If your child care plans have changed, online summer camp might be just the thing to keep your kids busy, entertained, and safe this season.

By Melissa Mills
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The COVID-19 crisis has caused most things to move online—work, school, grocery shopping, even birthday parties and playdates. Most schools, in fact, will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and some summer camps have already stated they won't open for the 2020 season. But that doesn't mean your summer plans have gone completely out the window. Since mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, and social distancing remain the best ways to decrease your family's chances of getting the coronavirus, virtual summer camp might be just the thing to help your kids stay safe and have some fun.

These free programs—many of which, by the way, are traditional summer camps that have simply shifted online—will allow your kids to stay engaged, entertained, and busy while you work from home the next couple months. While school's out, your kids can still have the opportunity to meet some new friends and socialize—albeit virtually. And, who knows, maybe your child will find—and love—a summer camp online that they never would have been able to attend in person. It may not be the summer you envisioned, but you can still make the best of it. Here are some virtual summer camp options to check out with your kids:

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1. Camp Wonderopolis

Fun for kids of all ages, Camp Wonderopolis offers fun, free STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts, and math—programs.  How does a hot air balloon fly? Why does slime feel so gooey? How does a crane work? These are just a few of the things your child can explore this summer.

2. The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami

From June to August, kids ages 6 through 13 can enjoy mixed media, painting, drawing, and textile art classes via Zoom through The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. Families in the area can even pick up art supplies curbside before class.

3. Camp Supernow

Kids ages 5 to 11 can join a virtual "cabin" at Camp Supernow where they'll be paired with a counselor and other campers from across the country for an hour of crafts and activities on Zoom. Each session lasts two weeks and costs $199 per camper, but you can enjoy a free trial day to see if your kid's into it first!

4. Varsity Tutors

Why not use the time at home to have your child learn a new language, solve brain teasers, or even practice their creative writing. Tailored for specific grade levels—kindergarten and up—your kid can enjoy week-long camps in pretty much any subject that interests them with Varsity Tutors.

5. Happy Camper Live

From sports and arts and crafts to photography and magic, Happy Camper Live will give your kiddo a real camp feel at home—there's even a virtual campfire! You can stock up on some camp gear ahead of time to really make your child feel like they're at camp.

6. PBS Kids

The PBS Kids for Parents site offers up free age-by-age tips, crafts, games, and activities to get you through summer. You can search by your child's age and the area you'd like to work on to find the best options—and, yes, some of the activities will include characters like Daniel Tiger and Elmo.

7. DIY Summer Camp

Kids at any skill level can use the DIY's app to enjoy virtual classes like, "Photography," Become a Music Star," "Build Anything With Lego," and "Drawing Bootcamp." With a 14-day free trial, unlimited access to all of DIY's content, and even offline activities to try, your child's sure to find something they like.

8. iD Tech

If you've got an older kid at home who's super tech-savvy, then iD Tech’s virtual classes might be right up their alley. These classes—mostly for kids 7 and up—teach computer animation, app building, and your kid can even learn how to design for Minecraft. This camp's not free, but once you pay for one child, a sibling or friend can join for free!

9. K12 Inc. Summer Camp

Your high school student might be over the days of typical summer camp, but there are still free opportunities for them to get off the couch and be a little more selective with their screen time. K12 Inc. Summer Camp offers tuition-free,  career-oriented summer courses in coding, video game design and programming, business and marketing, health care, and more—some of which will even earn students high school credit.

10. Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets' "Start with a Book" program is free and sort of an online book club for kids ages 6 and up. With 24 topics—including dinosaurs, time travel, and sports—to choose from, your child will be matched with the books to check out as well as corresponding activities, apps, and ideas to keep the fun going after the book's done.

11. Met Opera Global Summer Camp

The new Met Opera Global Summer Camp is a free, eight-week online summer camp—running from June 15 to August 7—for kids in third through twelfth grade. Kids will get the chance to explore music in a new way with the Met's extensive digital library of operas, plus creative projects to try at home, face time with music educators, and even opportunities to interact with Met artists.

12. SiriusXM's "Camp KPL"

For SiriusXM subscribers, the Kids Place Live channel is launching "Camp KPL" on June 1. Airing on weekdays from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET, this "summer camp" will keep kids occupied all summer long. With ideas for at-home camp activities and projects, family-friendly music, and daily story time, it might be worth tuning in with the kiddos.

13. Girl Scouts at Home

Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is launching new outdoor initiatives for 2020 that'll keep your kids engaged—and away from the screens—all summer long. Though it's not free, with their Girl Scout Camp Adventures at Home Marketplace your kids can join virtual camp sessions on everything from wildlife education to activities in astronomy, STEM, and art with other members based on interest and grade level starting at $25 per week. What is free, however, are the self-guided outdoor and environmental activities that Girl Scouts at Home offers beyond the summer camp sessions. Also completely free: the Girl Scouts Love the Outdoors Challenge. Even if your kiddo's not a Girl Scout, there are so many ideas in the challenge—watch the sunrise or sunset, fly a kite, have a picnic with your family—that you can easily try in your own backyard.

14. CAMP@HOME

On July 6, UNICEF USA will be launching CAMP@HOME, a free, philanthropic summer camp experience. This virtual camp gives kids a selection of videos on activities like sports, crafts, and cooking, and then prompts them to go practice what they just learned—off-screen. As campers complete these videos, food packets are "unlocked" for UNICEF to send to malnourished children around the world. Participating campers can even unlock donations for COVID-19 supplies for their communities.

15. Rachael Ray’s Yum-o! Cooking Camp

Calling all foodies: Rachael Ray's Yum-o! Cooking Camp, powered by Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City and South Beach Wine & Food Festivals presented by Capital One, runs from July 30 through August 14. The free, 16-part live cooking camp will connect kids to their favorite chefs and celebrities on Zoom, all while teaching them new cooking tips and skills. Even better, any optional donations will go toward the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Rachael Ray’s Yum-o! Scholarship.

16. AccuWeather Summer Camp

Geared toward school-aged children, the AccuWeather Summer Camp features daily, hands-on science lessons, crafts, and activities. Accessible via accuweather.com and AccuWeather’s social media channels, the virtual camp combines reading with weather and STEM lessons for a fun, educational experience for kids.

17. Microsoft's Passport to Digital Fun

With education in mind, Microsoft is offering free virtual summer camps that'll offer kids a range of learning experiences depending on their interest. This Passport to Digital Fun gives children the opportunity to take workshops on everything from STEM and video games to travel and coding. Continuing through August, the free sessions will keep your kids engaged all summer long.

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