Robots, Space Camp, Minecraft…oh my! If you have a little scientist at home we have the perfect science and technology activities to keep them inspired and engaged after school and all summer long. Check out the camps and classes offered in your area! https://www.activityhero.com/classes-camps/science-technology
Here are a few great ways to validate the importance of camp during winter break. Make your dreams of attending a meeting or cooking dinner without interruptions come true too!
As a parent of two active boys, ages 6 and 8, I frequently consider adding “Rambunctious” and “ER” to their middle names. Needless to say, most school breaks create a sense of panic on how to keep them engaged and our home, now workspace zen.
With winter break around the corner, my survival mom goal is to end the year without any trips to the emergency room while my more thoughtful mom instincts urge me to make use of the time for learning experiences that the boys don’t get in the classroom.
In pre-pandemic times, learning loss was mainly associated with the summer slide. Since the 2020 lockdown, helping kids catch up from the extended school closures has been both challenging and real for many families.
“We now share assessment data from this fall, which show that students, on average, started school about three months behind where we would expect them to be in mathematics. The picture for reading is more positive, with students starting school just a month and a half behind historical averages.”
McKinsey & Company’s “COVID-19 and Learning Loss”
You’ve seen your kids progress reports at this point, and hopefully they are doing ok. Winter is the second longest break after summer so it’s a good time to start closing any gaps with activities. Now’s the time to start supporting ongoing academic learning and social emotional development.
Learning doesn’t always require a textbook and worksheets. Exploring new experiences generally facilitates brain building, whether it’s concentrated in academics or enrichment.
2. Bring Home Thoughtful Holiday Gifts Created at Camp
Multi-task. Sign your kids up for Art, S.T.E.M. or Cooking classes that produce holiday gifts for loved ones. Playing is learning! Your kids get to experience a fun activity while acquiring new skills, you have one less person to shop for and you get a few hours of time to yourself. That’s a triple win.
Personally, this is one of my favorite options for winter camp. In past years, my older son enjoyed a jewelry making camp that produced necklaces with real clasps that were gifted to his two grandmas. My younger son did an art camp that generated many rolls of “abstract” paintings, perfect for gift wrap.
3. Convert High Energy Kids to Tired Kids
The benefit of living in California during winter is that our version of cold (50°-60°F) is the rest of the country’s idea of perfect weather. Explore a new sport or revisit an old favorite to keep your house from looking like an indoor tornado recently visited.
Invite your kid’s besties, so it becomes a play date and you can just drop them off. Your kids will have the opportunity to make new friends, too.
This upcoming winter break, we searched for camps that could help the kids stay active and outside. Their current interests are soccer and basketball, so finding a place that returns them to us tired was the only other prerequisite.
4. Find COVID Conservative Support
For families who remain at home, creating your own personalized camp has never been easier! Attend live Online and On-Demand activities from anywhere. There are academic classes to help with tutoring support. There’s also really fun opportunities to just attend a virtual dance party, music or Minecraft classes. Mix and match the options to your kid’s interests.
This is also a great way for COVID Conservative friends to stay connected with friends both near and far that they haven’t been able to see in person.
5. Give Yourself a Break
At the height of the pandemic, I was on a video call for work while my kids were quietly playing amongst themselves. It all seemed so normal, until the staircase in my background was suddenly filled with a river of stuffed animals rolling downward. A “rain” of Nerf ammo followed for the dramatic conclusion. Every parent at home working remotely with kids during this time has a version of this story. While it is hilarious now, it’s also not something we want to relive.
Do you need to coordinate camps and carpools with friends? Juggling a camp schedule with multiple children is like playing a real life game of Tetris. Save time and plan the ultimate camp experience on ActivityHero with your child’s classmates, teammates, and neighbors with the ‘Invite Friends” feature!
Discover more kid-approved camp options now enrolling for winter camps and classes at ActivityHero, a marketplace of offerings near you in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Orange County. Plus, earn bonus reward points when you download ActivityHero’s iOS app for faster and easier searching!
Written by Tabetha Chau, a mom of two boisterous kiddos in Oakland. She helps out on the ActivityHero marketing team. In her spare time, she also catches Pokémon and tries to learn Mandarin with her family.
Celebrate National Video Games Day on September 12th. While the date and origin of this holiday are unclear, many Americans have decided to designate this day for video games. Why pass up the opportunity to celebrate with them? Here are three ways to enjoy honor this holiday.
Play from home.
Take a cue from gamers all over the world in 2020. Last year, millions turned to video games to have fun and stay connected during the pandemic. According to MarketWatch, video games became a bigger industry than film and North American sports combined due to the pandemic.1
While video games are now dominated by at-home gaming consoles like the XBox or Playstation, now is a great time to revisit the classics. Gather friends and visit an arcade to bask in the nostalgia of timeless games like Pac-man, Space Invaders, and Pong.
Create with your favorite video games.
Games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Animal Crossing have exploded again in popularity this year. These games all have something in common: the creative element. Within these games, players have the freedom to create their own mini-games, whether it’s roleplaying, designing your own worlds, or even coding your own add-ons. Collaborate with other players to use video games as a creative outlet, or even learn to code your own games!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.*
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finding coding and programming courses that teach kids Python or Java can be overwhelming. Use these expert tips to pick the best coding camp to fit your kid’s needs.
Technology continues to impact the world at an incredibly rapid pace. Nowadays, parents are regularly challenged with finding ways to broaden their kids knowledge of 21st century skills. Beyond entertaining young gamers, programming languages introduce kids to the building blocks for future careers. If your kids have any interest in technology or gaming, then coding camp is an option worth exploring.
1. Ask Questions
Coding for kids is not something that can be mastered in a week. It’s a process that kids build upon with practice and experience over time.
What is the age and skill level of my kid?
Can my kid type easily?
Who are the instructors?
What is the camp schedule?
What will my kid be learning?
2. Know the Different Types of Code
With so many variations of code and camps to choose from, here’s a quick rundown on the benefits of each.
Scratch Coding Camps
Scratch code learning focuses on ensuring kids understand basic computer programming concepts. The drag-and-drop format of Scratch doesn’t require advanced typing skills. It’s best suited for kids in early elementary school who are new to coding. Games and animations are easily created with ready-made blocks of code to build scripts. Scratch projects encourage creativity, reasoning and problem-solving skills. More advanced Scratch coding camps layer on previous experience for kids to develop more realistic and customized games.
Minecraft Camps & Java Camps
Minecraft camps are great for grade school kids who love to play the game and want to learn the fundamentals of creating fun mods. Core Computer Science Skills, 3D Modeling and Texture Mapping Techniques are taught at these camps.
If your kid is an experienced Minecraft user, consider trying a more advanced camp where they can create a custom game experience using Java. Java is widely used programming language for students interested in understanding more about app development. Java camps are also frequently paired with Minecraft and Python.
Python Coding Camps
Python is a popular, all-purpose language used in real-world applications; web and software development. The lines of code are shorter and simpler than other languages, making it easier for kids to learn Python. It’s a good language to learn after Scratch because kids don’t need previous experience if they want to skip to an introductory Python camp.
While some Python camps are available for kids starting in 4th grade, most support middle school aged kids. The ability to type is beneficial for those starting to learn how to code at a more accelerated level.
Web Design Camps
Video Game Design Camps
App Development Camps
Mobile app programming for kids is fun because they are so present in our daily lives. From listening to music to watching silly videos, apps are everywhere. In App Development Camp, third grade students (and older) learn the basics of mobile programming from layout to coding the active components.
Inspired by the online gaming system where users create avatars and play games in user-generated 3D worlds? Register for Roblox Camp. Since users don’t need a strong foundation in coding to make a game, Roblox appeals to a wide age range. Younger campers use the built-in Roblox Studio to cultivate 3D worlds without the need for text-based code. More advanced users access the popular LUA coding language for game actions, elements and mechanics. Kids work to publish and share their game to the Roblox community by the end of camp.
3. Explore Every Option
Now that you’ve assessed your kid’s age and prior programming experience, check out coding camp options for your family on ActivityHero.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
What’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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Games in Scratch
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.
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.
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.
This app is just right for slowly easing younger kids into programming concepts. It is easy to learn, with lots of fun visual effects.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.