Rediscover the joys of summer by planning an outdoor youth camp adventure!
After a year of change and disruption, let’s make 2021 the best year yet! Start planning your child’s spring & summer adventures with some of our top trending outdoor youth camps on ActivityHero. Small group, outdoor, in-person camps are selling fast – from horseback riding to survival skills camps!
From the beginner camper to advanced equestrians, find a camp for your horse-loving kids! Learn about horse care: grooming, feeding, bathing and even horse first aid. Saddle a horse, learn about tack, and even explore different styles of riding.
Youth campers will also learn interesting facts about the history, evolution and anatomy of the horse while picking up some horse lingo (did you know that horses are measured in hands?). When not riding, kids will play games, make new friends, and get crafty!
Outdoors, active, educational, and exciting – create lifelong memories kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and more. With a wide variety of water sports camps available, there is something fun for every kid!
Campers at Shoreline Lake start on sit-on-top kayaks and learn the skills they need to explore the lake and beyond. Techniques include skills such as the draw, pry, figure-eight and “C” strokes. Campers are also taught safety skills to carry them through wherever they go. These include weather and tides, paddle signals, capsize assisting and self-rescue techniques.
Technical Skills: Campers learn how to properly fit a helmet and bike, practice basic bike commands and get comfortable with technical skills including bunny hops, track stands, braking and shifting, becoming more proficient riders as they take on incremental challenges.
Trail Riding: Campers are introduced to a wide range of trails — where they practice good trail etiquette as they learn to ride on rolling single and double track terrain, descending and ascending trail sections and narrow and winding trails.
Bike Maintenance: When they’re not riding, campers get familiar with the nuts and bolts of bike maintenance, learning to safety check their bikes, solve gear problems and change flat tires.
Whether you love a leisurely ride or a real off-road adventure, find a type of biking that appeals to your family. Here are 6 practical tips to get kids started with family-friendly biking.
By the ActivityHero Team with Guest Amanda Wilks
Kids are often tempted to spend hours of their unstructured play time glued to electronic devices. Instead, why not encourage them to go out for a ride? With many benefits for the body and mind, biking is a healthy outdoor activity that can be done at almost any age. Looking to try it out? Here’s expert advice on sizing, types, gear, classes, and specialized activities like mountain biking.
1. Get Fitted
The most important step is to measure your child’s Inseam. A bicycle inseam (or leg length) is not the same as a clothing inseam.
To measure, grab a book and a tape measurer. The child should stand with her back against a wall, spreading her feet about 6 inches apart, either barefoot or in socks. Place a book between her legs, close to the crotch to mimic the bike seat.
Measure from the top of the book (that is, the spine) down to the floor. Choosing a slightly larger bike is fine in order to leave a little room to grow into. Avoid choosing a size which is too far off the mark for your child, which would impede his ability to learn correct riding habits and even expose him to greater danger.
2. Choose the Right Bike
Depending on your interests, there are three main styles of bike: road, mountain, and “hybrid” (a blend between the two), depending on your interests.
If you’re interested in mountain biking, according to MountainBikeReviewed, you can easily find and buy sturdy bikes for less than $300, like the Mongoose Statis Comp, the Villano Blackjack 2.0 or the Schwinn High Timber. Other great mountain bike brands which are geared towards kids are Spawn, Cleary, Early Rider, Pello and Stampede. Many mountain bikes are, contrary to opinion, quite cost-effective.
For road bikes, your local bike shop should have recommendations. Online retailers like Amazon will often have many customer reviews posted. There are also online outfits like BikeExchange if you prefer doing research online.
No matter what style you go with, when the child stands over the bike, there should be a 1-2 “ space between the crotch and the top bar of the bike. Also, “a beginner should be able to plant both feet flat on the ground when getting off the bike, which ensures safety and helps with confidence,” recommends Nick Pavlakis of Pedalheads, a learn-to-ride bike camp based in Seattle, Portland, Denver and Chicago.
Ideally, the right bike choice should be made based on the wheel size, not the frame size. Use the chart below:
Wheel Size 12″ —> Age 2 -3 —> Height 2’10 – 3’4
Wheel Size 14″ —> Age 3 -4 —> Height 3’1 – 3’7
Wheel Size 16″ —> Age 4-5 —> Height 3’7 – 4’0
Wheel Size 20’ —> Age 5-8 —> Height 4’0 – 4’5
Wheel Size 24′ —> Age 8-11 —> Height 4’5 – 4’9
Wheel Size 26′ —> Age 11+ —> Height 4’9
These are rough approximations and, since every child is unique, you should use these numbers only as a guide.
3. Get Essential Gear
A good helmet which protects the brain is the single most important safety feature you must have. Make sure it fits, covers the entirety of the forehead and is properly ventilated. According to Pavlakis of Pedalheads, “research shows that up to 90% of fatal bicycle crashes result from head trauma,” so using a properly fitted and certified helmet will protect the head and brain from damage, which might save your child’s life. Note that helmets are mandatory for children under the age of 16 in most areas. “Check that there is no more than a two-finger gap between your eyebrows and the front part of the helmet,” advises Pavlakis.
Layer up with season-appropriate clothing. In summer, light clothing with good arm and leg coverage will protect from sun, and in cooler temperatures, don’t forget gloves, warm socks, and a wind-proof shell.
For urban and suburban biking, invest in a solid bicycle lock.
If you want to take the whole family along but have younger children who aren’t yet able to pedal on their own steam, the most common options are: Trailers (a wheeled carriage which attaches in back of a bicycle), Pedal-less Bikes (also called Balance Bikes, where kids push off the ground to move forward), and Trail-a-Bikes (a seat plus single-wheel that attaches to a bicycle, allowing pedaling without steering capabilities).
4. Find Classes or Camps
Classes and camps will generally cover the four basic rules of bike riding:
Riding in a straight line without deviating from it;
Looking back without losing balance or swerving;
Stopping the bike using the brakes, taking into account the surroundings;
Good speed control and adapting it in accordance with the terrain.
After mastering these basics, group classes are a great way for kids to learn important skills like giving hand signals, negotiating hilly terrain, understanding road signs and dangers, following traffic flow, and practicing proper spacing between riders.
As a side note, older kids will benefit from learning some everyday maintenance routines, like checking the bike tire’s air pressure, putting the chain back together, and testing the brakes, often covered in more advanced classes or camps.
More inclined to teach on your own? Here’s a helpful guide. Remember to read up on safety do’s and don’ts. If you get to the stage where a child is nearly ready to remove the training wheels, Pavlakis advises parents to take their time: “Don’t rush the process. Taking the training wheels off too early can become a negative experience for the child and may lead to resistance in learning.”
5. Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is a sport that is growing rapidly in popularity by offering excitement, challenge, and unique outdoor settings. To get kids started with mountain biking, you should remember that at the outset, your child might not have the physical endurance or the attention span needed to finish a certain route. Try increasing trip difficulty and length gradually to make the learning process smoother.
First, make sure your child is very capable and comfortable traversing flat, easy terrain. Then transition to doubletrack dirt trails with varying degrees of difficulty and topography. Plan ahead to reduce the chance of accidents. Initially choose short, fun routes that you know well and that you feel your kid can completewith relative ease. Have fun increasing the level of difficulty over time!
6. Find Focus, Stay Safe
Pavlakis recommends that beginning bikers “maintain focus and awareness at all times,” of the conditions on their road or trail to reinforce safe habits. Biking is a perfect way to leave behind the distractedness of everyday life and be more fully engaged in the present. Have fun!
On a roll? Check updated schedules and reviews of popular biking camps and classes in your area on ActivityHero.
About the author
Amanda Wilks is a writer, veteran MTB rider and sports advocate. Her passion for mountain biking dates back to her childhood, when she would join her dad every weekend for a quick ride uphill. She is now addicted to the sport and she never misses a trail. Learn more about Amanda on Twitter.
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.
Getting outside is healthy for the body and the mind. This Earth Day, why not get the whole family outdoors for some memorable adventures?
By Wendy Chou
Research has shown that getting outside keeps kids moving, lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Another health benefit from being out and about: added Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and is thought to help the immune system fight off infection. Some health experts say that spending time outdoors also relieves some symptoms of hyperactivity, including short attention span.
Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22. It was originally created to bring attention to environmental goals like cleaner air and water. Today Earth Day reminds us to step out into nature. Try these kid-approved outdoor activities highlighting science, crafts, sports, and helping the community. Find these activities and many more in The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, an excellent user-friendly guide for kindling the adventurous spirit in all of us.
Go outside at an unusual time: nighttime! Go stargazing or take a walk to admire the moon. Visit kidsastronomy.com for tips.
Start a compost pile from kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. If your family has a garden, generating your own rich compost (so-called “black gold”) is not only fun, but also useful. It’s also a great tool for teaching kids about nature’s version of recycling. Tips for beginners.
Watch a sunset. Watching colors change can inspire a lifelong appreciation for the environment. Find details on specific sunrise and sunset times at timeanddate.com
Arts and Crafts Lovers
Paint a birdhouse. Using a more natural palette such as gray, dull green, brown, or tan will help keep birds safe from eagle-eyed predators. And steer clear of metallic, iridescent, lead-based, or neon-colored paints which contain additives that are unsafe for wildlife.
Play “Nature bingo”. This game is a variation on a scavenger hunt. Create a bingo card for each player on sturdy paper or cardboard. You’ll need 16 assorted images arranged in a 4 x 4 grid: either paste on stickers, or draw/clip out pictures from magazines. Some examples are ladybug, leaf, flower, bird. After you design the bingo cards, have a blast exploring nature and looking for your items.
Make a nature mosaic. For this textured craft, first gather small items of roughly the same shape and size, like small pebbles, dried flower petals, or seeds. Take a paper plate and draw your desired shape with pen or pencil (for instance, outline your handprint). Working with one small section at a time, add a thin layer of glue and press the objects down to secure them. (If you apply glue over too large an area at once, it will dry before you’ve finished pasting.) Let dry and it’s done!
Roll down a grassy hill. Who doesn’t love doing this on a sunny day?
Go for a bike ride. There’s nothing quite like coasting along on the open road. Safety first: study the biker’s checklist before you head out!
Make homemade trail mix and take it on a hike.
Try geocaching, a modern take on treasure hunting. This activity relies on GPS technology to hide or find caches. To get started, check out geocaching.com.
Join a volunteer event. Find an organization near you (check your city or county listings) that is sponsoring an Earth Day event, such as a river cleanup or tree planting.
Visit a farmers’ market. You’ll find fresher fruits and vegetables here with less wasteful plastic packaging. People selling their wares often enjoy telling you where and how they grew their food –and sometimes let you try a sample for free.
Beautify your neighborhood. Clean up trash, prune or weed a garden, or do some other type of community service to show your appreciation for Mother Earth.
Find summer camps featuring the outdoors. Camp is a great way to spend time outside. Emily Moeschler has over ten years of experience in adventure education and the outdoor industries. She is currently a leader at Avid4Adventure Camp in Boulder, CO. Her top tip: “Give your kids permission to get dirty!”
Be inspired. Have your own brainstorming session to come up with even more outdoor activities. There’s really no “right” way to explore, just get outside and have fun!
What kid doesn’t dream about becoming a pirate and digging up buried treasure to fill their chest? You may not be able to sail the bounding seas on your summer vacation, but you and your kids can enjoy nature while digging for buried treasure across the U.S. From gold and gems to actual dinosaur fossils, if it fascinates your kids, there’s a spot where they can discover it. These top-notch treasure spots are guaranteed to give your kids a great time and might even provide a valuable piece of treasure for a souvenir.
Hiddenite, North Carolina
Nestled in the hills of North Carolina, the Emerald Hollow Mine is the destination for thousands of gems seekers each year. Set in one of the most interesting geological areas in the country, Emerald Hollow Mine has produced dozens of types of gems, including amethyst, topaz, sapphires and valuable green emeralds. Your little treasure hunters might happen upon one of the 63 different types of gems that have been found here and they can turn any of their finds into cut stones or jewelry with the onsite lapidary shop.
In Crater of Diamonds State Park, diamonds can be found literally sitting on top of the soil, ready for treasure hunting kids to pick up. Sitting on top of an ancient volcano field, this diamond field produces already-smoothed stones in white, brown, and yellow colors. There are three different diamond-searching methods used here:
Walk the fields and, using a sharp eye, find stones laying on top of the soil
Dig shallow areas and sift the soil, digging through resulting gravel by hand
Dig deep holes, concentrating the resulting soil into a likely gravel mix
The first method is obviously the simplest, and has actually produced gemstone-sized diamonds for lucky visitors. Bring your own tools or rent them at the park. Rangers are prepared to identify diamonds from your pile of rocks, but leave the valuation up to your local jeweler.
Deming, New Mexico
In the desert lands of Rock Hound State Park, thousands of people have found geodes, also known as thunder eggs. These stones just look like plain rocks when you pick them up, but once you crack them open the insides show off lovely crystals in amethyst, hematite, or rose quartz. Make this treasure hunting outing a part of your camping or RV trip in the Western part of the country. Geodes can be found in washed-out piles of rocks or lying against wind-swept hills. Bring along small hammers to tap the rocks open to discover what’s inside the best of them.
Devil Hills, South Dakota
The Badlands region of South Dakota is prime dinosaur-fossil hunting land. Kids who are dino-lovers will eagerly spend their days sifting through piles of rock and soil just to find a hint of dinosaur history. Gigantic pieces of bone from over 145 million years ago have been discovered here, and young hunters have had as much luck as older, more experienced explorers. If you find fossils in this area you have to report them to the authorities and leave them where you found them, but pictures with the fossil make a great souvenir. Besides, how many kids can brag about personally discovering their own dinosaur and have the pictures to prove it?
Central Florida Coast
Photo by Flickr user David Dawson Photography
11 Spanish galleons sunk off the Florida coast in 1715, dropping tons of gold coins, jewels, and other relics into the sea. The ocean waves have been washing this treasure up for the past 300 years onto the beaches between Cape Canaveral and Stuart. People have been finding treasure almost daily, even today, and the finds are so simple they’re great for kids to work on. Look on the high tide line, especially after a thunderstorm creates big waves and on the sand that’s still damp from the tide going out. Treasure has been found by looking with the naked eye but you may want to invest in a simple metal detector to find treasure buried in the sand. The entire eastern coast of central Florida provides abundant lodging for visitors so pick a small town for your best bet and look for your very own pirate treasure.
When you go treasure hunting with your kids, you’ll build memories and give them experiences none of their friends will ever have.
Since as early as they could walk, your little one has probably made a mess at some point or another, such as a beautiful permanent marker portrait on the wall or a flour creation all over your living room floor. Or, how about how they clean up the room by stuffing towels down the toilet? Although irritating to parents, messy kids actually know how to have fun with their curiosity and intellect. Instead of stifling that creativity, unleash their expression with these fun, messy outdoor activities:
Instead of disposing of your old sheets, let your kids get creative with them. Simply grab an old sheet, hang it on a fence or other surface and let your kids go to town with paint. Use various painting utensils including: balls, spray bottles, foam letters, sponges and hands. Finger and body painting is one of the greatest experiences for a toddler. Spray bottles let you spray all different streams of color onto your canvas and balls get all that cooped up energy out while putting a splash of color on your sheet. Display your kids’ brilliant creation on the wall, in the playroom or let them use the sheet as an expressive piece in their room.
First, make sure your kids have on play clothes that can get messy. Put paint on a slide and let them slide down into a mess of color; have them write words or letters in the slide; have a colorful race using matchbox cars; or have a pool filled with paint at the bottom of a slippery slide. No matter what you decide, this messy masterpiece is sure to be a hit. This can even be done in the winter with a sled and some color. Instead of sliding into water filled color, sled down into snow filled color.
Outdoor time is a perfect opportunity to promote learning as well as interact with your child at a deeper level. Whether your kids are just learning letters or spelling advanced words, word splashing is a entertaining way to learn. Using chalk, write words or letters in a hopscotch pattern. Fill up a bucket of water and put several sponges in it. Now it is time for the fun to begin; throw sponges on the words or letters until they disappear. Once they have disappeared, try to spell the missing words or remember the missing letters. Whoever gets the most words or letters right at the end wins the game.
Whether young or old, there is something about the mud that makes life a little more fun. Use a hose to make a muddy section in your yard. Have a mud fight, a muddy slip n’ slide or a muddy tug of war. You can even use mud as a learning canvas by having children create muddy words or letters. With mud there are endless possibilities including mud wrestling, mud fighting and mud jumping. The muddier you get, the more slippier fun you will have.
Another messy activity that is not only great for home, but hitting the streets as a great way to make money for a fundraiser, the color run is a vivid display of your energy. Start a race with your kids or kids in the neighborhood. Give your kids a scavenger hunt in which they have to go to different areas of the neighborhood to get doused in a different color of colored powder. Whoever makes it back to the house with all the splashed array of colors first, wins. Or, have fun throwing colored powder in the air and just getting messy. Turn on some music and get your body physically fit with some colorful dance moves.
The problem with today’s kids is the lack of getting together outside of school and being creative while having fun and getting messy. As Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says, “It is time to take chances, make mistakes and get messy.” Enjoy time with your kids, let go and unleash your inner child with these fun messy, learning activities.