8 Summer Programs for Kids That Don't Cost Much

When school is out for the summer, parents may be on the hunt for a summer program for their kid (and let's be honest: odds are, you started your hunt months ago!) Fortunately, there are a gazillion local and nationwide options to keep your children entertained and learning all summer long. If they love STEM, there are tech programs. If they love to cook, you can easily find a culinary class. If they're a drama kid, acting camps are fairly easy to find, too.

But the tough truth is, many summer camps and programs come with a hefty bill. Thankfully, there are summer programs out there that won't break the bank. Here are eight affordable options to explore.

1. The YMCA

YMCAs nationwide serve 1.4 million youth and adults at camps every year, including 970,000 kids and adults through summer day and overnight camp programs and more than 439,000 youth, teens, families, school and retreat groups through group camping overnight programs. Prices vary depending on location and are often open to all with options to adjust fees based on income levels.

A couple examples: The YMCA in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area offers a day camp at $25 per day. YMCA of the Rockies has summer day camps from June 3 to August 16 for $38/day. Check out their search tool to find a camp near you.

2. Sur La Table Summer Series Cooking Classes

The nationwide culinary supply chain offers seasonal cooking classes for kids aged 8-12 and teens 13-17 that run about $250. (You may have to check back for summer offerings closer to warmer months.)

3. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

Both programs cost about $25/year for membership, plus additional (usually affordable) fees for activities. You can find a Girl Scout Camp near you or a Boy Scout troop near you by searching from the Boy Scouts website. Camps, programs, and activity fees vary by local council and are often open to all with options to adjust fees based on income levels.

Summer Campfire Roasting Marshmallows
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4. Your Local Parks and Rec Department

Check out your local parks and rec department for affordable summer day camp options, which often take place at schools, local parks, and other public facilities.

5. Montessori Summer School Programs

The nationwide organization offers educational programs during the summer that combine physical and emotional development with exciting endeavors involving art, music, science, culture, and more. Prices vary, but a 9-week camp in Plainsboro, New Jersey for kids ages 5-12 is $275 per week with a $25 registration fee. Check out the main Montessori site for your local options.

6. Sylvan Academic Camps

Sylvan Learning Centers have a variety of programs to keep your kiddos intellectually stimulated and bolstering their academics through the summer months. A few examples: Study Skills (Grades 4-12); Fit4Algebra camp (Grades 6-9); Writing camp (Grades 4-9). Prices vary but run roughly around $299 a week.

7. The Salvation Army Summer Camps

Salvation Army locations all over the country offer summer camp programs for low-income families. Campers learn to swim, play sports, create music, make art, and scout. Plus, trained counselors help them navigate any complicated emotions and struggles. Search on the Salvation Army site for locations near you.

8. Local library programs

Check out your local library for day camps and programs that run all summer long. For example, in Brooklyn, the award-winning BCAP Summer Camp for kids ages 7-12 is two weeks long and includes games, experiments, creative arts, and exploration. It's $675 for a nine-day session or $725 for a 10-day session.

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