Camp used to be a place of adventure, where kids learned to water ski, canoe, run from Jason Voorhees, and french kiss. Today, camp is all these things and more — but it’s also expensive. If that’s money you’re not spending on your kid this summer, they can still have invaluable experiences thanks to the internet. These online camps will teach your kids way more useful stuff than water skiing at a fraction the cost, while keeping them safe from ax-wielding psychos and their first sexual experiences. It’s win-win-win for you (unless they really wanted to go camping this summer, in which case you’re screwed).
Best Camp for Kid Inventors: Maker Camp
From the folks behind Maker Faire, “The greatest show and tell on Earth,” and some company called Google comes this 6-week virtual summer camp about invention. Sessions happen via Google Hangout sessions, with celebrity “counselors” like astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the Aardman animators teaching things like how to make a milk jug rocket and do claymation. If you’d rather your kid mingle with other little humans in the process, Maker affiliate locations are in cities across the country.
- Ages 12-18
- July 6th – August 14th, 2014
Best Camp for Kid Scientists: Camp Wonderopolis
The Bill Nye of online camps offers how-to experiments and 42 lessons across 6 scientific fields: astronomy, zoology, archeology, biology, chemistry, and physics. Wonderopolis also gamifies and breaks down complex science into simple videos, reading, and vocabulary lists. Campers who complete quizzes at the end of every lesson are awarded Wonder Cards, which can be used for absolutely nothing ever — kids love ’em.
- Ages 7-14
- Year Round, July 15th, 2015 Onward
Best Camp for Kid Artists: DIY Camps
With 4 different drawing camps, plus a Lego Master camp and camps for filmmaking and music, DIY.org ensures your child won’t just be glued to the computer all summer. Kids can’t earn the site’s skill patches — which you can actually purchase and affix to their coats, Boy- or Girl Scouts-style — by simply watching the videos. They have to actually build the Lego car, draw the comic book, or turn your kitchen into a musical instrument (have fun with that one).
- Starting at $10/month
- Ages 7-16
- 4-Week Flexible Schedule
Best Minecraft Camp: Connected Camp Summer of Minecraft
This moderated multiplayer environment grants kids 4 weeks of remote access to the company’s server. There, campers collaborate with 24 other kids and an expert counselor to write code, design Minecraft, and develop online literacy. If they’re going to be obsessed with a video game all summer, they may as well learn something in the process.
- Starting at $50/week
- Ages 9-13
- July 6th – August 2nd, 2015
Best Camp for Kid Programmers: Tech Rocket
The online home of ID Tech, a tech-focused summer camp program operating on over 100 college campuses, Tech Rocket offers classes in coding, game design, graphic design, 3D printing, Photoshop, and 4 coding languages. Each follows ID Tech’s proven format, using on-demand video and forums where campers can post questions for instructors. If that sounds like camp, and not school, to your kid, they’ll be in heaven.
$29/month, Ages 6-18, Year-Round