ActivityHero Parent Power is a new series dedicated to helping you discover smart solutions to finding kid activities. Whether you are in need of seasonal camps, after-school programs, or academic tutoring we are here to help you stay informed on all things kid activity-related.
In this episode, we will talk about science camps, from a variety of STEM topics to the terrific skill set that your kids can learn from attending a science camp. Joining the episode is Nina Conway from Destination Science, a leading STEM camp provider for elementary school kids.
We love Destination Science on ActivityHero because they believe “Science is a Way of Thinking!” When we know how to “do” science, we know how to be creative, critical, and organized thinkers and problem solvers.
Parents love that Destination Science’s fun-filled programs make positive, powerful differences in their children! Their programs are meticulously designed to use fun science as a tool to grow terrific skills for everyday life, including:
PERSISTENCE, COOPERATION, CREATIVITY AND ESPECIALLY…CURIOSITY!
You can check out Destination Science’s current summer camp offerings on Activityhero.com
Curated by ActivityHero families in your community, here are the most popular go-to online and in-person programs in support of your child’s learning (and your sanity) while school’s out. It’s also just a great opportunity to open their minds to new interests and build skills outside of the traditional classroom walls.
Top 5 In-Person Camps
Learn about horses. From grooming and feeding to bathing and even horse first aid! You’ll find out interesting facts about the history, evolution and anatomy of the horse while picking up some horse lingo, caring for and riding the horse you’ll have throughout the session at Horse Camp.
Imagine a camp that gets away from the brick and mortar limits and gives your child a
world of possibilities. Coyote Kids Adventure Camp encourages outdoor and nature play. With incredibly small ratios and the best caregivers, they treat campers more like family than just standard childcare.
Get ready to discover the magical high desert landscape of Sedona and a Secret Mountain Wilderness Adventure! Spend your nights backpacking in stunning red rock canyons, kayak the Verde River, hike to incredible caves, and cool off in spring fed swimming holes.
All Day Soccer Play
This full-day program is filled with developmental practices, games, competitions and challenges. Challenger Sports’ soccer camp is more advanced and geared toward players looking for a more competitive training environment.
The Hiller Aviation Museum hosts a collection of some 50 different historic aircraft.
Public and private museum admission, and programs for BSA Scouts and Girl Scouts, are offered periodically throughout the year.
Top 5 Online Programs
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein’s words are the backbone of every
Camp Cosmo class, whether its focus is academic, artistic, physical, or social. This program is designed to inspire critical thinking, creative thought and social connections through play.
Choreography by Rae was founded as a way to help people of all ages amplify their voice through movement. Their motto is anyone can dance, even if you have two left feet. This supportive and inclusive environment provides students with an opportunity to develop a foundation in: Acting, Art History, Culture, Dance (Ballet, Hip Hop, Latin, Jazz), Storytelling, Singing, and more!
Computer Kids Club is a computer science & academic program of typing, coding, design, math and engineering. Your child will be engaged in activities all while learning the importance of the computer and how it will help them through their school years ahead and eventually in a computer science related field.
The LA School of Music offers fun and engaging music lessons and classes on piano, voice, and guitar to name a few. All music teachers are professionals with at least a Bachelor of Music. Most have a Master of Music degree. This is a special group of teachers who have been vetted through a competitive interview process for expertise, as well as creativity and fun personality.
Young Art believes in passion, creativity, and the power of education. Their team is committed to inspiring the next generation of young inventors, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs to be bold innovators by providing creative and enriching experiences through hands-on learning. Families are able to select from a variety of classes with modalities including clay sculpture, digital animation, acrylic painting and pencil sketching.
What to Expect When Thinking for Your Child’s First Camp Experience
ActivityHero Parent Power is a new series dedicated to helping you discover smart solutions to finding kid activities. Whether you are in need of seasonal camps, after-school programs, or academic tutoring we are here to help you stay informed on all things kid activity-related.
In this episode we will talk about first time campers 101: what to consider when thinking about introducing your child to their first camp experience. Our guest for this interview is Courtney Cimoli. She is the chief operating officer of Camp Edmo, the leading camp provider in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento regions of California with a multitude of school year programs and 32 on-site summer camp locations.
One of the reasons why we love Camp Edmo at ActivityHero is because they collaborate with leaders in the fields of Science, Maker Education and Social Emotional Learning to design a well rounded and diverse curriculum for their programs.
Q: How do I know if my child is ready for summer camp?
A: All camps have different guidelines around that. for EDMO, they need to be potty trained and at least 4-years old. Any camp you are looking at, verify what age do they start at and what are the parameters that you child needs to meet to be able to join the camp. From there, once they are starting to develop curiosity over different theme areas, if there’s something they are excited about and can get engaged about, that’s the time for camp. If you notice they love dinosaurs, try dino-science camp to match it off of something they really enjoy. In general, if they love hands-on activities, this is a great time for them to start camp. It’s really great when you can do those DIY things at home with them but it’s a whole other level when they can get in there and experience with other kids, other adults, and counselors. Another thing to note, there is a little bit for every personality type. So you might think “my child is really outgoing! they are ready!” but camp is great for the more reserved campers too. It’s a place to practice those skills. They are going to have to be outside the home and practice [social] skills.
This is an environment where they don’t have to, they get to. For myself, I was that really great place for me where I got to go out and practice my social skill building. I got to be in new environments, in a way that was really engaging and exciting. [Camp] is great for all types of kids.
Q: What types of camps are best for a first-time camper? Should I pick something more general, like all-sports or all-fun? Or should I go for something more specialized?
A: It depends on your kid. Are they really motivated by a particular thing and want to attend a specialized camp? Some kids need more of a general interest level, they are both great. Both camps have awesome benefits. One thing I would pay attention to, regardless of if it’s general-interest or specialized is, “whats the additional stuff to their curriculum?”. Even if it’s specialized, there should be other aspects of the camp day. You want them to be singing songs, performing skits, having outdoor game time, having some sort of SEL or social skill bulding session where they are learning traits such as responsibility and initiative. So whether it’s a general-interest theme or specialized theme, make sure you’re getting a well-rounded package. That’s what is going to really engage your child and get the best out of camp.
Q: Do you have a lot for campers that take the same camp or type of camp for multiple weeks in the summer? Is it better to have a longer time frame for first-time campers?
A: I would recommend, picking a camp and sticking with one or two. Floating them to a different camp every week can sometimes make it difficult for them to get established when they are really just learning what camp is. Camp involves so much culture. You show up, you go here for your rally in the morning, you learn where your boundaries are, when you’re relearning that every week at a different camp in addition to getting used to the atmosphere of camp in general, that can be really overwhelming.
I recommend a camp that offers a variety of themes, so they can mix it up each week. So they can mix it up, but still attend the same camp. At EDMO, they can attend the whole summer but do a different theme each week. So you’re doing this over arching convept of maker or science but you’re doing other themes each week so they can stay really engaged. But the general outline and structure of the day is the same so that can really help them get settled in.
Kids come for 6, 8, 10 weeks and by the end, that’s their home. They end up helping new campers get involved.
Q: Should I register for camp with siblings or friends?
A: For siblings, unless they are really close in age and depending on how the camp does grouping, they will likely be separated. Make it easy on yourself, do one drop off and one pick-up, especially if the camp have a vareity of offerings, like EDMO does. So your kids can have very different interests but still find something engaging.
Coming with friends can be great, it can help them feel comfortable from the minute they get there, especially if your child is a little more reserved and needs that extra support. However, they don’t need to. Make sure that the camp you are signing up for is ready with techniques to help them get engaged, make new friends, at EDMO, the first thing we do Monday morning is you meet your group and we do Team-Love. They do icebreakers, they create a team name and get engrained as a group. So it doesn’t matter if they didn’t have a friend when they walked in the door, they will have an entire group of friends within 15-minutes of being there. And then throughout the day, we have a variety of techniques with our SEL curriculum. The counselors are trained to help them interact with others and make new friends. Don’t be worried, if you are sending your new camper without anyone they know.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add about how counselors bridge the gap for kid and/or parents?
A: We have Team-Love and SEL curriculum to help them make connections thorughout the day. One thing that helps the kids and the parents is distracting them the moment they get there. Naturally, the kids want to stay with the parent, that’s who they know, that’s what they are used to, so a really good counselor is going to help them distract away from those nerves. So the second you walk into camp, there is some sort of activity going on.
Staff members are always friendly and excited to see the kids. That’s going to help the camper and the parent make that transition the first day or any day they are there.
Q: What do you believe is the biggest challenge for first-time campers?
A: Drop off! AM Drop off! Time and time again it’s the biggest challenge for campers and parents. I can tell you as a parent myself, I am not looking forward to leaving [her] for the first time for a full-day. So it can be just as hard on the parent as the camper. One thing a recommend is drop them off, and leave. Staying just allows the child to build up more anxiety, get more and more upset. And when we see a quick drop-off, because we have other techniques, we have activities that are already going on, 5-minutes, the camper ready to go!
Q: What benefits do you believe summer camp offers children, above free play at home through the summer?
A;So many! That’s a really big question. The thing I love about summer camps as an extracurricular activity, camp does not expect your child to fit the mold in any way. Camp is for everybody. There is a little bit of everything and it’s about discovery of yourself within that. That’s why I have devoted my life and career to it, because that’s what summer camp did for me many years ago. I was very shy, afraid of my shadow type, that was able to really find myself and get comforatble at camp. So the benefit of taking them to this environment that is so inclusive and inviting, is huge.
Social interaction, trained professionals, that can help them learn responsibility and initiative. Can they learn these things at home? yes. It it the same as learning this from other adults, surrounded by their peers, no. That’s a very different experience. I think both are important, but summer camp can really have so many levels of value.
Q: When you are a new parent to signing up for summer camp, it can be overwhelming. What do you feel like are the most important questions for a parent to ask when they are researching camps?
A: Make sure the camp is well-rounded throughout the day. There are a lot of safety measures for 2021, but there is still a level of interaction. So make sure there are different parts of the day, with outdoor recreation, various games that include collaboration and team work. Don’t get so excited about one theme that you forget about the schedule of the full camp day.
With COVID, camps are doing things differently. That’s what I would really be watching for this year. Are they truly staying in a stable group? I’m not going to lie, especially in our industry that’s something that’s really difficult to enforce when we are going in and out of different periods throughout the day. At EDMO, we’ve been working tirelessly to make sure our COVID-19 protocols are across the board being followed by our campers and counselors. Stable groupd are crucial right now.
I would pay attention to the staff they are hiring, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on qualifications. Just because a staff memeber is a college graduate in a specicial field, don’t mean they are vibey. You want fun, interactive staff. I’ve see 16-year old counselors who have attended camp for year, be the strongest counselor out of a staff of people much older than them. It’s really about the culture the camp is creating, more so, on-paper resume qualifications.
Q: Last advice?
A: When signing up for camp, get your campers involved. let them read the descriptions and help pick the themes. It is going to be so much easier if they are excited for the program.
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.
Vote and Write Reviews to Help You AND Your Favorite Camp Win
Businesses who have earned parents’ trust and recommendations have the best shot of taking home the prize. Here’s how it works. You can vote directly from your camp’s ActivityHero listing (look for the logo), or you can search the gallery of contestants and click the “vote now” button under your favorite camp or class. Each vote counts as an entry. You can also write a review of the business, which counts as three entries. Here’s a bonus: Every vote and review you submit enters you in a drawing for ActivityHero gift card worth up to $100! Votes and reviews will be tallied from now until July 31. Votes received before May 31 will give the business the best odds, since there are 3 monthly drawings in total (May 31, June 30, and July 31) to determine finalists. In August, the judging phase of the contest will determine the ultimate winner based on whether camps stand out in innovative ways or make a significant impact on their communities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I vote for more than one camp or class?
A: Yes, you are allowed at most 1 vote per activity provider, but can vote for as many providers as you want.
Q: Can my kids participate in the Business Grant contest?
A: Unfortunately, you must be 18 or older to participate. You must also have a valid e-mail address.
Q: Where do I submit a review?
A: Go to the camp’s individual ActivityHero listing and scroll to the bottom where you’ll click on a “write a review” button.
Q: Can I write more than 1 review?
A: You may submit at most 1 review for a specific business. You may review as many businesses as you wish.
Q: I don’t see my favorite camp or class in the gallery. How can I support them?
ActivityHero.com is the leading online marketplace for camps, activities, after school classes, workshops, and kids’ nights out. More than 2.5 million families use us to find and book kids’ activities from a wide variety of local providers. Visit https://www.activityhero.comto start your summer camp search today!
ActivityHero shares the insights of writing professionals who work with kindergarteners through high schoolers. With these tips, parents can help support kids’ writing goals.
By Wendy Chou
Writing is a key life skill that engages and empowers kids–and is highly correlated with overall academic success. ActivityHero talked with professionals from two writing programs to learn their favorite tips. We also list online resources that will appeal to today’s tech-savvy kids, ‘tweens, and teens.
Tips for Elementary School Writers (Age 6-8)
1. Have some fun
Darrell Dela Cruz, of Cupertino’s Communication Academy, recommends playing word-centered games to boost knowledge of words and definitions. Some examples are Mad Libs, Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams.
2. Be a role model
Remind kids that writing matters in daily life. Adventures In Writing (AIW) Camp co-founder Jen Hartvickson tells parents: “Write lists, write thank you notes, write letters. When they see you writing, they will do what you do!”
3. Check out these resources for elementary school writers
Storybird is an online forum that allows kids to create and share their own books or to read from the free online library.
Krakeln is a friendly vocabulary-building app suitable for even young users.
Orange Street Newsis a newspaper created by Hilde Lysiak (with her dad’s assistance) when she was just 7 years old and is the inspiration for her own book series.
Tips for Tweens (age 9-12)
1. Practice, practice, practice.
All the experts we consulted agreed that practice leads to writing improvement. Journaling and writing to pen pals can encourage regular writing habits. Jen Hartvickson also finds that tweens are more motivated when given free rein to choose their own topic.
2. Read widely, then discuss.
AIW Camp Co-founder Hans Hartvickson sees value in parents and kids reading books together, then talking about “what worked” for them and why.
3. Try a song.
Hans Hartvickson suggests songs help teach writing traits and are fun too. AIW Camp has published many songs on YouTube.
Stone Soup Magazine is a high-quality literary publication (in print and online) by and for kids.
Youngzine presents current events for a school-aged audience and accepts kids’ submissions of articles and book reviews.
KidPub.com has featured kids’ works since 1995 (requires small fee to publish).
Brainstorm great reads with blogs like Brightly which lists dozens of titles sorted by age and genre.
Tips for Teens (age 13+)
1. Experiment with styles.
Take chances and try out new styles and content. Teens are starting to develop their unique voice.
2. The more practice, the better!
Consider entering contests at libraries and at school. Don’t stop there: find open mic events and poetry slams. Teens may enjoy blogging about a particular hobby and developing an audience. Many sites host blogs for free.
3. Find online networking sites devoted to teens
Online writing communities allow teens to network and seek advice from other writers. Here are 4 recommendations:
Underlined is a teen-centered website that provides opportunities for collaboration and feedback.
Wattpad is the largest and most visible online reading and writing platform, giving it the nickname of “YouTube of writing”. Teen Ink hosts writing submissions by teens, including essays, articles, fiction and poetry. Teens can also contribute their art and photography.
Power Poetry is the largest online community for teens interested in poetry.
Final words of advice: Lighten Up!
According to Dela Cruz, parents shouldn’t make writing feel like a chore or something with a clearly defined “right or wrong answer”. The Hartvicksons believe kids need reassurance that mistakes and editing are to be expected along the way. Most of all, our experts all agreed that parents should provide fair and constructive feedback to kids. A “Goldilocks” balance means avoiding unrealistic over-praising, while also refraining from giving only negative comments, which can be demoralizing for kids.
Camp Tawonga has been a leader in Jewish camping since 1925. They offer a variety of different programs for campers of all ages from traditional camp fun to teen leadership programs, all set in the beautiful Stanislaus National Forest.
Teens can also embark on retreats to Israel, Canada, and other locations. We interviewed camp director Jamie Simon to learn a little bit more about her beginnings with the camp:
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started the camp.
Tawonga has been in my blood since I was eight years old, I was a camper for seven summers.
When I was old enough to be a counselor at Tawonga, I filled out the staff application the first day it was available! I worked on the summer staff for many years before joining the year round team in 2006. I grew up a Tawongan but I never thought I would be lucky enough to be working for camp year round!
I live in Oakland, California with my husband, who also grew up at Camp Tawonga. The values I learned as a child at Tawonga have deeply impacted my professional and personal life. When not working for camp I love watching sports, enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.
Are there any special lessons or experiences you are trying to provide during the camp?
Camp is such a special place for kids and it is my goal that kids leave Tawonga with three things: a positive self image and self esteem, a feeling that they have been a part of creating a cooperative
community and a strong connection with nature.
I hope that their time at Camp Tawonga has shown them that they are uniquely special, they have a loving community supporting them and that they feel inspired to give back to the world.
What surprises/delights the kids (or parents) most about your camp?
Parents are impressed and happy with our customer service; they know that we will take good care of their kids but they are surprised at how well we take care of them. We have an extensive parent guidebook and make customer service a priority.
We know how hard it can be for parents to send their children away and want to make this the best possible family experience. We believe that our success at camp comes from the partnership we build with families.
What sets your class/camp apart from the rest?
Tawonga’s location is magical, we are located along the Tuolumne River right outside of Yosemite
National Park. Campers have an opportunity to go backpacking in Yosemite and explore the beautiful land that surrounds us.
In addition to our location we are a group centered camp. Campers learn skills like team work, compromise, community building and leadership. Our focus is on the community experience. Campers leave feeling like they were a valuable part of the community and feel excited to create communities like the one they shared at Tawonga.
Lastly, our staff are excellent. We have a comprehensive staff training and ensure that staff are always putting the children first. People often ask me, “Where does the magic of Tawonga come from?”, I always say, “The people.” From the prep cooks, maintenance team, wilderness leaders, counselors and year round staff the Tawonga community is surrounded by people who are intentional, creative, passionate, caring and motivated. I am grateful every day that I get to be a part of this community and create the magic for children.
With so many summer camps to choose from, how do parents know what to look for in finding the right fit for their kids?
Written by Sarah Antrim
Not all children are the same, so what might be the right fit for one may not be for another. Never fear, ActivityHero is here to help!
We’ve put together some tips on how to choose the best summer camp programs for kids this year.
1. Think about what your child is getting out of the school year, and then consider what they’re missing.
A deeper connection to nature and the outdoors? An opportunity to build on the core academic subjects of the school year?
Determine what you think matters in your child’s development, and view summer as a chance to fill in the missing pieces.
2. Once you’ve narrowed down the subject matter, look for these things:
Adult supervision that both inspires your kids and keeps them safe.
A ratio of no more than 10 kids per staff member.
Age group divisions for kids that span no more than 2-3 years.
Positive reviews of the program’s effectiveness and
A Director who is experienced, passionate, and organized.
3. Ask as many questions as possible. Here’s a few questions that parents should ask about summer camp programs:
What is your program trying to accomplish with children?
Who is the director? How many years have they been directing the camp? What does he/she look for in the staff he/she hires?
Who is going to be working directly with my child? What is their education level? How are they trained?
How do you develop your curriculum? What are the learning objectives of the program?
Do high school students have direct supervisory responsibility for campers?
What are the age groupings and camper to staff ratios?
4. Focus as much on who the people will be working with your child as you do the content.
No matter what the summer camp program, the people will drive what your child takes away from the experience.
5. Seek out programs that offer consistency and minimize transitions in location, staff, and fellow campers.
Choosing the best summer camp programs for kids is only possible if you make kids as comfortable and educated as possible about the process. Set your kids up for success by not signing them up for too many different camps.
Find out ahead of time what the first day check in scene will be like, then describe it to your child ahead of time so they know what it will be like. You want to avoid a lengthy separation process on the first day.
With the thousands of summer camp programs available, choosing the best for your kids can sometimes feel like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. With these simple tips, you can help to set your kids up for success this summer.
Search all of our camp listings and find the perfect fit for your child, your schedule, and your budget at ActivityHero.com
Does it feel like you spend a LOT of time and money planning and sending kids to summer camps? Well, you do. Here is something we put together from the data we have on San Francisco parents and summer camps. San Francisco Summer Camp
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And, here’s some shameless horn-tooting: use our search & summer planning calendar tools to save time, and, check out our discounts page and our free week of camp to save some money! You can even subscribe to our newsletter on the sidebar (look to your right) and get these discounts delivered to your inbox once every 2 weeks!
And, it doesn’t stop there, we give you two sham-wows!!! ok, we don’t. But we do help you find after-school activities during the school year too.
We would love to hear how we can make this even easier. Please tell us!