16 Virtual After-School Programs to Keep Kids Engaged When the Learning Day is Done
After-school programs not only provide a safe space for kids of working parents to learn, but according to youth.gov, they can also help improve math and reading grades, promote physical health, reduce drug use, and decrease the likelihood that a student will drop out of school. Due to the ongoing pandemic, though, in-person after-school programs are up in the air for the 2020-2021 school year.
“We desperately need more resources,” Jodi Grant, executive director of Afterschool Alliance—a nonprofit that helps to give kids access to affordable, quality after-school programs—told The Atlantic. “We need [protective gear], and we’re going to need more staff if we really want to have them follow public-health guidelines, which is essential.”
And while Afterschool Alliance is working to bring innovative, critical programs to the families that need them, it won't be easy. Its site is a great resource for finding after-school options and updates in your state, but there are also online programs and camps to help fill the void during the pandemic. Here are some virtual after-school options your kids and teens will love:
1. Girl Scouts at Home
Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) launched Girl Scouts at Home to offer kids an engaging virtual summer camp experience early in the pandemic. Because of the program's success, it'll continue through the fall with everything from space exploration to coding 101. Girl Scouts at Home is a great option for kids of all grade levels for free, self-guided activities in STEM, entrepreneurship, life skills, and the outdoors.
2. iD Tech
Creative kids 7 and up with an interest in technology will love iD Tech's virtual class offerings for fall. From game development to coding to design, iD Tech's online classes have something for everyone—whether they're total beginners or complete pros. You'll also want to check out its Squads After School where your kid can sign up and invite up to four friends to join in on the fun. Daily 90-minute sessions start at $299 per week. Plus, depending where you live, there might be on-campus options available.
3. Book Club for Kids
Got a bookworm at home or a child you're trying to get more interested in reading? Enter: Book Club for Kids, a free 20-minute podcast with discussions on books, readings from celebrities, and even interviews with authors. Best for ages 8 to 14, there are already more than 100 free episodes—aka 100 book ideas to add to the reading list—available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or at bookclubforkids.org.
4. Connected Camps
Run by online experts, Connected Camps offers dozens of interactive, small group programs for kids ages 8 through 17. Prices range from $48 to $90 per month for classes on everything from Minecraft to game design to Esports. Kids can even hang out with friends in a free Minecraft server where moderators help to keep them engaged.
5. Huntington Learning Center
Known for its nationwide tutoring and test prep for school-age kids, Huntington Learning Center quickly pivoted when COVID-19 hit to help give students enriching educational experiences through expanded resources. Huntington Study Hall allows students to attend virtual school with a certified teacher to help during and after schools, while Homework Help gives students one-on-one time with certified teachers for help on—you guessed it—their homework. Prices vary depending on students' needs.
Photography, drawing, music, Legos—kids of all ages and skill levels will find a virtual class they like with DIY. Up to four kids can sign up for a 14-day free trial to enjoy unlimited access to all of DIY's content. After your free trial, the cost is $15 to $25 per month depending on which plan you choose.
For kids in kindergarten all the way up to ninth grade, UpBrainery boasts classes in cooking, engineering, the arts, and even homework help. Courses range from $35 to $125 and offer the expertise of a live teacher, plus kids can get hands-on kits shipped to their door for immersive follow-along experiences.
Considered by parents as the "Peloton of kids classes," Beanstalk offers live and interactive classes on everything from animals to pirates for younger kids in preschool up to first grade. Camps and classes—handpicked by childhood development experts—are included in a $9.95 monthly subscription, though members can also purchase an annual plan for $95 which donates a full year to a family in need.
9. Little Medical School
Little Medical School inspires children to pursue health care careers, but will also teach them healthy habits, first aid tips, and what to do in an emergency. Created by a doctor, Little Medical School's online after-school program will cover public health, sports medicine, veterinary and exotic animals, human traits, and medical innovations. The program will run September through December starting at $145 for kids ages 6 to 12.
10. MarcoPolo World School
With a STEAM—that's science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math—curriculum, MarcoPolo World School is a digital learning platform with video lessons, games, and 3,000 interactive activities for children ages 3 to 7. Prices start at $9.99 per month, but you can get limited time offer of 50 percent off an annual plan.
Online learning platform TakeLessons connects students of all ages with virtual tutors—that parents can choose based on previous reviews—who can help with schoolwork or extracurriculars like music, art, and even beatboxing. Classes are offered virtually or in-person and can either be one-on-one or taken in a group setting. Private classes are about $20, while group lessons are $19.95 a month.
12. Kitchen Classroom
Your little foodie will love Kitchen Classroom from America's Test Kitchen. For youngsters between 3 and 8, your kiddo can try out new recipes (that are typically pantry-friendly so you won't have to shop for a ton of new stuff), experiments, and food quizzes for free—plus you can enjoy the treats as a family when it's ready!
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Searching for an online tutor for your school-age child? Look no further than StudyPoint, which offers one-on-one and small group support for kids in first grade all the way up to high school. Students can work on math, reading, writing, and even SAT and ACT prep. Group sessions start at $20 per hour and private tutoring starts at $60 per hour.
14. Treasure Trunk Theatre
Based in Brooklyn, Treasure Trunk Theatre moved fully online due to COVID-19 and plans to continue its virtual theatrical classes and camps for kids 8 and younger through the fall. Fall session—including everything from singing to musical theater—begins September 14 starting at $45 per day.
15. Sylvan Learning
Sylvan Learning offers high-quality 1:1 online tutoring for K-12 kids. Homework help, coding, engineering, SAT prep—Sylvan has after-school support for everyone. With flexible pricing and monthly payments, you can find a program that works best with your budget. SylvanNation.com also offers free activities and resources you can download on your own.
16. Perfect Play
Looking for something a little less academic to keep the kids engaged? Perfect Play, an app developed by Chelsea Football Club and Chelsea Digital Ventures, is a great way to keep soccer fans active after school. With training exercises, games, and tips from coaches and professional players, kids 9 and up can get in some soccer training—and time away from the devices—for $14.99 per month.