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Many sleepaway and day camps have canceled their programs this summer. That’s a bummer for kids and a problem for some parents. Many moms and dads of younger kids, even if still working at home, were relying on camp as child care. “I can attest that these last few months have been a steep learning curve for all parents, myself included,” says Tim Allen, CEO of Care.com.

The confidence we’ve gained in managing the challenges and spending more time with our kids will hopefully pay off. “That knowledge will help parents get through the summer, despite the uncertainty. A wide array of online summer programming is available to kids,” Allen says.

With so many options, how do you make the best choice? “Finding appropriate virtual activities is in some ways similar to choosing traditional programs,” says Dana Stahl, a learning specialist and founder of Educational Alternatives in Katonah, New York. You need to consider your children’s interests and their capacity for sustained attention, she says. “Some children learn best by watching, some by listening, and others by active participation.”

From online summer camps to camps-in-a-box to good old hands-on camp activities, consider this your guide to summer camp salvation.

Your camp counselor toolbox

No matter how many things you sign the kids up for via mail or online, they’ll need some time on their own — or with you. Creativity and laughter can take over your home during offline hours with these recommendations.

Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course for Kids ($189.98, originally $229.99; amazon.com)

Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course for Kids
Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course for Kids

Release their inner warrior with this American Ninja Warrior Competition kit. It comes with a bear crawl, hop sacks, agility rings and jump ropes that can provide endless possibilities. Level up by grabbing the coordinating bounce ball set and buzzer to make the competitions even more like the real thing. It’s approved for ages 6 and up, so the whole family can get in on the fun.

Made by Me Mix & Mold Stepping Stones ($15.17; amazon.com)

Made by Me Mix & Mold Stepping Stones
Made by Me Mix & Mold Stepping Stones

What’s camp without crafts? The finished products of this kit will add a touch of color and cheer to your yard.

Jasonwell Sprinkle & Splash Play Mat 68” Sprinkler ($25.99; amazon.com)

Jasonwell Sprinkle & Splash Play Mat 68" Sprinkler
Jasonwell Sprinkle & Splash Play Mat 68" Sprinkler

This awesome backyard addition is a summer camp classic. There’s nothing better than splashing around on a hot summer day.

SUNCOO Running Shooting Targets ($29.99, originally $39.99; amazon.com)

SUNCOO Running Shooting Targets
SUNCOO Running Shooting Targets

Time to stretch your legs and move around by testing your aim at these moving targets. In case you’re not already stocked up on blasters, try snagging a couple of these Nerf N-Strike Elite Triad EX-3 ($4.99; target.com) for target practice.

Klutz Friendship Bracelets Craft Kit ($17.68; amazon.com)

Klutz Friendship Bracelets Craft Kit
Klutz Friendship Bracelets Craft Kit

Another summer camp classic craft activity is making friendship bracelets to hand out to all of your new besties before heading back to school in the fall. Kids can make these for everyone in the house or mail them out to friends, cousins or anyone else (Grandma?) who’s on their minds.

Discovery Kids Planetarium Projector ($26.16, originally $31.99; amazon.com)

Discovery Kids Planetarium Projector
Discovery Kids Planetarium Projector

Children can explore the marvels of our universe during a “camp out” in your living room.

Max Liquidator 6-Pack Water Blaster Set ($16.81, originally $19.99; amazon.com)

Max Liquidator 6-Pack
Max Liquidator 6-Pack

Don’t have room for a water slide? Just fill up a bucket with water and hand these out to the kids for endless water fun.

Magformers Basic Plus ($14.97, originally $24.99; amazon.com)

Magformers Basic Plus
Magformers Basic Plus

Preschoolers can learn to build using combine, roll and pull-up techniques and see what their imaginations can create.

Toysmith Beetle & Bee Build A Bird Buffet ($14.99; amazon.com)

Toysmith Beetle & Bee Build A Bird Buffet
Toysmith Beetle & Bee Build A Bird Buffet

Get them in touch with nature, and their own craftiness, with this kit, which comes with everything they’ll need to build a bird feeder, from precut wood to paint — no nails required.

Green Science Solar Rover ($18.81, originally $19.99; amazon.com)

Green Science Solar Rover
Green Science Solar Rover

This kit contains everything needed to recycle a soda can into a solar-powered vehicle.

Moody Goat 21-Piece Outdoor Explorer Gear Deluxe Play Set for Kids ($32.95; amazon.com)

Moody Goat 21-Piece Outdoor Explorer Gear Deluxe Play Set for Kids
Moody Goat 21-Piece Outdoor Explorer Gear Deluxe Play Set for Kids

Kids 5 years old and up will have fun observing nature up close with this kit that’s loaded with the tools they’ll need to explore, analyze and remember their discoveries, including magnifiers, nets, tools, and even a hat and vest so they can

RockJam 54-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard ($72.49; amazon.com)

RockJam 54-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard
RockJam 54-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard

How about an end-of-summer talent show? We’ve surely all learned a few new tricks this season. This keyboard will teach them how to play music and read music without needing to leave the house to see a teacher IRL.

Camp KiwiCo (free for online camp content, crates starting at $24.95; kiwico.com)

Camp KiwiCo
Camp KiwiCo

Subscription boxes that appeal to all ages are slim pickings. That’s why we fell for Camp KiwiCo, which has set up a weekly camp shipment service for all those preschool through high school tinkerers and makers. Every day is structured around a theme, accompanied either by a crate or free videos, DIY and downloadable printables or both. Each themed camp week covers five days of four hours’ worth of fun that you can mix and match. The program launches on June 22 and will run throughout the summer.

Usit Virtual Summer ($150 for the first week, $90 for each following week; virtual.usit.care)

Usit Virtual Summer
Usit Virtual Summer

This is another one that doesn’t fit neatly into an age bracket, because it appeals to kids ages 3 through 13. Sessions are conducted by college students in small groups of five kids each and start at $150 for the first week and $90 for each additional week. Subjects include “Paint like Picasso,” “Self care and meditation” and TikTok, and even cover things like acting, digital arts and entrepreneurialism.

Preschool camp ideas

These smart activities with an eye toward the first day of kindergarten (yay!) are best enjoyed with a parent. That means squeezing in extra bonding time whenever you can find it.

Little Passports Early Explorers ($19.95/month for 12 months; littlepassports.com)

Little Passports Early Explorers
Little Passports Early Explorers

This year, summer camp is wherever you are. Camp-in-a-box services have stepped up to help families make the most of the season. One of our favorites is Early Explorers by Little Passports, because it’s focused on global adventures that get kids virtually exploring the world. Each “traveler’s kit” comes packaged in an adorable suitcase. The activities inside will have children getting a taste of a faraway place.

The Preschool Box ($29.16 per child, per month; cratejoy.com)

The Preschool Box
The Preschool Box

This monthly kit is stuffed with activities, games, stickers and books specifically geared to helping children have some fun while getting prepared for kindergarten. A parent guide is also included, so you know exactly how to help your child along.

Free camp resources for preschool kids

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium (free; youtube.com)

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

Get crafty with WOW’s summer Creature Crafting series. It teaches the little ones and their grown-ups how to conjure up all kinds of DIY goodness. Like what? Coffee filter jellyfish, bird feeders and slithery snake bracelets, for starters.

Tutor Time Learning at Home (free; learningcaregroup.com)

Tutor Time Learning at Home
Tutor Time Learning at Home

This web hub is packed with continually updated activities for children as young as 2, with their grown-up. Among the offerings are arts and crafts, music, story-based learning and positive behavior reinforcement.

Sesame Street (free; sesamestreet.org)

Sesame Street
Sesame Street

The iconic preschool program has launched the Caring for Each Other platform, full of interactive games, lessons and videos. The goal is to put your child more at ease with the changes in daily life caused by covid-19 while keeping the fun and learning going.

San Diego Zoo (free; kids.sandiegozoo.org)

San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo

Children this age seem to adore animals universally. This kid-centric site of the world-famous zoo is loaded with resources. Think webcams (African penguins visiting the orangutans! Twin lemurs!), preschooler-friendly curriculums, activities and games. Although this resource is free, the zoo is in dire need of donations from families with the means to contribute.

Hello Bello (free; youtube.com)

Hello Bello
Hello Bello

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s family brand has launched Camp Hello Bello to help keep families busy during this turbulent time. “Camp counselors” — some moms and dads across the country who lost their jobs due to the pandemic — lead storytimes, singalongs, cooking classes, workouts, art projects and more for your minis.

NatGeo@Home (free; nationalgeographic.com)

NatGeo@Home
NatGeo@Home

The NatGeo@Home hub will be updated regularly through the summer with engaging ways for families to hold “camp” at home. One example? A fun neighborhood safari. What we love about this option is how it breaks activities out by how much time you have. Half an hour? Make yogurt. Only five minutes? Get an update on how the nearly extinct black rhinos are holding up.

Elementary and middle school camp Ideas

Many of the coolest virtual fun sessions are adaptable to a wide range of ages. Younger kids can easily tackle them with a little guidance here and there from a parent, while those on the older end can direct their adventures on their own.

Bitsbox ($29.95/month; amazon.com)

Bitsbox
Bitsbox

Aspiring app developers can start honing their craft with the targeted projects supplied by this popular service. From games to e-cards to simulations, the finished work can be run on smartphones and tablets. Unlimited email help is included with your subscription (for the parents as well as the kids, in case coding is new to you too.) The first box is discounted at $28.45 and additional boxes are automatically charged at $29.95.

Raddish ($24/month; amazon.com)

Raddish
Raddish

Does your kiddo’s interest seem to be piqued by what goes on in the kitchen? Then ordering up a steady stream of easy-peasy, yummy cooking projects may be just the ticket to summer fun. Each delivery will have a surprise theme — imagination, global cuisine, the season’s bounty, holiday goodness or one of many others. The themes never repeat. The first box is $16.80 and additional boxes are automatically charged at $24 per month.

YMCA (Pricing based on program specifics; ymca.net)

YMCA
YMCA

For decades, legions of kids have spent summer at the Y. This year, many branches across the country have come up with online substitutes. Check with the ones in your area to learn about virtual offerings. One example: the YMCA of Youngstown, Ohio. Parents pick up a crate of supplies for the week on Sunday, and kids log on for three to four hours a day to “join” their camp counselor in each day’s activities.

Sittercity (starting at $35/month; family.sittercity.com)

Sittercity
Sittercity

Online babysitting is catching on with parents who don’t necessarily want to have their kid occupied at a screen for long stretches, but, of course, still need to get stuff done. A virtual sitter will engage your child in games and stories, typically for one to two hours. The sweet spot for virtual babysitting is ages 6 to 9. In addition to the monthly membership fees, you will need to negotiate the hourly sitting rate with your particular sitter. If you are affected by covid-19, however, Sittercity is currently offering 50% off its membership fees.