Summer school programs for kids are often underrated. They offer many benefits, including advantages in the fall when school starts again. If you are looking for something to fill summer hours, and build up your kid’s skills, we have gathered the best ones. Even better, these free programs are budget-friendly.

Parents know that keeping kids challenged and entertained over summer break is difficult. Paying for it can be even harder, especially for large families who are facing the added costs of daycare while school’s out. The value of summer school programs for kids, however, can’t be denied.

NPR reported on what schools call the summer learning slide, meaning that they typically take only around for to six weeks. Fortunately for parents, it only takes a little digging to uncover excellent summer school programs for kids that are free, fun, and educational.


8 Places to Find the Right Summer School Programs for Kids

1. Start with School

Even as they’re closing the doors for the summer, your child’s own school is a great place to start. Many schools host a summer school program for kid. Such as specialized tech classes or sports camps, provided by grants or local funding.

If your school doesn’t offer something, they may well be able to refer you to another local school who does. This can include private schools, local colleges, homeschool groups, or even area businesses with an interest in education or apprenticeship.

2. Parks and Rec

From the local town square to federal wildlife refuges, park systems will often host summer school programs for kids that teach young people about nature, conservation, biology, horticulture, and more. For instance, the National Park Service offers a Youth Conservation Corps for teenagers. This not only teaches kids 15 and over how to care for our natural landscapes and wildlife, it pays them for their work.

If the parks near you aren’t organizing a summer program, check with your local university’s Extension office instead. They may support local 4H groups, Master Gardeners, and related community groups near you, many of whom offer summer programs.

3. Check Out Your Library

Public libraries have long championed summer reading and storytelling. These include summer school programs for kids that have crafts and activities as well as incentive prizes. Today’s libraries have expanded that spirit in recent years, offering movie afternoons, robotics workshops, Lego clubs, teen book clubs, game days, and a lot more. In Houston, Texas, the libraries are offering their usual summer reading program as well as Camp STREAM:

A free week-long summer program that allows students the opportunity to participate in activities relating to each aspect of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) each day of the week.

Check in with your local library to discover what they’re offering in your city.

4. It’s Fun to Be at the YMCA

Local community foundations and nonprofits such as the YMCA offer day camps for kids. These provide everything from swimming to sports to crafts and games. There can sometimes be a fee charged to offset their materials, lunches, and other costs. But these nonprofit organizations often have scholarships available to help low-income families avail of summer school programs for kids, especially those families who qualify for free lunches.

Other organizations that may offer a camp near you include the Salvation Army, the Fresh Air Fund, or a nearby Boys & Girls Club.

5. Vacation Bible School

Churches from all kinds of denominations will offer Vacation Bible School this summer, as part of their ministries and outreach. Many of these camps have themes. Also, a quick online search reveals everything from archaeology to music to sports.

Most camps are free or charge only a nominal fee of $20 or so. The tax can be waived for families with multiple kids, or for church members. You might think an interest in religion would be a prerequisite. However, VBS draws kids from all backgrounds and faiths, even non-Christian and secular.

6. Museums, Science Centers, and Local Attractions

Children’s museums abound in cities today. But in summer, also look to science centers, art galleries, history museums and other special interest attractions. Many now offer homeschool programs year-round and have expanded to include summer school programs for kids.

For families in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, The Tampa Museum of Art offers art-themed camps for a wide range of ages. It also provides needs-based scholarships for those who qualify. For a full listing of museums, attractions, historical societies and other venues near you, start with your local tourist information office.

7. Special Kids and Special Interests

Opportunities abound for the gifted and geeky, as well as the artists, or special needs kids, and any other young people whose abilities may put them in difficult situations otherwise. Military families, cancer survivors or any number of particular circumstances may open up possibilities for a summer adventure geared directly to your child’s most dearly held interests.

What makes your kids shine? Local organizations, agencies, and businesses aligned with your specialty can point you in the right direction. Also, internet searches or forums can uncover a lot too.

8. Stay-at-Home Students, Homeschoolers

For families in remote areas or with transportation and scheduling challenges, there are options. There are plenty of summer programs for kids offered online, that can keep skills sharp and minds busy. Many of these are free to use. However, you may have to follow a schedule such as that at’s summer activities pages.

Also check out Khan Academy for some free online learning, or Code Academy for your favorite young geek.

Time to Play

Some creative thinking and a little legwork should be all you need to discover a fun-filled and intellectually challenging summer for your kids, no matter where you live. After checking out the possibilities above, don’t forget to tap into family and friends.

You can also ask your kids’ friends, for some recommendations and tips from past experiences. The earlier, the better, as some summer slots fill up quickly, especially for popular programs.

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