8 Engaging Summer Programs for Kids

Summer is almost here, and parents across the nation are scrambling to find ways to keep their little ones occupied throughout the sunny season. Summer camps offer one method for keeping toddlers to teens busy, healthy, and learning. What kind of programs do parents have to choose from?

Summer programs for kids range from absolutely free to hundreds of dollars. Some camps focus upon kids of certain ages while others cater to special interests. Take a look at the cool summer programs available, and sit down with the kiddos tonight to make some sizzling summer plans.

1. Free Summer Reading Programs

Little literary types adore digging into summer reading programs. Not only are such programs on the national or local level normally free, they also offer children a way to earn free books by doing one of the things they love most.

At the national level, Barnes and Noble runs a program from May to September where children can earn a free book for every eight they read. Sylvan’s reading program runs all year long and allows kids to earn prizes like candy and temporary tattoos. Do the little ones live for roller coasters? Six Flags’ Read to Succeed program rewards summer readers with free theme park admission in the fall.

Most local public libraries also offer summer reading programs. Prizes and rewards vary by location, so give them a call and find out what they offer.

2. LEGO VIP Mini-Build Program

Future architects and construction workers will adore the LEGO VIP Mini-Build Program. The first Tuesday and Wednesday of every month, LEGO stores across the nation allow children between ages 6-14 to build a mini creation and take it home with them for free.

Those wishing to participate need to register on the company website for VIP access. Parents can complete this application in minutes. VIP members also have opportunities to earn prizes and take part in special promotions all year long.

3. Vacation Bible School

These summer programs tend to be Christian-based so not all families may want to participate, however they are open to all and can be a great local activity for families to take advantage of. While they do teach children about God, it’s usually within the confines of broad and general themes. And most Vacation Bible Schools offer a host of fun kid-friendly activities throughout the summer such as superhero-themed parties and beach parties.

In addition, Vacation Bible Schools offer a ton of different activities from arts and crafts to sports. And most Vacation Bible Schools are free, although some do request a small donation of money or food to cover snack time, etc.

4. Adventure Camps

Parents can find it challenging to find resources for high school students getting ready to head off to college. Sporty kids of all ages can keep fit over the summer season by signing up for a Wilderness Adventure camp.

Some such camps offer kids training in outdoor survival skills. Others offer a variety of obstacle courses, hiking trails, and even overseas adventures. Regardless of the type of age-appropriate adventure camp selected, kids will meet new friends while toning their muscles and honing new skills.

5. National Park Junior Ranger Program

Another great choice for outdoorsy types is the National Park Junior Ranger program. Those planning a family vacation to a national park can sign the little ones up for the program beforehand and enjoy some adult time while the kids are safely occupied. Teens, adults, and seniors alike can participate in the Not-So-Junior Ranger Program so they can hone their knowledge of outdoor survival as well as the flora and fauna of national treasures.

6. STEM-Themed Camps

Reading helps retain language skills over the summer, but what about math and science? Summer STEM camps allow students passionate about science, technology, engineering, and math keep current.

Programs exist for children of all ages and ability levels. Given the shortage of women in science and math fields, some locations offer girls-only STEM camps. Many programs charge a fee, but they also help keep student skills sharp for the upcoming school year.


Looking for an inexpensive way to keep the kids busy? Why not check into the local Y? The YMCA offers a variety of arts, crafts, and sports activities for the entire family—mom and dad can squeeze in a workout while the kids remain engaged.

Depending on location, some YMCA’s offer certification classes in first aid, CPR, and lifeguard training. It’s always a good idea to brush up on these skills in case an accident occurs. And family passes usually cost relatively little.

8. Farming and Agricultural Camps

Little garden growers will flip for summer farming camps. Locations such as Heritage Creek Farm in Lancaster offer a variety of educational activities for kids of all ages. Knowing how to grow food is a fun and handy skill to have at any life stage.

Summer Program Fun for All

Parents often find it challenging to keep the little and not-so-little ones busy over the warmer months. But with these great camp and summer program ideas, moms and dads can keep young minds active even when school’s out for summer break.

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