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Computer Animation Computers Featured Posts Online Learning Programming Science/Technology

Best Free Online Classes and Free Trials

Take advantage of free online classes and trials this year!

Looking for new online classes and activities? Take advantage of FREE trials and classes on ActivityHero! Discover new interests by joining free classes available for all. Whether it’s coding, baking, or karate, be sure to check out these live online classes, free of cost.

Find more FREE online classes on ActivityHero >>

Free Game Development Trial Class- Live 1:1 with WhiteHat Jr

WhiteHat Jr’s mission is to empower a whole generation to become creators versus consumers of technology. They teach fundamentals of coding–logic, structure, sequence and algorithmic thinking to enable kids to generate creative outcomes like websites, animations and apps.

All of the WhiteHat Jr classes are taught live 1:1 with a certified teacher! They offer free trial sessions on ActivityHero in various topics – game development, UI/UX design, data modeling, AI & machine learning, and more! Check out all WhiteHat Jr free trial classes here.

horseback riding camps for kids 2021

Intro to 3D Printing & 3D Designing: Pokemon

The #1 goal: Learning should be fun and engaging. Learn the fundamentals of math and geometry while designing your favorite Pokemon. 

Every Friday (excluding Holidays), 3D Printing & Design offers a free trial class. Each week is a new design that is custom-tailored to the skill level of the class. Every class has math and geometry questions relevant to your 3D designs. 

Paddleboarding camps for kids summer 2021

Storytime & Art – for Black Students

This is a free class especially created for black students to interact with an experienced and engaging black educator. Research shows that black students are 19% more likely to attend college if they have just one black teacher. 

In this interactive 55 minute class, students play a short game before Ms. Rae reads a book. Kids will use home supplies to create a fun art project related to their storybook adventure. Kids will be encouraged to share their art project with their peers and talk about what they drew.

Online Coding Class // Minecraft Coding

Create & Learn offers small-group online classes on fun topics like coding, AI, data science, robotics and more, designed by Google and Stanford experts. Your child will not learn from a machine or video, but will interact with an experienced CS teacher in a small class. Join Create & Learn to try out a free intro class!

Let your kids’ creativity shine in this class, where students can code games, stories, buildings, and anything else they want to make happen in Minecraft and see them come alive in the game.

outdoor youth adventure camps

Intro to Pintsize Karate

The Pintsize Karate online program offers a free two week intro, where your child can check out some classes to see how much fun it is!  After 2 weeks, if you’d like to enroll, you can join the monthly membership program.

In this interactive class kids will learn how do safe warm up exercises and be introduced to karate kihon (techniques) through drills, games and challenges that can be done at home.

outdoor youth camp for skateboarding

Baking Thursdays with William Jeanes Memorial Library

Join Ms. Eileen in a free activity every Thursday to learn basic baking skills. Each week features a different recipe and highlights new skills.

Baking builds confidence and teaches valuable skills that kids can carry with them through life. We’ll practice basic math when measuring ingredients and practice reading comprehension as we follow a recipe. All of these skills are mixed in with delicious food and fun.

Espanish Demo Class

Join a free 30 minute Demo Class with Español Latino! The online classes are live and one-on-one, meaning that you can actually see and talk to your teacher.

During the 30 minute demo session, you’ll be able to practice your Spanish and get a feel for what it would be like to learn via live online classes. Complete the reservation form to request your trial class. They will contact you in less than 48 hours to organize the day and time of the class.

outdoor youth camp for skateboarding

Tech Workshops for Girls

These tech workshops are free, hands-on technology workshops for middle school girls. There are 50+ topics to choose from including coding, movie editing, jewelry design, digital marketing, cybersecurity, and more!​

My daughter was totally into this class! You never know what resonates with your child until you give it a try. This activity sparked her interest and engaged her attention for 2 hours. We are signing up for more classes! Many thanks.

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

San Jacinto STEM Summer Camp

The Aerospace Academy is hosting a free STEM summer camp.  The camps are one week in length (8-4pm), 100% online, packed full of hands on activities, and taught by STEM ISD instructors. They provide the supplies to the parents at designated San Jac campus pick up sites.

outdoor youth camp for skateboarding

Hip Hop Dance

This is a free class especially created for black students to interact with an experienced and engaging black educator. Research shows that black students are 19% more likely to attend college if they have just one black teacher. 

They’ll explore old school hip hop, new dance trends, and street jazz. Students will learn dance technique, dance studio etiquette, hip hop dance terminology, how to create their own freestyle, and how to follow choreography.

outdoor youth camp for skateboarding

Online Coding Class / Python for AI (FREE)

In this class, students will take their first dive into coding with Python. They will transition from block coding, which they learned in Scratch, to text-based coding. Students will learn how to animate and draw with Python, and will build their own story project. Basic topics include using Python syntax, drawing methods, and variables.

Create & Learn offers small-group online classes on fun topics like coding, AI, data science, robotics and more, designed by Google and Stanford experts. Your child will not learn from a machine or video, but will interact with our experienced CS teacher in a small class. Join them to try out the free intro class!

Find more FREE online classes on ActivityHero >>

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Academics After-School Activities Creative Arts Dance Language Music Online Learning Science/Technology Uncategorized

Boredom Busters: Interesting New Classes To Try Next Week

Extra curricular activities open kids’ minds to new interests. They help build skills outside of the classroom. They provide a productive break from study. And they open new social opportunities to grow a community. Here are editor’s picks for interesting new classes to try:

Foreign Language

The many cognitive benefits of learning languages are undeniable. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills.*

Theater Games in Spanish – Beginners

by Rogue Artists Ensemble

Learn Spanish through theatre games and music! We naturally learn language through trial and error and through play. In Theatre Games in Spanish, students learn to communicate in Spanish by playing games and having fun. We strive to joyfully instill a love of language through embodied learning and play.

Grades K – 5

$17/day starting Feb 22

German for Beginners: Singing & Speaking

by Musical Learning

In this fun and musical class, learners explore German greetings, keywords, introduction vocabulary and pronunciation – through music! Learning a language is fun and easy with Ms. Kelsey – let’s sing, dance and color! 

Ms. Kelsey is a professional opera singer and language teacher, and she started Musical Learning in 2016. She has taught German, French, English and ‘Musical Science’ for the past 10 years both online and in person. 

Ages 3 – 7

$100/ 8 session series that meets twice a week starting Feb 22


STEM

Skills attained through STEM education include problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, acceptance of failure and more.*

Explorations in Quantum Physics

by Electivity Kids

In the first 4 weeks of the session, students learn about the electromagnetic nature of matter and energy, including: Magnetism, Magnetic Induction Electricity, Photons, Solar Energy. In the second half of the session, students are introduced to atoms, subatomic particles and the Periodic Table of Elements (Hydrogen to Xenon). They learn how atoms form molecules, and also learn about the structure of the Periodic Table.  Class content is taught through engaging visual aids, physical demonstrations and thought-provoking discussion.

Grades 5 – 12

$230/ full series, ongoing until March 22

Python Programming 1: Live Online Class

by Kodeclik Online Academy

Python is one of the most feature-packed coding languages ever and today underlies the foundation of many websites, applications, and games.

This fast moving course assumes no prior experience with Python programming but rapidly takes you to high levels of functionality illustrating how you can write your own programs in Python!

Ages 11 – 18

$399 / 16-session series beginning Feb 19

Ancient Greece to Quantum Realms

by Digivations Institute

With An Emphasis on the Homeric epics of The Iliad and the Odyssey, the Milesian School of Thought yielding Thales, Pre-Socratics highlighting Democritus and the Socratic Period illustrative of Socrates Philosophy in the Context of Innovation Ranging from The Theory of Everything to Einstein’s Unified Theory and Quantum Realms.

Digivations Institute has NASA award-winning curriculum and is an ActivityHero Best of 2020.

ages 12 & up

$49/day ongoing until May 25

Curiosity Club S.T.E.A.M. Lab – science & art fun

by Active Art & Science

Join us online for S.T.E.A.M powered fun where you will explore the curious worlds of science, technology, engineering, art and math. Conduct experiments, create art, build, take things apart and enjoy learning how art, science, engineering and technology are connected.

Ages 5 – 10

$96/ 6-session series beginning Feb 22


Homeschooling

Homeschool offers academic flexibility. During these ever-changing COVID times, many families have turned to this option. Try these classes for academic homeschooling and enrichment education!

Martial Arts & Life Lessons

by Family Karate

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.

In each class we’ll ask you to set a self leadership goal for your children, and in the next class we’ll follow up progress on those goals.

Ages 5 – 11 but fun for the whole family! Try it as a stress reliever!

$10/day trial classes or $20/day regular price ongoing throughout spring

First Grade Curriculum! Homeschooling 101!

by Homeschool Academy

This is a great introductory trial for parents thinking about homeschooling their kids.

In this curriculum which follows the Common Core State Standards, we dive into EVERYTHING your child should learn in First Grade WOW! See below for a snapshot of some of the covered content. In previous classes on different platforms– parents would RAVE how their child would not be able to read at all prior to Mrs. Hendricks Academy and by the end of the curriculum- they were reading whole sentences, creative writing on their own and excelling. 

Ages 4 – 8

$7/class. Special discount available $145/month

Princess Story Time Ballet Dance Camp

by Lovely Leaps

Each week we will have a different princess joining the class. After the princess arrives the children will perform their dance while the princess sings, Then they will sit with their favorite toy while the princess reads a fun book! After story time the children will have a chance to each personally interact with the princess! It’s not everyday your child will get to have a virtual Disneyland experience! 

Ages 3 – 6

$17/day starting March 4


Tired of online classes? Try a fun Lego® course:
Amusement Park LEGO® Engineering

by SNAPOLOGY OF LOS GATOS

We bet your child loves going to amusement parks to experience the variety of fast, dropping, and spinning rides, but have they ever thought about the science that goes into building those rides and the people who are responsible for designing them? In Snapology’s Amusement Park Engineering class, students will become engineers building their own amusement park rides like roller coasters, Ferris wheel , Bumper Car and other awesome rides!! 

Snapology of Los Gatos serves Almaden, Camden, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Cupertino.

Ages 5 – 12

$150/ 4-session series starting Feb 24

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Featured Posts Featured Providers Science

Featured: Hypothesis Haven Science Club

Bridget Chapital is the founder and owner of Hypothesis Haven Science Club. Bridget is a health education professional with 18+ years experience in the biomedical research industry, including roles with UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

Hypothesis Haven Science Club is not your average STEM program.  They are the first and only medical science program for children ages 5-13 that provides early exposure to life science careers and teaches the steps that scientists take to discover, treat, and cure illnesses.

Chapital described Hypothesis Haven Science Club as the culmination of her dream to share her knowledge and experience in the clinical research industry with the next generation of young scientists. Her passion is increasing access to emerging medical treatments by bridging information gaps between medical providers and patients.

In February, to coincide with American Heart Month, Chapital and her team hosted their first pop-up event to introduce Hypothesis Haven to their Texas community. In 2021, the 2nd Annual HeART of Science event is being held virtually for students anywhere.

“The difference at Hypothesis Haven is that we’re not just teaching children how the heart works, but additionally – how did scientists discover how the heart works and how did their understanding change over time?” Said Chapital. “We want to show children it starts with a bright idea, but and then it takes hard work and perservance to figure it out.”

However, the launch of her new after school and camp business did not go as expected. Within a month, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and businesses.

Chapital quickly decided to pivot and adapt their curriculum to offer online workshops and camps. 

“At first we were just doing workshops with materials that kids would have around the house. But, a lot of our lessons didn’t translate well to online because they were based on medical equipment the instructor would normally bring to the classroom,” said Chapital. “So we created brand new lessons and we able to really expand the curriculum.”

Before the pandemic, Chapital had never really thought of virtual classes, but now believe the virtual workshops will become a permanent service in their business. 

“We had kids from Brazil recently in a class on ActivityHero LIVE. We now have a worldwide reach and it’s really cool. We want to keep that piece even as things start getting back to in-person,” said Chapital.

You can learn more about Hypothesis Haven on ActivityHero or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Free HeART of Science Workshop

At Hypothesis Haven Science Club’s Annual HeART of Science event,  kids will learn about the hardest-working muscle in the body (the heart) and how to keep it healthy and strong!

They will also learn about new treatments and discoveries that doctors and scientists are working on to help people with heart disease.

Register for free on ActivityHero >>

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Featured Posts Homeschool Lego Math On-Demand School Breaks Science/Technology

On-Demand STEM: DIY Activities and Printables

On-demand STEM classes and activities for your child are a great option when you need an activity at any time of day. ActivityHero provides a wide variety of classes and activities in science, technology, coding, engineering, math, and more! Here are some of our favorite on-demand STEM activities.

See All On-Demand Classes, including art, science, coding, music, and more >>

On-Demand STEM - learn about robots

How Can Robots Help Us? by Create & Learn

From WALL-E, Baymax, to Transformers, robots have been some of our favorite movie characters. In this Open Class, Professor Atkeson from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University will walk us through the basics of robotics and then explore soft robots, which have soft cushiony bodies.

how to design vaccines by playing games on-demand STEM

How to Design Vaccines by Playing Games

Do you know your kids can help scientists solve puzzles and design vaccines by playing games? Genetics, together with computer science, are two of the most promising fields for the future. Join this talk to learn the basics of genetics and explore the fun game designed by Stanford experts!

learn to make a solar oven

How to Make a Solar Oven

Have fun baking a dessert with your kids and learn some science at the same time with this DIY Solar Oven by Beau Coffron, in partnership with Home Depot. All you need is an old pizza box and a handful of tools and materials. In just a few easy steps, you’ll have created an innovative solar oven!

learn javascript on-demandd

Hour of Code – Learn JavaScript

Learn how to code with Javascript in Classroom Antics’ easy-to-use web interface and self-guided lessons. Progress through fun online coding activities at your own pace. Complete up to 9 lessons (one hour each). Lessons feature fun projects such as creating an facetracker, eclipse simulation, greeting card, snapchat filter, community map and more!

LEGO® on-demand activities

Playgineering with Legos! Castle Turrets

This On-Demand segment is part of our Playgineering and Fungineering series that uses the Engineer’s Process to create scenes with Technic and regular Legos and other materials through design, construction, robotics and play.

In this segment, in addition to highlighting key features that define turrets of castles, we provide step-by-step instructions for building turrets using 2×4 and 2×2 Lego bricks that are able to interlock-style attach to the walls of the castle that we build in different On-Demand segments in our series.

math practice worksheets

Math Practice Worksheets

This package by RISU provides printable worksheets to practice basic math concepts at your own pace. These worksheets are designed to improve math proficiency quickly and motivate kids to learn math!

Galileoscope telescope kit for the holiday break

Galileoscope Telescope Kit for the Holidays

This on-demand activity includes a telescope kit and video instruction, where an expert astronomer and telescope builder will walk you through the process of assembling the telescope. Then, begin exploring the universe like Galileo did over 400 years ago and see the wonders of the winter sky!

Galileoscope telescope kit for the holiday break

Virtual Science – All About Reptiles

Join Miss Rennu in this short video and immerse your child into the world of reptiles! Learn all about different reptiles from around the world with amazing visuals and wonderful explanations! 

Galileoscope telescope kit for the holiday break

GIGIL STEM Kits

These amazing STEM Kits include 3-5 STEM experiments and activities shipped right to your door. These include videos with pre-recorded STEM lessons to guide you through the activities. Each video lesson is taught by a California credentialed teacher that specializes in STEM Education.

Galileoscope telescope kit for the holiday break

STEM Project: Design & Build your own car

Build a wind-powered car while learning about the scientific concepts behind the process! These printables will guide you through the steps of building a car, testing it out, and experimenting with it!

See All On-Demand Activities >>

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Camps Computer Animation Computers Gaming Lego Parenting Resources Programming Robotics Science/Technology

4 Ways to Get Your Child Started with Coding






Computer programming isn’t just for college students and hackers. Here are four engaging ways to get your kids started with coding.

By Ashley Wang

It’s pretty clear by now that technology is a force to be reckoned with. Tech companies are ever-growing and demand for programmers has never been higher. Computers dominate our lives right now, and they will dominate the lives of our children, as well.

So it’s not unexpected that many parents are interested in coding for kids. But getting them started can be rather tricky, especially if you don’t have too much experience with programming, yourself. Here, we highlight four ways to introduce your child to code.

1. Scratch

Used by millions of children around the world, Scratch is considered by educators to be the gold standard for teaching beginner coders the basics of programming. The reason? It uses blocks-based grammar that has users drag and drop commands rather than typing code. Because Scratch doesn’t require learning any complicated programming languages, even eight-year-old kids can use it.

Using the website, you can create everything from short animations to simple games. It’s intuitive, logical, and familiarizes kids with the computational thinking behind programming without overwhelming them with abstract ideas.

And if you want to get your child started even earlier, say at five-years-old, ScratchJr is the perfect learning tool. It doesn’t even require the ability to read; instead, children only need to connect together icon-based blocks to animate their characters.

Find Scratch camps & classes>>

2. Lego Robotics

Looking for a more hands-on experience for your child? Lego robotics might just be the perfect fit. Lego Mindstorms, a hardware-software platform produced by Lego for children aged 10 and up, combines the fun of Lego-building with the intellectual challenge of programming robots to walk, talk, and even think.

Calvin Grewal, a Palo Alto High School senior who interned at a startup as a web developer over the summer, thinks it’s especially great for keeping kids motivated because of the immediate results it lets them see.

“It’s a good way to make coding not so dry,” Grewal says. “Building a physical robot is definitely a lot more interesting, especially for younger kids.”

Grewal does, however, warn against having children learn robotics and coding without the proper assistance that is provided at robotics camps and classes.

“If you’re in high school then you may be able to study code on your own and be properly self-motivated,” Grewal says. “But for kids, camps are definitely better to help facilitate learning and engagement.”

Find Lego Robotics camps & classes>>

3. Game Design

Camps that teach video game design are another great option for children. Because if your kids can’t seem to peel their eyes away from their screens — be it iPads, laptops, or TV — then why not have them learn how to make a video game, themselves?

Grewal is a major proponent of game design camps, citing them as the reason for his initial interest in coding. He started over the summer in elementary school, where he was taught basic Python to develop a simple computer game. Because he was doing something he was already interested in, Grewal viewed learning something as complicated as coding as more of a fun activity rather than a school-related task.

Game design is also becoming a rapidly-growing industry. Especially with eSports on the rise, specialized software developers are needed now more than ever to help create the next bestselling video game.

Find Game Design camps & classes>>

4. School or Online Clubs

For kids that love interacting with their peers, joining a school or online coding club may offer additional benefits. While programming is often viewed as an individual activity done in solidarity, clubs encourage students with like-minded interests in coding to help each other out with tips and advice. Students often find it beneficial to have others help them troubleshoot their issues.

“It’s a good way to talk with other people who are interested,” Grewal says. “You learn from other people, who then learn from you.”

However you plan to approach coding for kids, it’s important to always keep an open mind. Because no matter how much they may like legos or game design, it’s still possible that coding just isn’t the right activity for them. But starting by gauging your child’s interest with some of these tips wouldn’t hurt, and perhaps they might just become the next tech founder.

>> Find more coding camps & classes on ActivityHero
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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
Camps Computers Featured Posts Gaming Parenting Resources Programming Uncategorized

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 http://scratch.mit.edu. 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.

Categories
Parenting Resources Science Science/Technology Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms Vacations

5 Kid-Friendly Podcasts for Road Trips






happy child on a road trip

Planning a summer road trip? These 5 podcasts can help keep curious kids entertained.

By Wendy Chou

Your bags are packed, the kids are strapped in, and you’ve hit the open road. As parents, we know all too well that having the right entertainment for a long car trip can make the difference between happy kids and hysterical ones. Whereas we used to have to spin the radio dial or organize our CD collections, smartphones can now fit hours of audio right in the palm of your hand. Podcasts just may be the best thing to happen to road trips since the cup holder. Best of all, more podcasts have come out that especially appeal to kids by offering engaging–and even educational–content. With topics ranging from self-empowerment to science, even adults might learn a thing or two while listening!

Start by Creating a Playlist

If you’re new to podcasts, you’ll need to use a podcast app to help you search for podcasts. Some popular podcast apps (also called Podcatchers) are Apple Podcasts and Instacast (both compatible with iOS), PocketCast (for Google Play, Android phones), and Stitcher (supports both platforms)

Now download your podcast to a smartphone or iPad. Both audio and video podcasts exist depending on your style.  

Download away! If you like a particular program, browse the archives and grab as many episodes as you want. They’re generally free. The only thing limiting you will be the amount of memory on your device.

A Few Caveats

Podcasts are free to listeners because they have regular sponsors who run advertisements. These ads can be off-putting to some. Another drawback to playing lots of podcasts is the danger of running down a phone battery, though with audio podcasts, this generally isn’t a big concern. If you’re worried, pack a spare source of power or plug into your car’s power source.

If you’re used to high-quality stereo sound, consider connecting your phone to an auxiliary input headphone jack, or (if available) even using a car’s Bluetooth capability to play your phone directly through your car’s speakers.

Make sure that you set up a playlist before you turn on the engine. To prevent dangerous distracted driving, only manipulate phones and other devices when you can do so safely!  

5 Recommended Podcasts for Kids

Slip on some headphones and test-drive these kid-approved audio podcasts.

Brains On! 

In every science-filled episode, host Molly Bloom is joined by a different kid co-host who helps interview scientists and field questions from kids across the country. It’s anything but textbook fare; there’s a good dose of silliness and fun. Recent topics have included the science of cooking, how paint sticks to things, and what causes allergies. My six-year-old loves to try to identify the “Mystery Sound” (stumpers submitted by kids across the country). Probably good for ages 6 – 13.

Dream Big 

Hosted by Eva Karpman, current 2nd-grader, who brings refreshing energy and positivity to the show. Eva is also accompanied by her mom, Olga, while interviewing special guests–astronauts, entrepreneurs, artists, authors, and more–and learning about their passions and their life journeys. The message of the show: follow your dreams and do what inspires you. Suitable for all ages.

Pants on Fire

If you like a game show format, try this. Kids try to figure out which adult is truly an expert and which adult is only pretending. Hosted by Debra Goldstein and a sidekick “robot”, there’s quite a bit of musical and sound accompaniment throughout to keep kids interested. The topics are very wide-ranging with something to appeal to everyone. As a concept, it’s smart, creative, and smoothly executed. Probably best for ages 6 – 11.

The Story Pirates

Welcome to storytelling with a zany vibe. The “pirates” are actually actors, comedians, improvisers, and musicians who share a lot of enthusiasm and humor. The stories they tell are written by actual kids who also get a moment in the show to talk about themselves. This is great catchy fun for any age (my kid was hooked after one episode), though if you’re looking for something more educational, there are others more suited to that.

Book Club for Kids 

This new addition to the podcast scene amassed a listenership of 300,000 kids in 2017. The format: a rotating panel of middle-schoolers chats with host Kitty Felde about fiction and non-fiction books. Their conversations encourage introspection, touch on current events, spark the imagination, and more. Each episode also features a celebrity guest reader. This podcast will appeal to older elementary school kids and middle graders who love to read; the website also has a list of books recommended by peers.

 

 

Need more ideas for your curious kid?  Here’s more great podcasts to try: Wow in the World, Pickle, ExtraBLURT, But Why, Ear Snacks, Smash Boom Best, Tumble. And also head over to our blog post on tips for screen-free travel with kids. Happy travels!

Looking for summer activities and camps? Activityhero.com is your all-in-one destination for updated schedules, parent reviews, and registration options.

About Wendy Chou

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

Categories
Computer Animation Computers Programming Robotics

The Coding Camp Gender Gap






When it comes to computer/coding summer camps, girls are much less likely to attend. Here’s why they should, and how to find a computer camp they’ll love.

By ActivityHero Staff

computing_gender_gap

Coding camps are one of the most popular categories here on ActivityHero, the leading nationwide marketplace for kids’ activities — and with good reason. As today’s kids grow up, occupations in the fields of computers and information technology will be growing right along with them. In fact, computer and IT careers are expected to grow faster than all other types of jobs, with a projected 12% job growth in these areas between now and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are high-paying jobs, with an average annual salary more than 2 times higher than the national average. So it, quite literally, pays for kids to begin exploring these areas and preparing for careers in these fields.

Even if kids are not destined for tech-centric careers they can hardly escape the impact of technology in day-to-day life. They are surrounded by grown-ups (and other kids and teens) who spend the day with a smartphone in hand, using apps and keeping up with friends on Facebook or Snapchat. Computers facilitate navigating roads, ordering dinner, and voting in elections.

With all this growth and innovation underway, it’s understandable that kids are eager to learn computer programming. Yet, when our ActivityHero team looked more closely at the registration data in recent years, we noticed something striking: In coding summer camps, boys outnumber girls 3 to 1.

Let’s Help Close the Computer Gender Gap!

While almost as many girls as boys were registered for summer camps on ActivityHero in 2017 (left pie chart), among those who signed up for coding camps, 75% were male (right).

The computer gender gap is nothing new — but what’s shocking is that it’s getting worse. Back in 1984, only 37% of computer science graduates were women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and today only 18% of computer science graduates are women.

Peggy Chang, co-founder, and CEO of ActivityHero comments, “I was really surprised to see that there are fewer women majoring in computer science than there were two decades ago. I thought that the success of internet startups and mobile apps would have brought more women into this field. Now that we see the data, we need to work extra hard to get more girls to try out a coding workshop or camp.”

Why Girls Should Try Computer Summer Camps

1. Computer summer camps are targeted at ages where girls’ interest is at risk of dropping.
Girls are plenty interested in computers when they are young: Girls Who Code reports that 66% of girls ages 6-12 express interest in computing programs. But at ages 13-17, they aren’t so keen; only 32% of these teenagers report an interest in computing. Computer summer camps are generally tailored for kids ages 8-16, so the timing is perfect to kindle a new interest — or keep the flames of an interest burning when it otherwise might wane.

2. Summer “brain drain” learning losses are real.
There’s tons of research about the impact of a long summer on kids’ learning progress. As The New York Times reported, when students don’t study math or reading over the summer months, their skill loss is measurable, and cumulative, summer after summer. But what is the effect of going all summer with no exposure to computer science or coding? And what happens to the gender gap if boys go to computer camps and girls don’t?

3. Computer summer camps are a low-risk way to explore a new interest.
Summer is a great time for kids to experiment with new interests of all types. Camps are usually only one week long, so even if a child doesn’t fall in love with the activity, it’s over in a few days. Also, most summer camps place an emphasis on fun, and they tend to include playful activities that will capture kids’ interest.

4. Computer summer camp can be a springboard to further computer education.
Many businesses that offer computer summer camps also offer after school classes and weekend workshops during the school year. So the summer camp experience serves as a trial run, and kids can look forward to taking further classes with teachers they now know and like. And if the business doesn’t offer fall and winter options? Children who enjoy a fun week at a computer camp may just be inspired to find a new teacher elsewhere, sign up for a computer class at school, or take free online classes (like Khan Academy) on their own.

How to Choose a Computer Camp for Your Daughter

1. Search ActivityHero for computer camps near you.
ActivityHero is an online marketplace of summer camps. Search by age, date, and location to find computer camps with openings that meet your needs, or see a list of all computer and tech camps.

2. Look for appropriate-leveled computer camps.
When considering a camp, check the activity description carefully. If your daughter is truly a newbie, look for camps with no prerequisites, or camps that are based on beginner-friendly learning platforms like Scratch or Tynker. If your daughter has more computer or coding experience, be sure to review the activity descriptions with her, and ask her which languages or platforms she’s most interested in: Python, C++, iOS, Raspberry Pi, HTML, Unity 3D, etc.

3. Attend computer camps just for girls.
Is your daughter unsure about attending a camp with a majority of boys? Look for girls-only computer camps, like Digital Media Academy. Tweens and teens might especially appreciate the opportunity to meet other girls who share a curiosity about computers. If there aren’t any girls-only camps near you, you can register your daughter with a friend (or two!) to make sure she won’t be the only girl.

4. Find camps that combine computing with other interests.
Maybe your daughter isn’t interested in computer coding … yet. But is she interested in another topic where coding just happens to be part of the fun? Maybe she has a passion for fashion and wearable tech? How about movie-making and 3-D animation? Or maybe digital photography and photo editing? Or how about blogging or web design? Even cracking secret codes from centuries past? Be sure to ask your daughter whether she is interested in robotics, Minecraft, or Lego building, too — there are tons of computer-oriented camps with these themes, all around the nation.

When girls spend even just a few weeks of summer learning new computing skills, there’s hope that they’ll fall in love with the fantastic puzzles they’re solving and the inventions they’re creating. And if we can start to close this gender gap — and keep young women interested through their teen years — perhaps we’ll widen the pipeline of women in computing in college and in the lucrative careers of the future.

Categories
Cooking Crafts Lego Robotics Science

Maker Activities to Make at Home






Need something entertain your kids when they’re not at school? These 8 easy, at-home maker activities will keep hands busy and minds sharp.

By the Editors of ActivityHero

Maker kid engaged in an activityWhat’s the solution for beating kids’ “brain drain” while on extended school closures? Maker activities! According to the education website Edutopia, “A Maker is an individual who communicates, collaborates, tinkers, fixes, breaks, rebuilds, and constructs projects for the world around him or her.” (It’s easy to see why the Maker philosophy has become so popular!)

Luckily, ActivityHero has a close relationship with hundreds of summer camp counselors and activity providers who know a thing or two about maker activities and where to find them. Here are a few of our editors’ favorites – and a handful of helpful websites where you can find enough ideas to last all year long.

Make Backyard Bubble Snakes

Here’s a quick and easy project from Come Together Kids. All you need is a few supplies you likely have around the house … and a few kids who love bubbles. Gather up an old washcloth, a plastic water bottle, a large rubber band, and some bubble solution. The instructions to assemble the bubble snake maker are on the Come Together Kids site, along with two recipes for homemade bubbles, which will come in handy on days when you run out of the store-bought stuff.

Think Inside the Box – delivered to your home!

Kiwi Crate - Kites

Here’s a clever solution for those weeks when you can’t make it to the craft store: Sign up for a monthly subscription to Kiwi Crate. This company delivers – directly to your home – everything you need to “tinker, create, and innovate.” Each Kiwi Crate is chock-full of high-quality materials, kid-friendly instructions, a maker project, and a special magazine, all designed for ages 5 to 8. For ages 9 to 16+, the site also offers Doodle Crates (for art enthusiasts) and Tinker Crates (for STEM subject fans). Preschoolers (ages 3 and 4) can enjoy playful fun with a Koala Crate, which includes a parent guide to support “inquiry-based learning,” a magazine, and plenty of creative activities.

Save 30% on your 1st month when you subscribe to Kiwi Crate today >>

Create an Ivory Soap Explosion

Here’s a squeaky-clean indoor activity from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas. All you need is a bar of Ivory soap and a microwave. Follow the instructions carefully, using just one-third or one-quarter of the bar; if you toss in the whole bar, your soap blob will grow to mammoth proportions. Also allow the “soap cloud” to cool for a bit and test the temperature yourself before letting kids touch it. Then check out the website for some fun things to do with the fluffy soap after ooh-ing and ahh-ing over its expansion. Sudsy snowballs anyone?

Build a Brushbot

You may be familiar with Science Buddies as a resource for winning science-fair project ideas, kits, and guides. It’s also a great place to find summer projects like this brushbot, which was created by a Ph.D., and includes a materials list, complete instructions, and ideas for ways to “explore more” once the project is complete. Take a look at their “Awesome Science for Summer Break!” page for more cool ideas, including how to make a paper speaker, build a mini trebuchet, and generate electricity with a lemon battery. Complete kits for projects like these are also available at the Science Buddies online store.

Cool Off with Ice Cream in a Bag

On Growing a Jeweled Rose, ideas abound for parents searching for ways to help kids play, learn, and grow. Their offerings include plenty of “play recipes,” which is delicious fun for kids who love to spend time in the kitchen. One of our favorites during warm weather is Ice Cream in a Bag! Even very little children can help make this concoction using heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar. (You’ll also need salt and ice cubes, but those don’t go in the creamy mixture.) After the project is put together, it takes 5 to 10 minutes of shaking to create an ice creamy treat, which means your children will use up some of that kid energy. View their 100+ Play Recipes right here.

Create Wind-Powered Lego Contraptions

On Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls, Lego projects abound – in fact, there’s a whole section that includes activities and projects using these colorful bricks. The Lego windmill shown here requires a few special bricks and a couple of minutes to assemble, but your kids can create their own options using whatever Lego bricks they have on hand. (Be sure you supervise them when using a fan.) Click on the site’s LEGOS tab for Lego engineering ideas using pulleys, a Lego matching game, and a Lego Minifigure display.

Other tabs lead you to activities for babies and kids of all ages, family fun, homeschooling, seasonal projects, and even a special section to help you organize toys and clean up after projects … in a fun but frugal way.

Bake Some Movie Night Cupcakes

If you’d prefer to do your “making” in the kitchen, why not have some creative baking kits and mixes delivered to your home? Visit Foodstirs, a website created by Sarah Michelle Gellar and two of her closest friends. We unanimously voted two thumbs up on the Movie Night Cupcake Kit – for a fun twist to your standard movie night snacks. To learn where the delicious idea for Foodstirs originated, read the interview ActivityHero snagged with Sarah Michelle when she wasn’t busy cooking up a storm.

Earn Patches for All Sorts of Projects

If your kids love a little extra incentive, consider joining DIY, an ad-free website designed to be “The School We Wish We Had.” This website provides thousands of activities for kids and is a safe, supportive online learning community with 99.7% kind comments in its posts. Try it free for 14 days!

On this site, kids can explore new skills or increase their proficiency in activities they love. They can take part in a challenge, receive feedback from other kids, and earn patches for their work. Many of them also share photos or videos of their accomplishments (with parental permission and using an avatar), and other kids can turn to them for inspiration. Along the way, staff mentors offer help and encouragement when needed, and parents can access reports to see what DIY activities their kids are trying.

Trending topics include a daily challenge, science, Lego, Minecraft, and stopmotion. To join the community, visit DIY.org or download the app on your iPhone or iPad.

Find Maker Camps & Workshops Near You >>

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.”

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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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Categories
Computer Animation Computers Programming

Put Coding Camps on Your Kids’ Must-Do List






Our kids are growing up in a digital world. Here’s why a coding or programming camp can help them get ahead — and how to find one they’ll love.

children learning to program computers at camp

Attend any college open house, and you’ll hear plenty of talk about the careers of the future. The common theme? Today’s high school kids need an education that will prepare them for jobs that already exist, but even more so they will need to be ready to step into jobs that haven’t been dreamed up yet. If that’s the case for kids in their late teens, it will be even more of an issue for those who haven’t left middle school yet. That’s why Mallika Thoppay, founder of TechSmart Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area, says that all kids — even those who aren’t really interested in coding or programming — may benefit from trying a coding camp at least once in their lifetime.

“Technology is playing a huge role in our lives,” she says. “The child is using apps on their phone, playing video games, visiting websites. They’re doing these, even if they’re not a technology-oriented child. These camps give them an idea of what goes on behind the scenes to make these apps, games, and websites look and work the way they do.”

Even if your child finds that they don’t want to make a career of programming, they may develop a peripheral or related interest. For instance, they may want to explore digital art or graphic design. They might try digital editing of music or video. Or they may want to conceptualize game characters or design the story and structure of the levels. Whatever you do, don’t wait until your child is shopping around for college to start them exploring! “There are so many careers that span off of programming,” says Mallika. “It’s important for every child to get a taste of it, and then decide if it is something they want to do.”

Bay Area parents can check out TechSmart Academy, which provides summer coding camps, after school enrichment programs, and programming workshops to children of all ages in subjects that include (but aren’t limited to) game programming, app development, web design, and understanding of algorithms and program logic. Recently ActivityHero asked Mallika a few questions to help all parents make a good choice for their child’s first computer camp experience. Here are a few things to think about when comparing coding camps near you.

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What programming language should my child learn?

What they choose as their first language is based more on the age of the child. For younger kids, obviously a better choice would be something that requires less typing and uses more “drag and drop” features, which allow kids to select commands from a menu of programming options (rather than typing instructions in code). Scratch is definitely the best program for these kids. It helps them think algorithmically, which will prepare them for more complicated programming later on.

If your child is 10 or older, even if they haven’t done any programming, they shouldn’t have to start with Scratch. They should be able to enroll in a program that teaches Java or Python. Python requires less typing, so that may help you make a selection that best suits your child.

At TechSmart Academy, most of the audience we teach is higher elementary and middle school. These kids need a lot of visual stimulation. We teach programming fundamentals such as use of conditional structures (if-then statements) and iterative statements (loops) and also core concepts such as object-oriented programming. The kids can then apply these to more-complex programs as they move into high school.

What should I ask when choosing a coding camp?

Parents may want to find out what will be included in the curriculum each day and what the child will be able to do by the end of the camp. This can help you ensure that your child will not be under-challenged or overwhelmed. If they are taking a web design camp at TechSmart Academy, they will build a website by the end of the camp. They will begin by using drag and drop, creating something that looks cool visually. But they also will learn what actually goes into making the site look like that. We talk about html and Java script so they will learn the coding that goes behind the drag and drop tools to power those technologies. A camp director or instructor should be able to explain the camp’s goals in terms like these, which can give you and your child a better idea of what will be offered and whether it is a good fit for them.

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How do kids coding camps differ from classes and workshops for adults?

We strongly believe that the curriculum needs to be delivered in a way that makes kids want to learn. Our programs are extremely kid-centric. A child learns differently from an adult. Ultimately we want a child to want to return to camp — not just because the parents signed them up for it.

What makes for a great instructor at a coding or tech camp?

It’s important that an instructor has technical expertise in what’s being taught, but beyond that, we look for someone who is patient when working with kids. Ultimately what happens is you go through instructions, and the kids will ask, “What was that again?” They do that over and over. That’s how they learn. You need to be patient when explaining concepts, and sometimes you need to explain them in a different manner. A good instructor also needs to know when to hold a child’s hand and when to let go and let the child handle it, so as to allow the child to figure things out. And the instructor should make learning fun and engaging so the kids will be excited to come back the next day … and next year.

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Programming

11 Movies, Books, Shows & Apps for Kids Who Code






If your kids are interested in computer programming, here’s a list of books, movies, apps, and TV shows they might enjoy.

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeed

Would your child rather build their own game than play the ones they already have? Computer programming has become increasingly popular among today’s youngest generations. Even a kindergartner can start to learn how to code! Here are a variety of apps that not only explain what coding is, but they make it easy and fun to learn simple coding steps. More advanced concepts are also just a click away. Want your kids to step away from the nuts-and-bolts (or zeroes and ones) of coding for a while? Here are a few books, TV shows and movies that will engage your junior programmer!

Books for Kids Who Love Coding and Programming

Coding GamesCoding Games in Scratch
Ages 8+
If your child has ever wanted to learn to code and create their own game, this is a great resource. It’s filled with essential coding terminology and step-by-step instructions to code a variety of simple games. It also finishes up with extra projects for more advanced users.

Secret CodersSecret Coders
Ages 8+
This graphic novel, the first in a series, introduces the basics of coding and logic, combined with a mystery that takes place in a school. Solving puzzles and cracking school secrets are part of the fun.

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Apps for Kids Who Love Coding and Programming

LightbotLightbot Jr.
Ages 4+
Moving the robot through a puzzle using four different commands is the goal of this app. The colorful interface is appealing to younger kids, who will gain an understanding of basic programming logic as they play.

KodableKodable Pro
Ages 5+
This app is just right for slowly easing younger kids into programming concepts. It is easy to learn, with lots of fun visual effects.

ScratchScratchJr
Ages 6+
Developed for kindergarteners by a team at MIT, this app is a great introduction to visual programming. Adult help will be needed at first for explaining the instructions. After that, creating an animated story or game will be within reach.

GoldibloxGoldieblox: Adventures in Coding – The Rocket Cupcake Co.
Ages 7+
This visual coding game, aimed especially at girls, uses an adventure story to drive the coding process. There are also puzzles and videos to further the learning and creativity that really enhance the app.

SwiftSwift Playgrounds
Ages 10+
This new iPad-only app is a great introduction to coding in the Swift language. As kids work through the exercises and challenges, they can even learn enough to build their own app!

Cargo-BotCargo-Bot
Ages 10+
This programming app is designed to be a bit more challenging. It encourages logical thinking by awarding more points for the most direct solution to each puzzle. There are several levels, and unlimited tries to solve a puzzle.

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A Movie for Kids Who Love Coding and Programming

CodeGirlCodeGirl
Ages 10+
An international technology competition for teen girls is the focus of this documentary. The challenge: identifying a social problem, developing a business plan, and then coding an app to help solve that problem. Girls work hard to compete, better themselves, and in turn, improve the world they live in.

TV Shows for Kids Who Love Coding and Programming

AnnedroidsAnnedroids
Ages 5+
Anne, a tween science genius whose specialties are robotics and programming, is the heart of this excellent show. In each episode, she and her friends wonder, test, and yes, make mistakes, while exploring new discoveries surrounding a particular scientific concept.

Project Mc2Project Mc2
Ages 7+
This Netflix series imagines four teen girls as secret agents, each equipped with special science knowledge, including chemistry and programming. They use their intelligence, gadgets, and teamwork to problem-solve and change the world for the better.

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Computers Digital Media Gaming Overnight/Travel Programming Tutoring

Smart Sites That Boost Kids’ Brainpower






Worried about the time your children spend online? Steer them toward these websites, which can help them explore new interests and expand their knowledge.

By Anita Sharma

girl-at-computer
Kids today are spending more and more time on their computers, TVs, tablets, and smartphones. That’s not exactly news to parents, who have spent years agonizing over how much screen time is okay. What is news? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently changed their policy on screen time. Though they once deemed two hours to be the recommended upper limit for older kids (and zero hours as ideal for children age 2 or younger), their approach today is more “nuanced.” According to a recent Forbes.com article by Jordan Shapiro, the AAP’s new message, at least in part, is that quality is more important than quantity. One of their new guidelines, in fact, reads: “Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.” You can almost hear parents everywhere giving a collective sigh of relief.

Of course, this doesn’t give us carte blanche to sit glued to a screen all day (read Shapiro’s complete article for more detailed recommendations). What it does mean? We can feel better about the time our kids do spend on this new media if we’re more selective about what they view. To that end, ActivityHero offers this peek at some quality websites that children can use to expand their world, explore potential career paths, and elevate their education.

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Sites That Help Kids Excel in School

There are so many websites that can help children with their education. Whether your child wants to get ahead, review previous subject matter, or solidify concepts they’re learning in school, Khan Academy is a great place to start — and it’s completely free. Information is conveyed through videos, which are developed and written by experienced educators. These videos — many of which are still made by the company’s founder Sal Khan — are generally 3 to 15 minutes long and break down each topic into smaller lessons, which helps students understand one concept at a time without feeling overwhelmed. Khan Academy also provides other visual aides such as pictures, maps, and diagrams to help boost students’ understanding. This site focuses mainly on math for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. However, it also offers some content in other popular subjects such as computer science, history, music, and science.

Sites for One-on-One Help

When school class sizes are usually 20 or more kids per teacher, individualized instruction from a private tutor might give your child the extra help they need. Wyzant helps families find a tutor for math, English, or any other subject. Tutors are local or can meet online. The tutors set their own price, and Wyzant says the first session is free if you don’t like it.

Other tutoring websites specialize in only one subject. An example of this is PandaTree, which offers personalized tutoring in foreign languages via video chat sessions. The tutors, many of whom are foreign language instructors or professional educators, personalize each session to make sure that students have fun while they learn. Parents can choose the session duration (25 or 50 minutes), as well as which tutor they believe is best for their child. Students may change tutors at any time; in fact, it’s encouraged. According to the website, “Getting comfortable having conversations with lots of different people is great preparation for real life.” Each session costs $25 to $45, but PandaTree also offers package deals, which allow parents to purchase 3 to 40 sessions at once.

Sites That Teach Kids to Code

According to Business Insider, more people on our planet have a mobile phone than electricity, safe drinking water, and bank accounts. Learning to code can give your kids an edge in this high-tech world, since coders are in demand everywhere and will continue to be in the future.

To help them get started, the website Tynker offers introductory computer science courses for students who are 7 to 14 years of age. Here, students learn how to code through video games that they play on the site. (One scavenger hunt features characters from the Monster High series.) Gamers select blocks with actions on them such as “walk” or “mind control” to dictate what a character should do during each round. In order to complete a level, gamers have to use the correct amount of each block in the correct order. The Parent Dashboard gives you a window into what your child has learned, as well as the projects they have completed, and kids have lifelong access to each course that’s purchased. Tynker offers several pay plans: the Yearly Plan, the Quarterly Plan, and a Family Plan for households with two or more kids. Costs range from $6 to $9 per month.

Another great coding website is Youth Digital, which offers online courses in video game and app design, as well as some unique subjects, such as 3D animation and fashion design. Students can online-chat with instructors to ask questions and make sure they understand the material. All of the instructors have teaching experience and are passionate about working with students. Kids can proceed at their own pace since they are given a full year to complete their chosen course. These courses are designed for children 8 to 14 years of age and range from $74 to $250 each.

kid and grandpa checking out websites

Sites That Help Kids Explore the World

Plenty of websites today help self-motivated children follow their passions and explore more of the world around them. One example is Jam, which offers courses in careers that kids might want to pursue. Subjects reach beyond traditional school curriculum to include subjects such as cooking, singing, illustrating, inventing, and animating. Students learn from professionals who are up-and-coming in their field, and they can interact with other kids online, complementing (and learning from) each other. A mentor team ensures that students are on track and provides regular feedback on their work. A year of access to 20 “quests” costs $99.

Our global economy also means that fluency in more than one language can open doors to more career opportunities for your child. Conjuguemos is a website that offers free instruction in French, German, Italian, Korean, Latin, Portuguese, and Spanish. Created by textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, this site offers printable worksheets on verbs, vocabulary, and grammar, as well as games and graded practice sessions to evaluate their progress. Users can test listening comprehension by playing videos and writing out the words that they hear. Their efforts are graded right away, providing the student with instant feedback on what they need to review. Students can also track their overall progress by making an account on the site.

Another site that can prepare kids for life beyond their own borders is Kids World Travel Guide, which provides information about other locations and cultures and can help families prepare for upcoming trips. This site goes beyond listing facts and figures, helping kids explore other countries’ cultures through descriptions and photos of local wildlife, food, holidays, and more. The team that created this site includes young writers and travelers, and it’s headed up by travel-savvy adults who have lived on multiple continents. Kids World Travel Guide is based in Cape Town/South Africa, but their menu of 15 countries includes familiar locations like Germany and Spain, as well as some surprises like Qatar and Mauritius. You’ll also find tabs for trivia and quizzes, fun facts, travel tips, and games, including ones to play when traveling in a car.

Last, everyone in your family (you, too!) should take a few minutes to peruse the offerings on Masterclass, a website where people of any age can learn from celebrities who are tops in their field. For example, students can take a singing class from Christina Aguilera or a writing class from James Patterson. Each $90 course includes video content from the celebrity instructor, along with a workbook, interactive assignments, and community activities. Enrollment provides students with lifetime access to the course materials, so students can proceed at their own pace; however, the workbook does provide a recommended pace for completion, which can help students motivated and on track.

Editor’s note: All prices and information are accurate as of August 2016. Please check the actual websites for current pricing and details.

Take Kids’ Interests to the Next (Local) Level!

The web is a great place to start when trying to find some new hobbies, interests, and activities for your kids. Once they’ve hooked into a new subject matter or discovered a hidden talent, it’s time to search ActivityHero for in-person instruction provided by talented educators and program directors who live and work right in your own “backyard.”

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Categories
Computers

Code Like a Girl: Female-Friendly Computer Classes






Does your daughter love STEM subjects? Enrolling her in a computer coding class may preserve her confidence. Here’s how to find one she’ll love.

By Laura Quaglio and Reesa Lewandowski

Code Like a Girl: Female-Friendly Computer Classes

Many young girls who love STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects may wind up abandoning these interests before high school or college, according to a recent study from Florida State University. That’s a shame, because it means that many highly-intelligent women are not bringing their talents to bear in these fields—ones that typically offer excellent job security and higher-than-average salaries.

The study reveals that part of the problem lies in a tendency among high-school girls to underrate their abilities in subjects like math, which may lead them to pursue other interests instead. “I think the real issue, which research supports, is that girls need extra encouragement regarding STEM interests,” says Jessie Arora, Founder and CEO of Embark Labs, a company that is dedicated to inspiring diversity in the field of computer science. And the sooner the better: Arora says that she sees girls begin to drift away from their STEM-related interests as early as fifth or sixth grade.

“Parental support is vitally important to children, regardless of the content area,” adds Arora. One way to champion their efforts? By helping kids find classes and camps that will invite them to explore these (and other) areas of interest. “I would encourage parents to introduce their children, both boys and girls, to a variety of STEM-related activities at various points in their lives,” says Arora. “The more exposure to different learning opportunities kids receive, the more likely they are to find the right fit for them.” Computer science, she adds, is a good subject for every child to explore at some point. “At Embark Labs, we believe computer science is the ideal vehicle to teach kids how to think, focusing on creative problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,” she says.

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Here, Arora offers a few suggestions of what to look for when shopping around for a computer science class or coding camp.

Find a Program That’s Engaging

If you pay a visit to the classroom, you shouldn’t see kids just staring at computer screens, says Arora. This approach can become dull, and it doesn’t help students understand how science and technology relate to the world outside the classroom. “Engaging programs give kids a chance to build something that they are interested in,” she adds. “We’ve seen equal enrollment of boys and girls in our programs, which we attribute to our project-based, student-centered approach.”

Ask About Learning Goals

Before signing up, request an overview of the curriculum and the materials that will be used, such as programming tools. Also find out what tasks the students will be performing, and what projects they will tackle. “Look beyond the buzzwords,” advises Arora. “Ask what the learning goals are. What will your child be able to do after the program is over? What do the instructors hope the students will take away from their experience?”
Inquire About the Approach

Teamwork and problem-solving both hold a strong appeal for girls. “As we’ve seen with Embark Labs, the more that computer science programs focus on problem-solving and working in collaborative teams, the more girls will participate in—and enjoy—their experiences.” Again, the program’s director should be able to tell you if these components exist within their curriculum.

Find the Right Level

You might think it’s best to put your child in a program based on her grade level or age, but that’s not always the case. “Often times, students fall across developmental stages, rather than right at their age, so being in a mixed-age group is better,” says Arora. “If possible, look for programs with an age range, such as 7 to 10 year olds or middle school students.” Also remember that it’s never too late—or early—to begin. There are some great kindergarten-level STEM programs that work on skills such as logical thinking, patterns, and sequencing, which form the foundation of computer programming.

Continue to Support Girls’ STEM Interests at Home

On November 1, 2015, a new documentary called CODEGIRL is being released. It follows the journeys of a number of real high-school girls who are competing internationally to develop meaningful and useful apps (codegirlmovie.com). Set up a time to watch this with your daughter, and do some additional research on women who are currently successful in STEM careers. This gives you some great face-time with your child, shows your support of her interests, and provides role models to inspire your daughter to pursue her dreams.

“Girls showing other girls that they can be successful in STEM fields in extremely influential,” adds Arora. “At Embark Labs, our goal is to inspire the future generation of innovators and creators. We hope that in the future, women will be more equally represented in all fields, not just STEM.”

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