for a longer camp.

You can find all these Bay Area coding camps on ActivityHero or download our iPhone app. You can search by location, category, age, and other criteria to help you find the best summer camps. Early bird discounts could save parents up to $200 a week on summer camp.

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Kids Become Creators at a Maker Camp

Learn how to turn your kids into creators with creative and engaging maker camps

Maker camps

Screen use for kids, tweens, and teens is up all across the country. NPR now notes that over 50% of the nation’s kids have smartphones, often by the time they turn 11.

  • Teens report spending only 3 percent of their screen time on creative pursuits like writing, making art, or music — outside of homework or school projects.
  • Online video viewing has doubled — and most kids say it’s their most enjoyable online activity.
  •  Over 20% of teens log on to their favorite social media site over ten times a day.

Phones are certainly here to stay, and there’s plenty of room for phones to play a supportive role in kids’ positive and creative development. Adding other forms of entertainment – like art and maker camps – kids find more balance in their opportunities for learning, entertainment, and creativity.

The benefits of making, creating, inventing, and designing

The benefits of engaging in creative arts for kids are well-documented and can have a lasting impact on their development for years to come.

  1. Creativity: Inventiveness and innovation are sought-after qualities that make people more resilient both personally and professionally. Encouraging kids to express themselves through art and take risks in creating, they develop resilience and spiritedness that supports critical thinking and innovation skills  “The kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,” arts education and children’s author MaryAnn Kohl says. “Art is a way to encourage the process and the experience of thinking and making things better!”
  2.  Diversity awareness: Exposure to different kinds of experiences – from different kinds of food to holidays and traditions to different hairstyles and clothing – helps to create more well-rounded, educated, and open-minded kids. Seeing different kinds of art or exploring different kinds of styles of creation and expression helps prepare kids for a more connected world.
  3. Improved academics: Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievements. A report by Americans for the Arts found that students who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair, or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who don’t participate in artistic exploration and creation.
  4. Problem-solving skills: Kids who work on STEM projects are challenged to think critically and innovate as they face challenging new problems in interesting areas they’ve never worked in before. Working on science, technology, engineering, and math challenges that encourage trouble-shooting difficulties can grow resilience and flexibility.

Encouraging kids to make and create – whether it’s writing or coding or painting – can help grow their skills and their confidence, not to mention help create new social connections and new sources of inspiration. Here are some top maker camps for you to consider across the country.

Camp EDMO : Camp EDMO touts itself as the “summer camp for the whole kid.” Camp Edmo is a maker camp that’s a great place for kids to grow their creative capacity through science, technology, and studying nature. They encourage campers to push their boundaries and grow their confidence while also focusing on empathy and acceptance.

Galileo Learning: Galileo is staffed with enthusiastic teachers who mix traditional day camp with classes focused in science, engineering, and visual and culinary arts. Kids create everything from go-karts, gourmet meals, robot pets, and more, focusing on building teamwork skills, leadership, and responsibility. They have over 80 locations across the Bay Area, Southern California, Chicagoland, and Denver.

Digital Media Academy STEAM Camps: Founded in 2002, this well-established technology-focused camp works to “empower the next generation of tech makers and thinkers.” Camps are held at prestigious universities campuses around the US and Canada. Their tech-focused classes include project-based learning in virtual reality, wearable technology, robotics, 3D printing, and more.

Destination Science: Destination Science allows for kids to be creative, collaborate, and cooperate. Kids can safely create, explore, and take home all of their creations. This camp is celebrating their 20th anniversary.

Home Depot: Monthly maker classes are available for kids that focus on skill-building, creativity, and safety for DIY projects. These workshops are free and require advance registration.

ActivityHero makes finding a maker camp easy. You can search by location, category, age, and other criteria to help find the right fit for your family. Search our website or download the iPhone app to secure your summer camp spot in the best maker camps across the country.

Business Resources Featured Posts for Providers Uncategorized

5 Top Reasons Parents Will – or Won’t – Pick a Camp for Their Kids

You already know that every family is different, but it turns out that the top five things that families are looking for when it comes to making a decision about camp registrations are very similar.

If you want to position your camp as a top pick for parents, pay attention to how you communicate the top five things that drive camp registration decisions.1

1. Location: Whether parents are looking for camp that’s close to work or close to home, this is going to be the number one factor they’re checking for. Having your location information displayed prominently is key. 

  • Use your header or footer space to display location data. Repeat this on every landing page and group it with other contact information, like telephone number and email address, to create the easiest experience.
  • Surprisingly, many websites don’t make the camp location visible on the home page and require users to hunt for it, or give up in frustration.
camp location example
Image credit:

2. Schedule: When it comes to the schedule, parents are looking for the camp dates and/or start and end time. Parents should be able to see at a glance the days and camp hours, registration fees, and how to register. If putting all of the necessary details in one place isn’t feasible, make it clear where they can go next for other information.

  • Showing your session availability will let parents know which weeks are filling up or already have a waitlist. Camp websites like keep their availability updated automatically using the ActivityHero schedule widget.
camp schedule example
Image credit: website with ActivityHero schedule widget

3. Category: To communicate what kind of experience you offer, you’ll want to use multimedia such as photography, video, and descriptions. Using high-quality photography and video from actual events can help drive better engagement and more interest. Having a landing page that can go into depth about the types of experiences you offer helps families more readily imagine kids in your classes.

  • Give parents a sense for how their kids will spend the day. You can describe the daily schedule, highlight the parts of the activity that are most popular, describe what students will create, or describe what children will learn/know by the end. 
  • If you have a more specialized program, like dance or sports only, and offer different levels or styles within each program, use the descriptions to explain the differences. 
camp category description
Image credit:

4. Price: You should know how your prices compare against other local options. You want to position yourself competitively, but that doesn’t mean price cutting. If your camp is priced higher than other options in the area, offer parents an explanation why. Are there premium features included, like transportation, materials, or food? Does your staff have additional certifications and educational experience? Sharing a bit about why you’ve shaped your pricing structure the way you have can create a level of transparency with parents that builds trust.

  • If you offer discounts, make sure to make the discount deadline clear – this can help to drive a sense of urgency, as too much time to think about making the commitment might lead to parents putting it off or forgetting about it all together. Take a look at our tips on effective camp discounts
  • Alternately, it might make sense to offer a payment plan to early birds. The ability to pay over time and budget month to month until the start of camp encourages earlier commitments. It can also position your camp as a partner to parents; offering payment flexibility can communicate that you care about the kids in your community and want to connect with more families. 

5. Reviews: Got some great reviews? Show them off. When parents are searching for the right fit for their kids activities, they’re reading up on what other families have to say. Adding a reviews stream from ActivityHero, Google, or Yelp to your website can help lend credibility to your business.

  • Respond to your reviews. When you take time to reply to your customers’ feedback – both positive and negative – you show that you value the relationships you’re making with families. In this interview, Yelp expert Darnell Holloway explains that responding within 24 hours leads to better outcomes. 
  • Consider investing in testimonials. While it takes time to interview customers and craft a narrative around their story, it can benefit your business. Testimonials give you the opportunity to find out – and share – what parts of your camp experience families really loved. You can use this to continue shaping your activities and experiences and also to share real feedback with users. 
online camp reviews
Image credit:

“Who else is attending” is a consideration that didn’t break the top five, but is still influential. A lot of parents and guardians – and kids – more strongly consider enrolling in camps with people they know. To encourage more word-of-mouth business, consider offering a small discount or credit towards a future registration for any referrals from current customers. 

While it’s not possible to be the perfect fit for every family, paying attention to how you share and showcase what you offer will help you turn your website visitors into  more registrations. 

For more valuable tools and services to help you run and grow your business, talk to someone on the ActivityHero team. Our online marketing services and camp registration tools help camps reach more families in the marketplace, accept online payments, and more. 

1Data from an April 2019 email survey of ActivityHero users.

Birthday Parties Featured Posts Uncategorized

The 12 Best Places to Get Birthday Freebies for Kids

Your child’s birthday can be even sweeter with these 12 free birthday freebies. Many freebies are available for 2-4 weeks after your birthday so you can celebrate all month! 

To plan the perfect, hassle-free birthday party for your child, visit ActivityHero to find a birthday party place near you. 

Baskin Robbins

Get free ice cream on your birthday. 
Baskin Robbins Birthday Club

Barnes and Nobles

Free Cupcakes for Kids on their birthday. 
Barnes and Nobles Kids Club 

California Pizza Kitchen

Get a free pizza on your birthday
CPK Rewards

Dairy Queen

You get a free Coupon for desert.
Blizzard Fan Club

Habit Burger

Receive a free hamburger or special treat on your birthday. Available for adults too when you join the CharClub.


You get a Free Grand Slam Breakfast on your birthday!

Jamba Juice

On your birthday you can get a free smoothie from Jamba Juice Jamba Juice Insider Rewards


Tell your server it’s your birthday for free pancakes.
MyHop Pancake Perks 


Visit to get a free cupcake on your birthday. Kids and adults can join the Sprinkles Perks Program for their free birthday cupcake.

Cheesecake Factory

Tell your server to get a free dessert. 

BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse

Get a free birthday Pizookie on your birthday when you join the BJ’s Premier Rewards Plus.

Krispy Kreme

Kids and adults get a free donut on your birthday. Krispy Kreme Rewards

>> Find a birthday party place near you. 

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Over 1,000 Summer Camp Scholarships Available Through ActivityHero’s Camp & Class Marketplace

Families can apply for financial aid to over 50 different summer camps on ActivityHero.

For the first time, families who struggle to make ends meet can apply for multiple summer camp scholarships with ActivityHero’s simple online registration. Thanks to over 50 summer camps who are offering scholarship spots for underprivileged youth, over 1,000 weeks of camp are available this summer for as little as $20, or 50-95% off the full price. Participating summer camps are located near San Francisco, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Wichita, KS, Arlington, VA, and Seattle, WA.

While some camps already offer scholarships to families with financial needs, each has its own application process and deadline. ActivityHero’s scholarship program allows families to apply for multiple summer camps with one application, reducing the application time and increasing the possibility that a scholarship will be available.

“We have an amazing variety of summer camps, extracurricular activities and sports on ActivityHero,” said Peggy Chang, Co-Founder and CEO of ActivityHero, “We want all children to have access to high-quality summer experiences and benefit from the social and learning opportunities.”

In particular, summertime poses challenges for working parents to fill in the 11-12 weeks that school is out. “Moms are most likely to take on the responsibility of finding childcare when kids are out of school,” Chang said. “And if there is a gap in childcare coverage, moms are often the ones that stay home with the kids, and this can impact their career. By providing an easy way to find camps, and connecting them with scholarships, we want to help moms reach their fullest potential in the workplace while their kids gain new experiences at camp.”

Many of the camps who are part of ActivityHero’s scholarship program have never offered financial aid in the past. “I’ve always wanted to offer scholarships but I didn’t know how to start it,“ said CD Hullinger of CD’s Art Studio. “ActivityHero’s scholarship program makes it easy for me to offer a few spots without the administrative work.”

Families can apply for a scholarship at Applications will be reviewed and scholarships will be awarded on a weekly basis. Scholarships are available for children ages 5-17. Household income and family size will determine full or partial scholarship eligibility. Cash contributions from donor families will help more children attend summer camp.

About ActivityHero is the leading online marketplace for camps, activities, after school classes, workshops, and kids’ nights out. More than 2.5 million families use ActivityHero to find and book kids’ activities from a wide variety of local providers.

Activity providers can claim and customize their listing or upgrade to ActivityHero online registration tools at

Camps Featured Posts Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Top Questions to Find the Right Summer Camp

With so many choices available, how do you find a summer camp that fits your family’s style? Here are key questions to ask when starting your search.

By Wendy Chou

Some parents see summer vacation as a chance to try new skills and challenges, and some would rather that their kids unplug and unwind from the pressures of the school year. Whether you are researching camps for the first time or looking for some refresher tips, these simple questions may come in handy when considering a camp for your child.

Staff Involvement

  • What is the ratio of campers to staff?  
  • Is the program staff composed of college students, more experienced teachers, or a mix?
  • Do students roam independently or stick closely with one counselor throughout the day?
  • Does the camp offer more free time or more structure?

[Find camps near you]

Philosophy and Content

  • Is the focus on learning, on fun, or on a combination?
  • Do campers tend to return year after year?
  • What sets it apart from similar camps in the area?
  • Does the camp cover gap subjects (ones that your child sees less of during the school year)?

Special Features and Accommodations

  • For skill-based camps (for instance, coding or sports camps), how do you accommodate different ages or abilities?
  • How would staff try to accommodate the needs of my introverted camper, or my spirited camper?
  • If needed, is before or after care available (if so, how does it differ from the main day’s activities?)
  • Are transportation options (e.g., bussing) available?

A Camp Director’s Perspective

Parents should feel free to call or e-mail camp directors “if they want to know more,” recommends Rory Judge, who has 40 years’ experience with the Bay Area’s Adventure Camps. Chatting with parents one-on-one about their summer camp questions is the perfect way to help “even the most nervous first-time parents warm up to camp,” Judge explains. For starters, he likes to find out a prospective camper’s age, how much camp experience they already have, and what school they attend. With websites, reviews, and other online tools becoming more popular, Judge finds that parents today seem comfortable doing their own research online in lieu of calling in.

Whether you like to gather information online or talk to camp staff, keeping these questions in mind can help you narrow down the field of camps that really fit your family’s style. And to easily find camps that match your child’s age, interest and available dates, check out the search tools on ActivityHero. You’ll find reviews from parents and can book your camps with one convenient registration form.

[Find camps near you]


Adventure/Outdoors Biology Camps Environmental Featured Posts Geology Hiking Marine Science Nature Programs Science Sleep away camps

Is Sleepaway Camp Right for My Kid?

Considering exploring overnight camps for your children this summer? Two directors share tips to prepare kids for the positive experience of a lifetime.

By Laura Quaglio

kids goofing off and having fun at overnight camp

If your kids haven’t tried sleepaway camp, you’re entering uncharted territory for your family. That, however, is not actually a bad thing. “Doing something outside of your comfort zone burns memories that last forever because it won’t blend into the background of life,” says Michael Richards, founder and executive director of Science Camps of America based in Pahala, Hawaii. When kids spread their wings, they can grow as a person — and become more the person they really are, not limited by the perceptions and history of their classmates or even their own family.

“Campers all enter on this totally equal basis, and they can express their personality without the backdrop of their whole life, their whole history,” says Richards, whose camps are for teens aged 13 to 17 who are interested in exploring volcanoes, rocks, forests, oceans, and skies of Hawaii to learn about related sciences like geology, climate, and astronomy. “You can’t come to school and reinvent yourself — or even be yourself,” he adds. “In the camp, kids can express their personality and no one is going to judge them or say, ‘Why did you suddenly change?’ I think that gives kids tremendous empowerment.”

Shop for overnight camps > >

Being in a camp environment also helps prepare kids to function as positive and productive members of society during adulthood. At Camp Chrysalis, where kids aged 8 to 17 explore various outdoor environments in California, director Lee Tempkin takes pride in showing campers how “shared leadership” works. “Everyone calls me Lee, though it’s clear I’m the leader,” he says of his management style. “The staff and I have camp huddles, talk around the campfire, and discuss who would like to give the next camp talk,” he says. “Kids see that we are all part of an adult community. That we respect and work with each other and with them.” Being in a tight-knit group 24/7, even for a short time, helps kids build stronger teamwork skills and independence, all of which will serve them well when they eventually leave home as a young adult entering the workforce or college.

Still a bit hesitant? Worried if your kid will thrive and if you will survive? Here are some ways to tell whether you and your child are ready … and how to prepare them for a transformative, positive experience.

Think About Their Personality

Richards says that “the vast majority of kids love [overnight camp], even if it is their first time doing it.” The kids who do best, says Tempkin, are those who are open, flexible, and positive about new experiences. His camps expose kids to a variety of outdoor activities while living among redwoods, tide pools, marshes, and mountains and learning about ecology and our responsibility for our planet. Kids will get dirty and wet. They’ll sleep in tents with other campers and learn outdoor skills. Kids who are accustomed to spending most of their time in an urban area, indoors, or in solo activities may have a tougher time adapting. For them, as well as kids younger than age 8, he says it’s better to start with overnights or a weekend getaway at a friend or family member’s house. “Summer camp is not the time to have a kid be away from mom and dad for the first time,” he says.

Kindness, too, is key. “Kids who are mean to other kids may have a hard time,” says Tempkin. Campers will be interacting with each other in close proximity all day (and night) without breaks. Kids don’t have to like everything or everyone new, he notes, but they need to appreciate different experiences and different kinds of people.

In a way, this is good news, because it means that bullying is not generally a problem at either of these overnight camps, and probably many others. “Kids are amazingly open about it, and they won’t let anyone get away with the slightest bit of it,” Richards says. “Maybe because they’re not with their usual peer group. They think, ‘Let’s stop this before it starts.’ It’s really something to see.”

Let Your Child Choose the Camp

Richards says that telling a kid, “you’re going here” is one of the biggest mistakes parents make. Of course you won’t want to let your child have the only say-so: Sometimes kids don’t have the same concerns that you do. And if you aren’t comfortable with their pick, your child will sense that, and it might affect their stay. On the other hand, kids will be more invested in having a good time if they are allowed to select a program that excites them.

Some camps offer a range of activities that can include athletics, crafts, survival skills, and so on. Others center on a particular theme, such as a single sport, academic subject, or interest (like soccer, science, or computer coding). “Kids find us because they’re interested in science,” says Richards. “So they’re going to be in a group of like-minded kids. All of a sudden, these kids have that shared enthusiasm, and that makes it a very good social experience.” On the other hand, kids who don’t have a specific interest may prefer to dabble in a variety of activities, which can help them find a new hobby they’ll love. Either way, discuss these different options and be sure your child knows what “their” camp offers.

child exploring a creek on a hike

Encourage Their Independence

At Camp Chrysalis, kids learn to keep track of their gear, their toothbrush, their fork, and so on. They will spend 8 to 12 days at Big Sur, Mendocino, or Sierra. They will hike, swim, and hang out. They also learn camping skills like “how not to damage a tent,” “how to sterilize drinking water,” and “how to whittle safely.” You can help set them up for success by encouraging them to take more responsibility for such items and actions at home. Let them start packing their sports bag or packing their lunch for school. When preparing for camp, have them help you pack their labeled camp gear, too, so they know where everything is located.

At Science Camps of America, Richards likes to give kids as much choice as possible throughout the day, such as which bed to sleep in, which van to ride in, and what topic to debate that evening. If you don’t already do so, start encouraging your kids to make more of their own choices when it’s feasible.

Another tip: Once they’re at camp, leave them be. Both camp directors agree that kids will have a better experience if their parents aren’t checking in all the time. In fact, many camps take away tech, though they’ll certainly allow phone calls if a child is particularly homesick.

If you miss texting your kids, remember this: Taking that away will free them up to interact with the kids at camp. Richards says he gathers up the cell phones after each camp’s orientation. “The kids know that it’s going to happen and they’re all horrified by the prospect of it, but within a few hours, you’ve got 20 strangers who are best friends. It’s amazing to see how fast they socialize and connect without cell phones to distract them.” You can both get accustomed to the idea by easing up on the tech connections at home a bit, too. And if they do phone home, Richards says make sure to tell them you’re excited and happy for them. You may feel like you should tell them how much you miss them, but both camp directors agree that this often makes kids feel guilty about having fun, which can inhibit their ability to immerse themselves in the experience.

Shop for overnight camps > >

Do a Bit of Detective Work

Fear of the unknown can be powerful, but it’s easy enough to dispel some of it. Richards, for one, believes in finding information that helps kids and parents “envision the environment” and understand what a typical day or week will hold.

“I encourage parents to look at the camp’s website with their kids,” says Tempkin. “We also have a family night in June, where we show slides. I think it’s reassuring to have some of the basic information so it’s not so scary for them to go off on their own.”

If you like, call the camp and see if a director or staff member can answer your questions. What do the facilities look like? What food will be provided? What will the campers learn? Work with your kids to create a list of things you want to ask.

If you learn something you think the kids won’t love, don’t withhold the information from them, advises Tempkin. “I’m a believer that kids are people who need to be respected to handle information, especially regarding an experience that is going to be their experience.” The more a child knows, the better they can picture themselves there, having a great time.

Talking to other parents can be helpful, too. Ask the camp director for references. Also look for written reviews such as the ones on ActivityHero or on the camp’s website.

Ask About Staff Numbers, Age, and Experience

For parents who are worried about their kid getting lost in the shuffle, it’s important to look at the size of the camp, says Tempkin. “We divide our campers into four small groups of 8 or 9 kids with 2 staff members, and they eat together and doactivities together on a daily basis, so the staff gets to know the campers really, really well.” Richards, too, has a smaller camp, with just 20 kids and 5 staff members per session. “We try to develop a relationship with each kid, one-on-one,” he says. “Our motto is: Don’t treat them as a group. Treat them as individuals.”

kayaking counselor

Maturity of the staff is important too, says Tempkin. Half of his staff members are adults, not college or high school students. “The maturity of the staff is reassuring for families who have never done camp before,” he says. Younger staffers can serve as great role models or mentors, but there must be enough adults available to deal with larger concerns and keep campers on track.

It’s also a good sign if some staffers are former campers, since they will know the culture, and they obviously enjoyed their stay when they were kids. Tempkin says that most of his staff grew up attending his camp, and he has known them since they were 8 or 10 years old. “They act as mature mentors who can be a positive factor in the kid’s life,” he says. “Kids need adults in their lives who are not their parents, especially as they become teens. A good camp can provide those mentors.”

Last, ask how long staffers have been with the camp. A low turnover rate means staffers know what they’re doing — and they enjoy it enough to return summer after summer.

Talk About How Kids Can Share Their Experiences With You

Kids love to teach their parents, and attending a summer camp offers them a chance to learn new things and then pass them on. Your child can do this by keeping a journal. Kids at Camp Chrysalis write in a “Bear Book.” In fact, Tempkin says that this can also help dispel some homesickness because kids know they can always write a letter to home and share it later. They also send a postcard to parents midway through the trip. This is fun for kids, most of whom have never written out a postcard before, and for parents who feel better when they receive even a brief communication.

Another option might be to revisit the locations your child explored and ask them to serve as your tour guide. Richards says that one mom and her son spent a few days in Hawaii after his camp ended, and she phoned a few days later to share how much her son enjoyed showing her around the island. Richards adds, “It gave that boy an opportunity to take what he had learned and teach it to his mother. And as we know, when we teach something, that’s when we really learn it.” Tempkin has similar stories of campers who became “great tour guides of the areas they’ve learned about.”

As for parents, knowing that our children have surpassed us, even in a small area of expertise, is tremendously rewarding. So when they share, listen closely and ask questions.

In the meantime, go ahead and start making your own list of what you want to do — or where you’d like to go — when your kids are at sleepaway camp. Who knows? Their getaway might be a transformative experience for you, too.

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Camps Featured Posts Holiday Break Camps

Top 10 Winter Camps in the SF Bay Area

Plan ahead for winter break. Discover popular winter camps in the San Francisco Bay Area.

By ActivityHero Staff

Young Builders Woodworking Winter Camps
Young Builders Woodworking Winter Camp

This year, several popular winter camps are offering single day options for the greatest flexibility if you aren’t planning to take the whole week off. One-day camps are the first ones to fill up, so if you see one still available, book it now.

You’ll find camps that fit all interests, like LEGO, art, sports, or chess to make the most of your winter break. Top winter break camps in SF Bay Area include:

Adventure Camp – San Francisco 
Fun filled adventures for kids 4 and up.

Legarza Basketball & Volleyball Camps – San Francisco, San Mateo and San Carlos
Sports camps for kids 5 and up.

Camp Edmo – San Francisco, Oakland & San Jose
Science, crafts and engineering for kids 4 and up.

GrowFitRedwood City and San Jose
Sports and screen-free activities for kids ages 4 and up.

Kidizens – Belmont and Los Altos
Kids 5 and up build LEGO cities and learn problem solving.

Aviation Camp – San Carlos
Learn about flight and aerospace design for kids 5 and up.

Brainvyne – Providers of LEGO Education – Palo Alto
LEGO building and robotics for ages 5 and up.

BayAreaChess – Palo Alto
Chess and strategy games for ages 5-16.

Brushstrokes Studios – Berkeley
Pottery painting and art for 5-10 year olds.

CD’s Kids Art Studio – San Jose
Painting, drawing and mosaics for 5-8 year olds. Advanced art for kids 9 and up. 

You can see the latest availability, prices and reviews for these camps and more on ActivityHero

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