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Summer Olympics Inspired Sports

Whether it’s gymnastics, soccer, or skateboarding, there’s something for everyone when it comes to the summer Olympics. Dive into a world of international sports, from table tennis to basketball. Feeling inspired by your favorite athletes competing on the world stage? Here are some beginner sports camps and classes for kids who are captivated by Olympic sports this year.

Online Classes

Pintsize Soccer: Backyard Edition (PreK – Gr 8)

Soccer skills and fun games that kids can do from the safety of their own backyard, garage or patio.  Your child will practice their individual gross motor skills, focus and agility to keep them sharp and ready for when the season begins! 

With fun challenges they can practice at home, your child will gain new skills and develop their passion for new challenges.

Martial Arts and Life Lessons (Ages 5-11)

Family Karate provides fun, fitness, karate, and life skills.  Now your child can enjoy our unique blend of martial arts and character building in our live online classes with a Master Instructor.

They’re here to help your child become even more engaged, strong and optimistic during this unique time.  Grit, resilience and laughter have never been more important than right now.

Beginning Judo Class (Ages 3-12)

Hajime Judo (Beginning Judo) teaches judo technique, culture, and character. As kids learn basic judo techniques, they work on developing balance, coordination and confidence. Every class finishes with games that develop motor skills and ends with laughter and fun. This is an amazing place to get your kids active and introduce them to martial arts. 

LEGO Creativity Camp: Sports (Ages 5-12)

What is your favorite sport?  Make it come to life during this week-long camp! 

Explore and enhance your LEGO building skills making stadiums, gyms, courts, obstacle courses and fields.  Learn how to make a round ball, a football, goals, or any other item you might use in your sport.  

Kids Fitness and Gymnastics (Ages 3-6) 

Join Fun & Fit TumbleBus for virtual gymnastics style fitness videos! They’re just created a NEW workout video. Get 2 warm up song videos,  1 gymnastics style workout, and free bonus videos!

Virtual TumbleBus videos are intended to promote a love of fitness in preschool and young elementary school age children. Videos work on children’s motor skills, listening & following directions, basic gymnastics, and balance, coordination & strength needed for all sports!

Challenger Sports Soccer Videos (Ages 3-8)

Access these on-demand videos with all sorts of soccer exercises and games! Go around the world with Mr. Matt, play soccer games with Smelli Elli, or go international with soccer in Spain or France. These videos can be viewed on your own time and are perfect for kids to try out soccer in the comfort of their own backyard.

In-Person Camps (SF Bay Area)

Tennis Summer Camp (Ages 6-14)

Follow in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka with a tennis summer camp! Introduce your child to something new this year with an exciting day camp experience. Euro School of Tennis will help make your child’s summer action packed on the tennis court. This is a chance to learn about tennis from personalized instructors who can help your child attain new skills in a fun, safe environment. Full day sessions include swimming and games in the afternoon. Half day morning or afternoon is also available. 

Kids Novice Tennis Classes (Ages 6-8)

No Tennis Experience? No Worries. Beginner Kids Tennis Lessons are Here!

The perfect time to help your child learn more about tennis is right now with our beginning kids tennis lessons. Dubbed the Mini Aces program, this class is designed for kids 6 – 8. This intergrade tennis program is the ideal option for first through third grade kids who haven’t had any real exposure to the game. Every clinic is a great way to keep your child active while helping them understand the basics. From learning more about game play to serve and return skills, we’ll help your child learn what to do in a match while having a great time.

Coach Ken Soccer Camps (Ages 4-12)

What a summer for soccer! Learn new and exciting soccer skills with Coach Ken. Coach Ken’s Soccer Camps have a proven record of helping kids achieve their full potential as soccer players. The coaches are knowledgeable and passionate about the game. All lessons are age-appropriate, challenging, and fun. All levels are welcome.

SPeeD Academy Golf Camp (Ages 5-17)

Try out the newly-reinstated Olympic sport: golf! All SPeeD Academy classes are taught by golf professional Roy Day, PGA. Roy has been named US Kids Top 50 Junior Instructors (2006-2008) and US Kids Master Junior Instructors (2009 to present). In addition to being extremely knowledgeable about golf, Roy makes learning FUN!!

Intro to Fencing (Ages 6-10)

This year, fencing consists of three separate events at the Olympics. Join in the fencing fun with this introduction fencing class. Learn to fence and have fun with peers in a safe way at Maximum Fencing Club. All equipment is provided. 

Legarza Basketball Camp (Ages 5-14)

Take after US flag bearer Sue Bird with basketball! At this camp, campers work hard and feel good about themselves in a safe, disciplined, highly structured and motivating environment. Players will learn to work together in a team setting while playing games and tournaments.

Camps are divided up by age and experience, keeping groups separated for the best overall camp experience. The equipment and curriculum for each age group is very different and age appropriate.

Little Twisters Gymnastics Camp (Ages 3-5)

Join Little Twisters this summer for days full of Gymnastics, Games, Free Play, Dance, Snack Times, and an End of the Week Performance. The facility is the cleanest and kid friendly facility in Santa Clara County and our instructors are top-notch. Sign up for this camp for a week of fun and gymnastics that your children will love.

Summer Ping Pong Camp (Ages 5-16)

Beginners with no previous table tennis experience will engage in learning exercises designed to energize, entertain and build a strong table tennis foundation.  Intermediate and advanced players, (competitive table tennis athletes who aim to take their game to the next level), will engage in rigorous training sessions that focus on technique, game strategies, skill reinforcement and physical conditioning. Players of all skills can join to try out ping pong and have fun practicing together. 

Skateboarding Camps (Ages 5-14)

New to the Olympics, skateboarding has swept the world as a fun and high-energy event. Try out skateboarding with Golden Gate Skateboarding. Start camp with an introduction to skateboarding specific stretching/yoga routines that improve performance and reduce injury probabilities. Cover beginner level skills all the way up to more advanced skills like Ollies, kickflips, 50-50 grinds, frontside 180’s and many more tricks. All skill levels are welcome!

In-Person Camps (Los Angeles)

Basketball Camp (Gr 2 – Gr 5)

Learn the fundamentals of shooting, passing, and dribbling. Understand the strategy of playing basketball. Have fun in one of KidzToPros’ most popular sports camps! Whether the camper is a first-timer or experienced player, they’ll learn skills that will carry them on to the next level. They’ll end each day engaged, passionate, and motivated for the next day of basketball camp! 

Girls Leadership & Soccer Camps (Ages 5-13)

This girls-only leadership and soccer summer camp is an opportunity for girls of all playing levels to refine and develop new soccer skills. Along the way, make friends and gain exposure to new experiences including dance, artistic expression, and leadership training.

Super Soccer Stars Camp (Ages 5-10)

When school is out, soccer is in! Super Soccer Stars and Soccer Stars United are kicking into this season with summer, holiday, and day-off soccer camps. Coaches work with 4-8 children to build skills and create a team atmosphere. Have fun with the FUNdamentals of soccer! Kids across the country can have a blast in a safe, high-energy soccer camp that will keep them active and allow them to socialize with friends. 

Wrestling Club (Ages 6-12)

The Devil’s Gate Wrestling Club is a youth wrestling club chartered by USA Wrestling in 2014 with the goal of introducing the local community to the sport of wrestling. Their coaching philosophy seeks to teach wrestlers how to motivate and challenge themselves. The Devil’s Gate Wrestling Club strives to implement and teach our youth wrestlers core values like hard work, dedication, goal-setting, and discipline. 

Tiny Tees Golf Camp (Ages 3 – 13)

Tiny Tees Golf Summer Camp is open to players of all skill levels from beginner to advanced, ages 3-13. Children will work on individual golf skills: full swing, putting, pitching, chipping, bunker play, golf course etiquette, and course play.  Introduce your kids to golf through this fun camp designed for young beginners!

Karate Class (Ages 7+)

These classes teach Shorin-Ryu Karate, a traditional Okinawan martial art, and the complete system of self-defense. Beginning classes will teach basic blocks, strikes, and kicks, and the first form. Advance through these martial arts lessons with Wilmington Karate Club this summer. 

Olympic Games: Science, Art, and Outdoor Camp (Grades K-8 at Different Locations)

Go for the gold in a triumphant Olympic journey. This camp combines art, science and outdoor challenges that build creative confidence, nurture social development and deliver the big summer fun they crave—all in small groups that put safety first. 75% of time is spent outdoors!

Get fired up to create mixed-media torches or glittering medals to light up the games. Master the mechanics of athletes and their equipment by designing high-flying archery bows, judo robots or a go-kart you can race in (a Galileo Olympic event only). Celebrate the Olympic spirit with a range of outdoor games!

Surf & Swimming Camp (Ages 5-15)

This camp is focused on surfing, swimming, and playing at the beach. All surfboards and bodyboards are provided at camp. Experienced instructors will lead kids in swimming, basic surf techniques, and surfing etiquette. Learn about ocean safety and conservation while having safe play time in and out of the water! This is a great opportunity to spend time getting more familiar with our beautiful coast, and the power and fun of the ocean.

 

For more sports camps and classes near you, check out ActivityHero.com.

 

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Adventure/Outdoors Backpacking Building Camps Clay Crafts Crafts Creative Arts Creative Writing Drawing and Painting Lego Online Learning Parenting Resources Sculpture

8 Ways to Save or Repurpose Summer Camp Art Projects

Summer camp is almost over and your kids had a blast! As proof of said fun, all the exciting activities have accumulated to become a large pile in your living room. Now what? Here are some creative ideas to manage the chaos.

1. Double down. When kids develop an interest in a certain type of medium, like clay, double down. Exhaust every facet of clay while you explore new techniques and test new projects.

Quick Tip: Once your kids tire of the medium, use the opportunity to have conversations about organization and material attachment. Together, you can discuss why they may want to keep something or whether they can find new use for their old items.

2. Innovate. Continue learning! Kids can practice problem solving long after camp with a project that’s returned home. Using everyday household tools and materials available, your kids will think of new ways to improve a project by making it look and work better.

“My kid designed a backpack at an innovation camp this summer. He added small details after realizing the water bottle holder wasn’t strong enough. He also included a waterproof side pocket as a new feature.”

Tabetha, ActivityHero Marketing + Mom

3. Repurpose. Channel your inner Marie Kondo. If it sparks joy, keep it to create a whole new personalized project. Finding new purposes for old items is a great way to give new life to items while preserving memories.

“I have a canvas in our living room that I decoupage paintings my kids did when they were toddlers. I also save artwork throughout the year to decoupage onto keepsake boxes and memory frames for our extended family.”

Kathrine, ActivityHero Designer + Mom

4. Personalize gifts. Kids’ art is great for everyday items like custom mugs, iphone/ipad cases, or mouse pads. It’s a quiet way to keep your loved ones close, wherever you go.

“My nephew took a lot of online art classes in 2020 and we used his drawings to create a custom iPhone case as a grandparent’s gift.”

Peggy, ActivityHero Co-Founder, CEO, Mom + Aunt

5. Document the whole memory. Get pictures with your kids holding their designs. It documents the special creations and their ages of completion. It also offers the perspective of scale to show how large and small the items were.

This bridge lasted a while on his shelf but was eventually tossed to make room for LEGO builds. Looking back we’re so grateful to still have pictures of my son holding the special projects.

Nicole, ActivityHero Marketing + Mom

6. Practice postcards. Creating postcards or packages can be a fun project itself! Practice writing letters with old paper projects. Gather, cut and fold old projects to create a package for far away loved ones.

Quick Tip: Use this as a teaching opportunity about the postal service and how it works!

7. Host an art gallery. Celebrate a summer’s worth of artwork! Let kids choose their favorite pieces to display around the house for an art walk. Whether it’s with just the family or with more friends, a gallery day is the perfect way to give your art collection a send off.

Quick Tip: You can even make snacks and decorations to complete the “museum day” and spend time reviewing each piece of artwork.

8. Revisit the classics.

  • Frame your favorites. 
  • Convert drawings and paintings into gift wrap or note cards. 
  • Create a digital photo album.
  • Transform your kids collection of summer camp t-shirts into a quilt to use when they are cold or hang as a work of art to admire on the wall.
  • Breakdown and recycle the projects because there’s only enough room to keep a select few.

Now that all of your kids’ most recent art projects are organized, take some time to start planning their next round of enrichment camps and classes at ActivityHero.

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Academic Writing Academics Camps Creative Arts Creative Writing Language Parenting Resources Play/Outdoor Vacations

4 Ways to Prevent the Summer Slide

Here are some simple tips to help your kids from experiencing brain drain during summer break.

Summer vacation is traditionally known as a time for kids to pause academic studies and just have fun. So while taking a break is important, preventing the Summer Slide is also a priority worth considering. In 1996, the first studies of the Summer Slide showed us that kids lose large amounts of knowledge in reading and math over summer break, which can contribute to an escalation of future skills lost.

Younger kids are more at-risk of experiencing learning loss. “In general, kids learn a lot more in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade than kids in middle school or high school, because learning follows a curve where it’s accelerated early in life and then plateaus,” says James Kim, Ed.D., an assistant professor of education at Harvard University.1

Summer Learning Loss Facts2

  • 1 month (equivalent) of overall learning is lost after summer vacation
  • 3 months of math skills + 2 months of reading are lost over the summer
  • 6 weeks is spent re-learning old material in the fall to make up for summer learning loss

Yes, these numbers sound scary, but don’t worry! Being informed is the first step and knowing that we’ve got you covered with solutions is the other key part of this process. This summer, keep your kids engaged with these teacher-approved brain-building activities.

Read

60% of kids ages 6 to 17 say they love or like reading books for fun a lot.1 Kids gain more from reading when they actually enjoy it. Let them choose. 

Play

“Learning through play is about continuity; bringing together children’s spheres of life – home, school, and the wider world, and doing so over time.” Susan MacKay, Director of Teaching and Learning at Portland Children’s Museum.3 Kids’ math and vocabulary skills extend beyond worksheets and can be found in hobbies related to board games, S.T.E.A.M., sharing stories, and more.

Imagine

Paul Harris, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who studies imagination. “The imagination is absolutely vital for contemplating reality, not just those things we take to be mere fantasy.”4 Through imagination, kids expand their cognitive abilities to think, know, remember and experiment with new concepts. Even though it may not seem like it, they are learning! Familiar skills are being used to develop new ones.

Explore

Through exploration, curiosity is encouraged. With that, more experiences and interests for your kids emerge. Studies show that exploration also supports social-emotional development by allowing kids to build confidence for both independent and collaborative interactions with others. Try something new today. 

Create an account and profile for your kid to find even more personalized camps and classes at ActivityHero.

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Adventure/Outdoors Animals Backpacking Camps Canoeing Environmental Featured Posts Hiking Holiday Break Camps Nature Programs Play/Outdoor Wilderness

Best Outdoor Youth Camps for 2021

Rediscover the joys of summer by planning an outdoor youth camp adventure!

After a year of change and disruption, let’s make 2021 the best year yet! Start planning your child’s spring & summer adventures with some of our top trending outdoor youth camps on ActivityHero. Small group, outdoor, in-person camps are selling fast – from horseback riding to survival skills camps! 

horseback riding camps for kids 2021

Horseback Riding Camps for Kids

From the beginner camper to advanced equestrians, find a camp for your horse-loving kids! Learn about horse care: grooming, feeding, bathing and even horse first aid. Saddle a horse, learn about tack, and even explore different styles of riding.

Youth campers will also learn interesting facts about the history, evolution and anatomy of the horse while picking up some horse lingo (did you know that horses are measured in hands?). When not riding, kids will play games, make new friends, and get crafty!

Paddleboarding camps for kids summer 2021

Paddle Adventure Youth Camps

Outdoors, active, educational, and exciting – create lifelong memories kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and more. With a wide variety of water sports camps available, there is something fun for every kid!

Campers at Shoreline Lake start on sit-on-top kayaks and learn the skills they need to explore the lake and beyond. Techniques include skills such as the draw, pry, figure-eight and “C” strokes. Campers are also taught safety skills to carry them through wherever they go. These include weather and tides, paddle signals, capsize assisting and self-rescue techniques.

It is a unique camp offering water sports, nature walks, arts & crafts and outdoor games. As a parent I feel very relieved knowing my daughter is safe and in good hands.

5-Star Parent Review for Shoreline Lake Camp
outdoor mountain biking camps for kids

Mountain Biking Camps for Kids

Campers hit the trails with help of seasoned instructors – learning bicycle maintenance basics and traversing the terrain in some of the best parks and trails!

At Avid4Adventure, youth mountain biking campers learn:

  • Technical Skills:  Campers learn how to properly fit a helmet and bike, practice basic bike commands and get comfortable with technical skills including bunny hops, track stands, braking and shifting, becoming more proficient riders as they take on incremental challenges.
  • Trail Riding: Campers are introduced to a wide range of trails — where they practice good trail etiquette as they learn to ride on rolling single and double track terrain, descending and ascending trail sections and narrow and winding trails.
  • Bike Maintenance: When they’re not riding, campers get familiar with the nuts and bolts of bike maintenance, learning to safety check their bikes, solve gear problems and change flat tires.

If you are interested in including biking as part of your family routine this summer, check out these 6 Practical Tips for Families.

outdoor youth adventure camps

Outdoor Youth Exploration Camps

Adventure Awaits! Unique outdoor camps for kids include:

  • Wilderness Survival Skills Camp
  • Outdoor Nature Camp
  • Rock Climbing Camp
  • Hiking Camps
  • Overnight Camping Trips
  • and so much more!

The outdoor nature of it, different adventures each day – super unique and fun, and a good option to mix in with other camps for the summer. It was great!

5-Star Parent Review for Avid4Adventure
outdoor youth camp for skateboarding

Skateboarding Camps for Kids

Skaters of all experience levels work on developing new skills, building confidence, and work up to advanced tricks like 50-50 grinds, frontside 180’s and more!

Find a wide variety in-person camps, online classes, and DIY activities for kids on ActivityHero.com >>

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Academic Writing Academics Camps Creative Arts Creative Writing Language Parenting Resources Play/Outdoor Vacations

10 Amazing Discounts for ActivityHero Families in LA

Did you know that you can access MemberDeals discounts to your favorite amusement parks, zoos, and other popular destinations as a free benefit of being part of the ActivityHero community?

Find great, money-saving deals at you and your kids’ favorite outdoor locations across Southern California for now and all year long.

  1. Six Flags Magic Mountain

This “Thrill Capital of the World” features over 100 rides and attractions that will satisfy the whole family! Within this 260-acre theme park, Six Flags contains 19 thrilling and exhilarating roller coasters that your kids will greatly enjoy. From smaller toddlers to thrill-seeking teenagers, Six Flags offers a number of rides to everyone’s liking. (See discounted price.)

  1. Disneyland

At the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, your kids can enjoy the characters and environments from their favorite childhood stories. They can meet their favorite princesses and villains, go on adventures with the stars of their most-watched movies, and explore fascinating attractions like “It’s a Small World” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Children of all ages will be entertained at the “Happiest Place on Earth!” (See discounted price.)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

With tickets to watch the splendid Los Angeles Dodgers, your kids can cheer for their favorite team in an exciting and electrifying atmosphere! Fans of all ages can enjoy the perks at this magnificent Dodger Stadium that features great outdoors seating and delicious food to enjoy during the game. This spirited venue brings people to their feet and gives them gripping games and exhilarating plays. (See discounted price.)

  1. Los Angeles Angels

At the Angel Stadium of Anaheim, fans can enjoy thrilling games, delicious concessions, and great merchandise from their favorite team! This exhilarating game is a great experience for fans of all ages as they get a chance to make wonderful memories with their family. The modern Angel Stadium has splendid outdoor seating where your kids can watch the game they love in an exciting environment. (See discounted price.)

  1. Aquarium of the Pacific

At the Aquarium of the Pacific, get a chance to view the wonders of the largest ocean in the world. With over 100 exhibits, you and your family can explore the fascinating underwater world with the animals and creatures you love! Featured exhibitions include the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, the Shark Lagoon, the Lorikeet Forest, and more. (See discounted price.)

  1. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor

This exciting water park is the perfect place for adventure-loving kids! Six Flags Hurricane Harbor features exciting and heart-pumping water slides for your thrill-seeking kids and calmer lazy rivers and family-friendly rides for you and your toddlers. Kids of all ages can enjoy the several rides here as well as the delicious food while making wonderful memories with their family. (See discounted price.)

  1. Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Discover over 1,400 animals at the immersive and lush habitats at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens! Your kids can learn about the fascinating wonders of wildlife by visiting the wide variety of animals at this zoo. Los Angeles Zoo also features exhibits like Elephants of Asia, Rainforest of the Americas, and the Lair. (See discounted price.)

  1. Knott’s Berry Farm

This small family farm has now grown into a world famous theme park and is the perfect place to visit with your family! With several rides and attractions, everyone can find an activity for them at Knott’s Berry Farm. From water rides and thrilling roller coasters to family-friendly activities, Knott’s Berry Farm has something for every member of your family. (See discounted price.)

  1. Urban Adventure Quest: Los Angeles

This scavenger hunt that takes you through LA is perfect for puzzle and adventure-loving families! Starting at the Los Angeles Public Library, this adventure helps you discover and learn about the historic downtown Los Angeles. This walking tour of the city is a great way to experience the outdoor life of LA! (See discounted price.)

  1. Warner Bros Studio Tour

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood gets you closer to the entertainment you love. The Studio Tour gives guests a revealing look behind the camera at how Hollywood magic is made. From Friends to Harry Potter and Wonder Woman, fans get to see the real sets and soundstages where the greatest names in entertainment made history as they touch, tour and explore the iconic 110-acre studio. (See discounted price.)

Explore more locations and deals outside of Southern California!

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Adventure/Outdoors Biking Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Play/Outdoor Super Activities for Super Kids

Biking: 6 Practical Tips for Families






Whether you love a leisurely ride or a real off-road adventure, find a type of biking that appeals to your family. Here are 6 practical tips to get kids started with family-friendly biking.

Source: Flickr

By the ActivityHero Team with Guest Amanda Wilks

Kids are often tempted to spend hours of their unstructured play time glued to electronic devices. Instead, why not encourage them to go out for a ride? With many benefits for the body and mind, biking is a healthy outdoor activity that can be done at almost any age. Looking to try it out? Here’s expert advice on sizing, types, gear, classes, and specialized activities like mountain biking.

1. Get Fitted

The most important step is to measure your child’s Inseam. A bicycle inseam (or leg length) is not the same as a clothing inseam.

To measure, grab a book and a tape measurer. The child should stand with her back against a wall, spreading her feet about 6 inches apart, either barefoot or in socks. Place a book between her legs, close to the crotch to mimic the bike seat.

Measure from the top of the book (that is, the spine) down to the floor. Choosing a slightly larger bike is fine in order to leave a little room to grow into. Avoid choosing a size which is too far off the mark for your child, which would impede his ability to learn correct riding habits and even expose him to greater danger.

2. Choose the Right Bike

Depending on your interests, there are three main styles of bike: road, mountain, and “hybrid” (a blend between the two), depending on your interests.

If you’re interested in mountain biking, according to MountainBikeReviewed, you can easily find and buy sturdy bikes for less than $300, like the Mongoose Statis Comp, the Villano Blackjack 2.0 or the Schwinn High Timber. Other great mountain bike brands which are geared towards kids are Spawn, Cleary, Early Rider, Pello and Stampede. Many mountain bikes are, contrary to opinion, quite cost-effective.

For road bikes, your local bike shop should have recommendations. Online retailers like Amazon will often have many customer reviews posted. There are also online outfits like BikeExchange if you prefer doing research online.

No matter what style you go with, when the child stands over the bike, there should be a 1-2 “ space between the crotch and the top bar of the bike. Also, “a beginner should be able to plant both feet flat on the ground when getting off the bike, which ensures safety and helps with confidence,” recommends Nick Pavlakis of Pedalheads, a learn-to-ride bike camp based in Seattle, Portland, Denver and Chicago.

Ideally, the right bike choice should be made based on the wheel size, not the frame size. Use the chart below:

Wheel Size 12″ —> Age 2 -3 —> Height 2’10 – 3’4

Wheel Size 14″ —> Age 3 -4 —> Height 3’1 – 3’7

Wheel Size 16″ —> Age 4-5 —> Height 3’7 – 4’0 

Wheel Size 20’ —> Age 5-8 —> Height 4’0 – 4’5

Wheel Size 24′ —>  Age 8-11 —> Height  4’5 – 4’9 

Wheel Size 26′ —> Age 11+ —> Height 4’9

These are rough approximations and, since every child is unique, you should use these numbers only as a guide.

3. Get Essential Gear

A good helmet which protects the brain is the single most important safety feature you must have. Make sure it fits, covers the entirety of the forehead and is properly ventilated. According to Pavlakis of Pedalheads, “research shows that up to 90% of fatal bicycle crashes result from head trauma,” so using a properly fitted and certified helmet will protect the head and brain from damage, which might save your child’s life. Note that helmets are mandatory for children under the age of 16 in most areas. “Check that there is no more than a two-finger gap between your eyebrows and the front part of the helmet,” advises Pavlakis.

Layer up with season-appropriate clothing. In summer, light clothing with good arm and leg coverage will protect from sun, and in cooler temperatures, don’t forget gloves, warm socks, and a wind-proof shell.

For urban and suburban biking, invest in a solid bicycle lock.

If you want to take the whole family along but have younger children who aren’t yet able to pedal on their own steam, the most common options are: Trailers (a wheeled carriage which attaches in back of a bicycle), Pedal-less Bikes (also called Balance Bikes, where kids push off the ground to move forward), and Trail-a-Bikes (a seat plus single-wheel that attaches to a bicycle, allowing pedaling without steering capabilities).

4. Find Classes or Camps

Classes and camps will generally cover the four basic rules of bike riding:

  • Riding in a straight line without deviating from it;
  • Looking back without losing balance or swerving;
  • Stopping the bike using the brakes, taking into account the surroundings;
  • Good speed control and adapting it in accordance with the terrain.

After mastering these basics, group classes are a great way for kids to learn important skills like giving hand signals, negotiating hilly terrain, understanding road signs and dangers, following traffic flow, and practicing proper spacing between riders.

 Find biking camps and classes near me > >

As a side note, older kids will benefit from learning some everyday maintenance routines, like checking the bike tire’s air pressure, putting the chain back together, and testing the brakes, often covered in more advanced classes or camps.

More inclined to teach on your own? Here’s a helpful guide.  Remember to read up on safety do’s and don’ts. If you get to the stage where a child is nearly ready to remove the training wheels, Pavlakis advises parents to take their time: “Don’t rush the process. Taking the training wheels off too early can become a negative experience for the child and may lead to resistance in learning.”

5. Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is a sport that is growing rapidly in popularity by offering excitement, challenge, and unique outdoor settings. To get kids started with mountain biking, you should remember that at the outset, your child might not have the physical endurance or the attention span needed to finish a certain route. Try increasing trip difficulty and length gradually to make the learning process smoother.

First, make sure your child is very capable and comfortable traversing flat, easy terrain. Then transition to doubletrack dirt trails with varying degrees of difficulty and topography. Plan ahead to reduce the chance of accidents. Initially choose short, fun routes that you know well and that you feel your kid can complete with relative ease. Have fun increasing the level of difficulty over time!

6. Find Focus, Stay Safe

Pavlakis recommends that beginning bikers “maintain focus and awareness at all times,” of the conditions on their road or trail to reinforce safe habits. Biking is a perfect way to leave behind the distractedness of everyday life and be more fully engaged in the present. Have fun!

On a roll? Check updated schedules and reviews of popular biking camps and classes in your area on ActivityHero.

About the author

Amanda Wilks is a writer, veteran MTB rider and sports advocate. Her passion for mountain biking dates back to her childhood, when she would join her dad every weekend for a quick ride uphill. She is now addicted to the sport and she never misses a trail. Learn more about Amanda on Twitter.

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Camps Creative Arts Dance Featured Posts Music Performing Arts Play/Outdoor Science/Technology Sports

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
Camp EDMO
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:
Wizbots
TechKnowHow 

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:
KidzToPros
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!

Categories
Environmental Leadership Uncategorized

How to Get Students to Volunteer (Without Nagging!)

“Who wants to come out and pick up trash in our neighborhood Saturday morning?” a bright and eager teacher asked a class of 9th graders. While a few dedicated students might show up, most probably won’t. Saturday morning is prime time for middle and high school students to sleep in, not volunteer.

Kids and teens volunteering
INSPIRING IMAGE BY SHUTTERSTOCK

But, counselors, teachers, and parents know that kids who take advantage of volunteer opportunities can bolster their college applications, learn new skills, find friendship, and a sense of purpose.  So, how can you motivate students of all ages to get out there and volunteer, even on a Saturday morning?

Here are 3 tips to help boost student interest in volunteering (no nagging involved!):

Follow Their Interests

Finding volunteer opportunities that coincide perfectly with student interests is a game-changer. For example, younger students who are animal lovers might enjoy playing with rescue cats.  You can explain that the kitties need people-time to learn to trust strangers and are friendly for their future families.  Lakes, rivers, and oceans are beloved by children of all ages.  So what better way to teach young students about the delicate ecosystem than saving the fish and other sea creatures with a beach clean-up?

High school students who express interest in a career in healthcare can volunteer at a local hospital. Baseball stars can mentor special needs players offering one-on-one coaching.  There are also opportunities for teens who delight in having fun with kids and want to volunteer at a summer camp

When there’s interest, there’s motivation. So, the goal should be to find volunteer opportunities for students that are relevant, exciting and interesting for them!   

Explain the Benefits of Volunteering

For many, community service is something kids slog through to meet school requirements or appease parents.  All the while, they’re wondering, “What’s in it for me?”  After all, their brains are wired to be a bit self-centered at this point in their development. Take advantage and think of some appealing ideas about how volunteering benefits your child both now, and later. Try some of these…. 

For younger kids….

  • You’ll get the opportunity to meet new friends who care about making sure homeless people have warm socks, just like you do.
  • Volunteering can be fun with your besties! Afterward, let’s go out for ice cream.
  • You’re really great with animals.  Think about what a great home the kittens will find because you teach them to love kids. 
  • Hey, we’re going to the beach today.  You’ll get to swim with the fish and help take care of them too!

For teens….

  • Someday you’ll apply to college. Volunteer experience will show schools that you’re more than just smart.  They’ll see what’s important to you.
  • Volunteering will give you the chance to learn real-world skills they’ll never teach you in a classroom.
  • Little kids will love the one-on-one attention you give them when you teach them how to hold a bat. You’ll be the rock-star coach.
  • Volunteering involves zero tests and no homework. It’s all about doing cool things with friends.
  • You know that retail job you want at Zumiez this summer?  Why not volunteer in a thrift store until then so you get to know fashion trends.  You’ll have a real advantage when you apply.

Keep it relatable, up-beat, and actionable.  Find fun YouTube videos showing elementary age students volunteering.  Google sample high school resumes or college application essays that show inspiring volunteer experience. Sharing other students’ successes can be powerful persuasion for increasing interest in volunteerism.

Positive Peer Pressure

Kids like what their friends like. In a survey, 25% of students who invited their friends to volunteer with them sparked their friend’s interest in volunteering! So, use the power of influence and friendship.

How?

Reach out to families that are already volunteering and ask them to share their experiences with other students. Share stories and images that highlight volunteering friendships and the fun, feel-good aspects of helping others.  Better yet, ask when they are volunteering next and offer to carpool.

Getting students to volunteer enthusiastically requires that we make it fun. It also helps if we can include a small, but perceptible self-esteem boost in their experience with volunteering. With the right framing, enough support, and the opportunity to create some memorable moments with friends, students will be lining up to volunteer!

About the Author

Amy von Kaenel, CEO of VolunteerCrowd
Volunteering is one of the best growth opportunities on the path to college and career readiness.  VolunteerCrowd gives all middle school, high school, and college students access to meaningful volunteer projects to build a volunteer portfolio. 

Categories
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.

Dennys

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

IHOP

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

Sprinkles

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. 

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Play/Outdoor Super Activities for Super Kids

7 Clever Ways to Keep Kids Cool on Hot Days






The best summertime activities help your kids beat the heat while having a blast. Here are 7 fun ideas to try out!

By Madison Lee

Everyone loves summer: clear blue skies, long days, and the sun shining brightly. But sometimes the heat is just too strong, and what would’ve been a beautiful day to go to the park turns out to be a sweaty, sitting-on-the-couch, blasting-the-air-conditioner kind of day.

On days like these, what’s better than keeping everyone cool and entertaining your kids at the same time? We found 7 fun ways to keep kids cool when summer heats up.

1. Make Creative, Wacky Popsicles

There’s nothing better than a cold popsicle on a super hot day. Instead of just freezing juice, test out these cool DIY popsicle recipes! This one from One Little Project is made of gummy bears and Sprite, and this ice cream popsicle bar from Jacquelyn Clark is perfect if you love cookies & cream. If you don’t have a popsicle mold, try out Got Chocolate’s chocolate covered frozen banana – it’ll be fun for kids to pick out their favorite toppings!

2. Play Water Balloon Baseball

http://www.overstuffedlife.com/2015/06/water-balloon-baseball.html

If your kids want a game to play with their friends, this water balloon baseball from Overstuffed is the perfect solution. Fill up water balloons, grab a wiffle bat, and let the game begin! Kids will get splashed and have fun competing to see who can hit the most balloons. A modified version of this, if your kids aren’t baseball fans, would be to hang balloons with string and have the kids play piñata with water balloons.

3. Paint the Fence/Ground With Water

http://happyhooligans.ca/

This is a mess free, cost free activity for the artist in your kids. You might have some old paint brushes and rollers lying around, and then all you need is a bucket of water! Happy Hooligans’ version suggests that kids try covering the entire fence before it all evaporates, or they can take a more creative approach with some pictures/words.

4. Cool Off in a Homemade Backyard “Kidwash”

http://blessmyweeds.com/

Bless My Weed’s take on a traditional carwash might take a little more setup, but the result will be well worth it. Her backyard kidwash requires PVC pipes, sponges, and tarps. There’s room to be creative with setting it up, and your kids can help build it. This will definitely keep everyone cool!

5. Engineer a Water Wall

If your kids are crafty and like to design/build, this is the perfect summer activity!. Basically, you use zip ties to secure different items to a peg board, and pour water down your path. Teaching Mama made a pool noodle water wall, which is cool because you can race marbles down the noodles. You can also take inspiration from Things to Share and Remember’s recycled-objects water wall. Hers is made of tons of random old plastic containers you might have lying around. It’s totally hands on and there are no rules — just have fun with it!

6. Set Up Water Gun Races

This Grandma is Fun reinvents the classic squirt gun carnival game in her own backyard with these squirt gun races. All you have to do is hang 2 cups from string around your backyard; across the pool makes the race more challenging, and makes kids jump in the cold water. Kids can race each other pushing the cups all the way to the end of the course using only a water gun.

7. Play Angry Birds With Water Balloons

http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/

Kids love this popular app, and now they can play it in real life! No Time for Flashcards created this water balloon Angry Birds game with her son. It couldn’t be simpler: draw out some pigs in chalk, fill water balloons, use a sharpie to draw on angry bird faces, and fire away! This game will be entertaining and beat the heat for sure.

Need ideas for indoor summer camps to keep kids busy and cool? Shop ActivityHero to find camps near you now.

Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Community Service Environmental Hiking Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Nature Programs Play/Outdoor

Outdoor Activities for Earth Day






Getting outside is healthy for the body and the mind. This Earth Day, why not get the whole family outdoors for some memorable adventures?

By Wendy Chou

Research has shown that getting outside keeps kids moving, lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Another health benefit from being out and about: added Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and is thought to help the immune system fight off infection. Some health experts say that spending time outdoors also relieves some symptoms of hyperactivity, including short attention span.

Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22. It was originally created to bring attention to environmental goals like cleaner air and water. Today Earth Day reminds us to step out into nature. Try these kid-approved outdoor activities highlighting science, crafts, sports, and helping the community. Find these activities and many more in The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, an excellent user-friendly guide for kindling the adventurous spirit in all of us.

Little Scientists

Go outside at an unusual time: nighttime! Go stargazing or take a walk to admire the moon. Visit kidsastronomy.com for tips.

Start a compost pile from kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. If your family has a garden, generating your own rich compost (so-called “black gold”) is not only fun, but also useful. It’s also a great tool for teaching kids about nature’s version of recycling. Tips for beginners.  

Watch a sunset. Watching colors change can inspire a lifelong appreciation for the environment. Find details on specific sunrise and sunset times at timeanddate.com

Arts and Crafts Lovers

Paint a birdhouse. Using a more natural palette such as gray, dull green, brown, or tan will help keep birds safe from eagle-eyed predators. And steer clear of metallic, iridescent, lead-based, or neon-colored paints which contain additives that are unsafe for wildlife.

Play “Nature bingo”. This game is a variation on a scavenger hunt. Create a bingo card for each player on sturdy paper or cardboard. You’ll need 16 assorted images arranged in a 4 x 4 grid: either paste on stickers, or draw/clip out pictures from magazines. Some examples are ladybug, leaf, flower, bird. After you design the bingo cards, have a blast exploring nature and looking for your items.

Make a nature mosaic. For this textured craft, first gather small items of roughly the same shape and size, like small pebbles, dried flower petals, or seeds. Take a paper plate and draw your desired shape with pen or pencil (for instance, outline your handprint). Working with one small section at a time, add a thin layer of glue and press the objects down to secure them. (If you apply glue over too large an area at once, it will dry before you’ve finished pasting.) Let dry and it’s done!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

Ready, Set, Move!

Roll down a grassy hill. Who doesn’t love doing this on a sunny day?

Go for a bike ride. There’s nothing quite like coasting along on the open road. Safety first: study the biker’s checklist before you head out!

Make homemade trail mix and take it on a hike.

Try geocaching, a modern take on treasure hunting. This activity relies on GPS technology to hide or find caches. To get started, check out geocaching.com.  

Community-Minded

Join a volunteer event. Find an organization near you (check your city or county listings) that is sponsoring an Earth Day event, such as a river cleanup or tree planting.

Visit a farmers’ market. You’ll find fresher fruits and vegetables here with less wasteful plastic packaging. People selling their wares often enjoy telling you where and how they grew their food –and sometimes let you try a sample for free.

Beautify your neighborhood. Clean up trash, prune or weed a garden, or do some other type of community service to show your appreciation for Mother Earth.

Be Adventurous Beyond Earth Day

Save the date for Kids to Parks Day, an annual event to encourage youth to get out and play in nature. Learn more: https://www.parktrust.org/kids-to-parks-day/. Getting outside isn’t just something to do on Earth Day!

Find summer camps featuring the outdoors. Camp is a great way to spend time outside. Emily Moeschler has over ten years of experience in adventure education and the outdoor industries. She is currently a leader at Avid4Adventure Camp in Boulder, CO. Her top tip: “Give your kids permission to get dirty!”

Be inspired. Have your own brainstorming session to come up with even more outdoor activities. There’s really no “right” way to explore, just get outside and have fun!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

About Wendy Chou

Wendy Chou is an environment writer and parent based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Categories
Drawing and Painting Gardening Hiking

8 Spring Activities for Preschoolers






Need something new to do with your little ones as the weather warms up? Welcome spring together with these creative and sensory outdoor activities.

By Skyanne Fisher

After a long winter, preschoolers will perk up when you introduce them to new spring activities. Head outside in the sunshine, and celebrate the arrival of spring!

Shop for toddler classes near you >>

Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk was a childhood favorite of mine, and it seems to be a timeless pastime, as every child I know loves it. Instead of just grabbing a box of chalk at the local store, create a new family memory by making your own.

To create chalk: Cut a paper towel tube into 3- or 5-inch pieces, and use waxed paper to line the inside and cover one of the ends. (Hold the paper it in place with masking tape.) Mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of tempera paint, ¾ cup of plaster of Paris, and ½ cup of water. Pour the mixture inside the tubes and let sit for a few hours, until solidified. Peel off the waxed paper and cardboard tube, and you have your own homemade chalk for hours of decorating your sidewalk.


toddler finger paintingDabble in Finger Paints

I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love finger painting, and rarely do I meet a child who doesn’t “accidentally” get a little paint in their mouth. Most finger paints are labeled “nontoxic,” but I still like to make my own paint because I know exactly what is in it. Plus, helping you make the paint can be a fun activity for a child.

To make finger paint: Use a ratio of 1 part flour to 2 parts water. For one child and a few colors, I typically start with ½ cup of flour and 1 cup of cold water. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat it on the stove, stirring until it becomes a smooth mixture and the lumps are gone. Then remove the flour mixture from the heat and divide it into bowls, one for each color you’d like to make. Slowly add cold water until the paint is at the desired consistency, and stir in food coloring. Add a pinch of salt, which helps to stop the paint from spoiling, and you can store it in the fridge indefinitely.

Whip Up Some Homemade Bubble Mix

Bubbles are another springtime favorite. While it’s easy to run to the store to grab a bottle of bubbles, making your own is super easy. And witnessing a child’s excitement when they see the bubbles they’ve made themselves is far better than grabbing a bottle at the store. However, I do recommend picking up some bubble wands to get the most fun out of this activity.

To make bubbles: Combine 12 cups of water, 1 cup of dish soap, 1 cup of cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons of baking powder. You can also add 1 tablespoon of glycerin, but the recipe works fine without it. Combine all ingredients, taking care not to create bubbles as you stir. Let sit for 1 hour, then enjoy an afternoon of bubble fun!

OutdoorPlay-300x226Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Take a walk with your child and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Head through your neighborhood to the local park or, if you’re lucky enough to have access, walk along a creek bed. Encourage your child to explore and search for butterflies, salamanders, worms, frogs, birds, and other small animals. Ask them to count how many different types of flowers they see. Seeing nature “waking up” is the perfect introduction to spring.

Shop for toddler classes near you >>

Fill Up a Spring-Themed Sensory Bin

Sensory bins are a great thing to have around throughout the year. Essentially they are plastic bins, boxes, or similar containers filled with objects of various sizes, shapes, and textures. They are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who are fascinated simply by the way things feel, and they are a great way to introduce children to new things. Sensory bins are particularly helpful during rainy days when the kids can’t get outside to play.

To create a spring sensory bin: Fill a plastic bin about halfway with dirt, sand, or pebbles. Then add things like flowers from the yard, miniature flower pots, kid-safe indoor gardening tools, plastic bugs or worms, and any other fun additions that you find around the house.

Craft a Few Bird Feeders

Making bird feeders each spring was a favorite tradition of mine and something I love doing with my children. All you need is a toilet paper roll and some peanut butter, birdseed, and string.

To create a bird feeder: First, put the string through the center of the toilet paper roll and leave at least 6 inches of string on either side of the roll before tying the ends together in a knot. This is how you will hang the feeder in a tree. Next, cover the outside of the toilet paper roll with peanut butter and roll it in birdseed. Make sure to cover the entire surface. Head out to your yard, select a tree, and hang it up. It’s fun to choose a tree that’s visible from the house so you and your kids can watch as the birds come to eat.

Mix Up Some Spring Goo

“Goo” is another great sensory activity — especially since this fun substance acts like a liquid and a solid.

To create Spring Goo: Mix 1 part water with 2 parts cornstarch. Stir in flowers, glitter, or anything else you think might be a good addition. Goo can also be turned into a fun science experiment: It’s a solid when cupped in your hands or resting in a bowl, but it behaves like a liquid when you pour it from your hand.

Shop for toddler classes near you >>

toddler in the gardenSpend Time in the Garden

Spring is planting season. Why not allow your child the chance to have his or her own kid-size garden? If you already have a garden, dedicate a small corner to your child. If not, choose a sunny spot and create a new garden bed together. Allow your child to choose the seeds, help plant them, and then tend the garden as one of their daily responsibilities. It’s an educational experience that also gives children an opportunity to connect with nature … while getting a little dirty!

Categories
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.

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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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Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Camps Overnight/Travel Sleep away camps Uncategorized Wilderness

10 Media Choices for Kids Going to Sleepaway Camp






These books, movies, and TV shows offer a glimpse into the magical world of overnight camps — and can help ease kids’ minds before packing their bags.

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeedchild sitting at a campfire, happily

Overnight camp can be an exciting adventure; however, going for the first time can cause some jitters for parents and kids alike. Soothe the nerves of your camper by sharing these interesting camp experiences — some completely silly, some true to life. In the media choices below, we explore nontraditional camps like spy camp and roller derby camp, as well as the more common sleepaway camp in the woods. Share them with your soon-to-be campers and see their excitement grow!

Books for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

rollergirlRoller Girl
Ages 8+
This terrific graphic novel tells the story of a young teen learning to work hard and become a good teammate at roller derby camp one summer. Her ideas of friendship are tested outside of camp, but she comes through strong and inspired to do her best.

 

spy-camp-bookSpy Camp
Ages 8+
This sequel to Spy School reports on spy summer camp. A thrilling adventure awaits the main character as he heads to camp for high-stakes survival training camp, but encounters much more. Please note that while there is violence in this book, it is cartoon violence.

 

lumberjanesLumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
Ages 10+
Supernatural creatures run the show in the wacky summer camp portrayed in this comic book series. Five girlfriends band together and have a great time dealing with strange critters and a tough camp counselor. Ultimately, they empower each other to have a summer full of adventure.

 

blessBless the Beasts & Children
Ages 13+
This classic novel tells the difficult but poignant story of boys sent away to camp because of challenging home lives. Set in the West, it shares how the boys unite and defy authority to do what is right. Beautifully written, this story will be best for enthusiastic teen readers.

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Movies for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

parent_trapThe Parent Trap (1961)
Ages 5+
Whether you prefer the 1961 original or the remake, the story is funny and engaging. Twins are separated by their parent’s divorce and raised as singletons. They rediscover each other at summer camp, scheme to reunite their warring parents, and chaos ensues. Quaint and old-fashioned, the actors in the original will charm you.

girls_rockGirls Rock!
Ages 7+
Girl power is the message in this documentary set at the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon. Several girls from differing backgrounds are featured as they learn to play an instrument and build confidence through their performances. These girls share their feelings and their creativity. It’s an empowering movie, at times infuriating and sad, but with a powerhouse of a message.

moonrise_kingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Ages 13+
This movie shows a stylized world like no other. It’s a quirky movie with laughter, sadness, and hilarity. The pair of runaway tweens are decent and devoted. Not your usual camp experience, but entertaining and lovely.

 

campCamp
Ages 15+
Great love for the theater supersedes any differences that this group of campers discovers about each other. Every two weeks, campers put on a Broadway show. Personalities are strong but, always, the show must go on! Be aware that there is strong language and situations in this PG-13 rated movie.

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TV Shows for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

bunkdBunk’d
Ages 5+
A spin-off from the popular Disney series Jessie, this fictitious camp experience is full of pranks, silliness, and friends.

 

camp_lakebottomCamp Lakebottom
Ages 7+
Completely imaginary, this camp is run by monsters, with very few rules and regulations for the campers. Bathroom humor is popular and frequent. Obviously, this is not what overnight camp will be like, but it’s funny to imagine.

Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Environmental Hiking Nature Programs Wilderness

7 Secrets to Happy Hiking with Kids






Get the family outside for some fun and fresh air with these hiking tips from an ActivityHero expert.

By Laura Quaglio

family out for a winter hike

Getting out for a hike is a great way to spend a weekend or evening with your family. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the average American kid spends as little as half an hour in outdoor “free play” each day … and more than seven hours staring at a computer screen. That’s a shame, since playing outside has been linked to a wide array of health and wellness perks for kids, including some surprises such as better in distance vision, improved test performance at school, and healthier social interactions.

See a List of Outdoor Camps Near You >>

ActivityHero provider Kurt Gantert, Founder and Director of Wanderers*, is thrilled that science has proven some of the things that “outdoorsy people” have long known. “My parents took me hiking at an early age, so I grew up just kind of loving it,” says Kurt, who has fond memories of exploring the Adirondacks with his folks, siblings, and friends. Drawing on those early outdoor experiences, Kurt has built a career in the field of outdoor education/adventure travel, working as a wilderness guide and educator for more than 20 years. Today, he likes nothing better than leading kids in Northern California (including his own two children) on outdoor explorations throughout the year. “What I notice is that kids have a sense of freedom outdoors that they don’t often have in our very scheduled world,” adds Kurt. “Nature has a very calming effect.”

Of course, nature also offers plenty of challenges that indoor and at-home activities do not. That’s why Kurt favors being well-prepared before setting out with your brood. (Plus, if kids wind up hungry, hurt, or over-tired, they won’t want to hit the trail ever again.) To help ensure a positive adventure, Kurt offers these tips to consider before hitting the trail.

1. Let Kids Bring a Buddy
“Always try to invite another family along on your hike,” suggests Kurt. Taking some of your kids’ friends on your excursion can prevent them from complaining throughout the trip. When children are around their peers, explains Kurt, they’re distracted and less likely to be bored — and they won’t want to “look bad” in front of their friends, so they’re more likely to grin and bear it when the going gets a little tough.

2. Check the Conditions
Look up what the weather will be in the area you’re planning to hike. It may be very different from the weather at your house, even if you’ll be fairly close by. You can check the websites for The Weather Channel or NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to find out what’s brewing.

Kurt also suggests researching the terrain. Are there any big hills? Is it likely to be muddy? Kids will enjoy themselves more if there aren’t too many obstacles to overcome. If you’re not sure where to go, check American Trails to search more than 1,100 recreation trails in the U.S., or use the Web to search for family-friendly trails in your area. You may also prefer to stick to trails that offer bathroom facilities, guides, and other amenities, especially if you’re not an avid outdoors person or you have little ones in tow. “Sometimes national parks have guide posts and offer special ranger talks,” says Kurt. “These are often volunteers who are trained in certain subjects. For instance, guides at Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco share interesting information about Tule elk during the rut season. Listening to ranger talks can make the experience more fun for the group,” says Kurt.

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3. Don’t Pack Light
When Kurt hikes in national or state parks throughout the country, he often notices how under-prepared people are for hiking. “You should bring a backpack filled with a lot of stuff,” says Kurt. “Don’t feel it’s a burden, as some of the items you bring could be crucial to a more enjoyable hike.” Some of his suggestions include healthy snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, binoculars, a camera, and a simple first-aid kit. “Kids fall down and skin their elbows all the time,” says Kurt. If your children have allergies, also bring their EpiPen and some Benadryl. And, of course, carry plenty of water. “Pack more water than you think you’ll need,” he says. “At least two pretty-good-sized bottles per person for a full-day hike.” For little kids — or if you’ll be near a lake, stream, or pond — bring towels and a change of clothes, too, including fresh socks.

4. Get a Few Guidebooks
Kurt loves to tote a few such books along on his hikes so kids can look up birds, animals, and plants they see along the way. If you’re taking tweens or teens on the hike, consider downloading an app that allows kids to take a photo of a plant or animal and automatically IDs what they see. Kids in these age groups can also serve as the family videographer/photographer, documenting special moments on the trail.

One caveat: Turn off the tech if it starts detracting from the experience instead of enhancing it. Kurt’s camps don’t allow any use of technology by kids because they often will go from taking a photo to checking Instagram. For that reason, Kurt sticks to paper guidebooks for use in Wanderers programs. Two of his favorites: The Sibley Guide to Birds and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to California.

5. Plan Some Play Time
Choose a destination that the kids will really enjoy — such as a beach or a stream where they can splash around. In fact, if your kids are young, Kurt suggests keeping the actual hiking portion of the adventure fairly short, ending up at a kid-friendly spot and spending as long as they like in “free-play” mode. As kids get older (and their legs and attention spans lengthen), you can increase the distance of your family hikes.

Kids seem to instinctively love playing in nature, but if yours aren’t sure what to do, get into the act with them and build with rocks or sticks, skip stones across a pond, search for animal habitats, do rubbings of tree bark with a crayon and paper, and even sketch what you see in a notebook. “Free play is very important for kids, and there’s less and less of it in this day and age,” says Kurt.

6. Dress for Success
Even in the warmer months in California, Kurt doesn’t generally hike in shorts because of ticks and poison oak. He prefers comfortable hiking pants, some “sturdy hiking socks” (not low athletic-style socks), and several layers on top so he can make adjustments when the temperature changes. Regardless of the forecast, Kurt recommends including options that will be appropriate for all types of weather. “In the mountainous regions of the West Coast, you can get snow even in the summertime,” he says. “Always bring an extra warm layer.” He also advises heading out early so you won’t be at a higher elevation later in the day. “In mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada in California, thunderstorms can roll in during the afternoon,” he says. You don’t want to get caught out in one of those.

As for footwear, don’t wear brand-new hiking shoes or boots on a long hike. “That’s a good recipe for a blister,” says Kurt. Break in new hiking boots gradually over time before taking them on a long trek. Usually, he notes, sneakers are fine for a day hike on a well-maintained and not-too-rocky trail.

father and son enjoying ice cream and cocoa
7. Plan an After-Hike Activity
When you hike with your family, you’re creating lasting memories. To ensure that kids really lock in the things they’ve seen and learned, take some time after the hike to swap stories and reminisce about the experience. For instance, you might want to find a nearby family-friendly restaurant where you can take your hungry hikers for a follow-up chat at the adventure’s end.

Kurt holds such a session at the end of each week of camp at Wanderers. “We get the kids to talk about what was special to them and what they learned,” he says. “It’s interesting. What they say is not always what you’d think of.” The trick here? Don’t just ask, “What was your favorite thing?” Most of the time, after one kid speaks up, everyone agrees that they loved that part of the day, too. Instead, mentally walk your whole family through the journey again. Mention each stop you made or each plant or animal you identified. Ask what each person saw and what surprised them. Share what surprised you, too. You might even want to video what your kids say — and make some notes about whatever you learned from the trip. What items did you wish you’d brought? Which ones should have been left at home? What would you never do again? What would you like to do more of? Keep this list with your hiking gear, so you can reference it before your next family excursion.

Consider Enrolling Kids in an Outdoor Adventure Camp
While hiking as a family offers certain perks, exploring the outdoors with trained professionals provides kids with another level of experience that can be valuable for any child, says Kurt. For one thing, Kurt’s programs focus on “experiential education.” “We’re not just sitting in a classroom learning about where our tap water comes from,” says Kurt. “We hike to the reservoirs and/or watersheds that provide our water, and we have discussions about what they are and the natural and human history behind each one.” Each day begins with an instructor giving a short talk to prep kids for the day, and then they head out and put those concepts and vocab words to use. Each trek is mapped out carefully, with rest stops along the trail where instructors stop to point out special features while giving kids a water break and rest.

If you’d like to find a great outdoor adventure camp in your area, Kurt suggests you ask a few questions about the staff and their safety practices. Find out:

  • Who is the director and how involved are they in the day-to-day operations?
  • How long has the camp been around?
  • What is the camp’s safety record?
  • What is the staff-to-camper ratio? (Wanderers usually offer a 1:5 ratio, but 1:7 is also very good for hiking or camping, particularly with older kids.)
  • What training does the staff have? (Wanderers staffers are at least 21 years old and have a minimum of 2 years’ experience leading outdoor activities. They are also certified in wilderness first aid and CPR, and many have their Wilderness First Responder certification. Wanderers also provides staff with a week-long training session and other training as needed.)

See a List of Outdoor Camps Near You >>