FREE Summer Camps – Low-Cost Summer Camps 2023 – Ultimate Resource
Summer is here and moms everywhere are panicking, “What the heck am I going to do with these kids all summer?” Whether it’s because you work and need childcare, or are a stay-at-home parent who needs a break, summer camp is the solution. But it’s not always in the budget. We’ve compiled a list of free summer camps and summer camps that are low-cost or offer scholarships. Good luck!
FREE SUMMER CAMPS
The Salvation Army
It’s not just one of my favorite thrift shops! 😉 The Salvation Army runs free summer camps and summer programs for low-income families nationwide with activities like music and art lessons, sports, and swimming. Their trained counselors specifically help campers with the “complicated emotions and struggles often associated with their lives back home.”
For children ages 5-14, Salvation Summer camp typically has a weekly fee of $50 for one child, $40 for a second child and $30 for a third child. The fee includes free meals and field trips. Depending on income, their sliding fees can make this a free summer camp.
Local police departments throughout the country have various day camps for children and most of them are free! Google “police camp near me” to find options in your area.
For example, NYPD offers a free Summer Police Academy for children between the ages of 10 and 15 that encourages positive relations between local youth and the Police Department. Six-week programs are held in each of the five boroughs and include field trips to police facilities, role-playing, lectures and demonstrations, drug prevention and gang violence education. Lunch, uniform shirts,and field trips are all provided.
In the San Francisco area, the Police Activities League offers free and super low-cost summer camp programs in football, cheerleading, fishing, jujitsu, and more.
Vacation Bible School
Churches of all demonstrations offer Vacation Bible School programs throughout the country. The programs are typically free and open to the public as well as church members. Many have a performance or demonstration at the end.
For instance, The Community Congregational Church in Short Hills, NJ, offers a week-long Vacation Bible School Camp for only $75 per child.
Try this map to find a Vacation Bible School in your area: http://www.fln.org/resources/vbs/
This program for low-income public school students is an award-winning free summer camp program in partnership with local public schools, colleges, and universities. Operating in 18 states, including California, New York, Virginia, and more, this free six-week summer camp program has free swimming lessons, STEM Programs and healthy breakfast and snacks.
Most libraries have FREE summer reading programs for school-age kids. Some of these are drop-off programs and some require parents to stay at the library with their child. But even with those that require parents to stay, a few hours of quiet and library wifi is a welcome respite to work or relax while your kid is occupied.
Free for Kids with Disabilities or Special Needs
LOF Adaptive Skiiers in CT has a free 4-day program for kids with disabilities or special needs to learn to water ski and wakeboard.
Microsoft Kids Camps
Microsoft stores across the country offer free summer camps for children that explore things like designing video games, robotics, and coding. This summer they are even offering a Harry Potter-themed coding camp. The camps are totally FREE (advanced registration is required) and for ages 6-14.
Apple Store Camps
Are you more a MAC person than a PC person? Apple stores offer their own free camps for ages 8-12. Sessions are three 90-minute classes and explore film-making, coding, music, art or design. A parent must accompany the child.
Get your search engine fingers ready yet again and search for “museum camps for kids near me.” There are a ton of programs for kids of all ages and many of them are free or very inexpensive summer programs for kids.
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum hosts a free camp for kids in first through sixth grades in July and August.
In Houston, The Health Museum in Houston hosts a camp about science, medicine, and the human body. Scholarships are offered based on potential and need.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia hosts full-day art camps for kids starting at $340.
In Pittsburg, The Carnegie Science Center has a summer volunteer program for teenagers.
The Fresh Air Fund
The Fresh Air Fund hosts free summer camps for low-income families but is best known for its program where New York City kids go to live for a week with a host family in the more rural area like The Berkshires, Maine, or Vermont. My husband had fond memories of hosting a Fresh Air Fund kid when he was a child.
Castle Rock Avid 4 Adventure
This 11-week day camp based out of Boulder, CO is for ages 4-13. An outdoor and adventure camp, they offer 300 scholarships a year to families that make less than $100,000 per year. Some families qualify for a full scholarship making this a free summer camp.
For children ages 8-12, this one-week sleepaway camp is free for disadvantaged families. Located in Michigan and Arizona, campers are put into small groups to learn swimming, archery, and even traveling in covered wagons! All food and dorm accomodations are covered.
This residential day camp, just outside of Cincinnatti, is meant for children who would otherwise not be able to afford camp. There’s swimming, ropes courses, and arts and crafts. In addition, there’s a leadership program for ages 13-15 and two “police” camps for ages 10 and up. Each summer, the final week is reserved for foster children. Costs vary but begin at a very affordable $50 per week for this low-cost summer camp program.
Girls Who Code Free Summer Camp
Rising Juniors and Seniors can attend the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program (SIP) for FREE for seven weeks. There are 81 programs throughout the country that encourage girls in the computer sciences and help them develop a supportive network of other girls.
Home Depot Maker Classes
Home Depots across the land offer FREE two-hour workshops on Saturdays where children learn to build a fun project and get a workshop apron, commemorative pin, and certificate of achievement. You must pre-register online.
Summer Camp Essentials for Less
Girl Scouts of America
The Girl Scouts offer camps for girls in kindergarten through twelfth grade. All girls are welcome, whether they are officially Girl Scouts or not. Prices are extremely affordable to free. They also have international camp programs where girls can visit overseas.
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts operate 420 Scout camps, 60 council high-adventure programs, and three national high-adventure bases! Programs are affordable summer camps, with many discounts and scholarships available.
(FYI-Boy Scouts of America now allows both boys AND girls to join. My son’s pack had their first girl this year.)
LOW-INCOME SUMMER CAMPS and AFFORDABLE, LOW-COST SUMMER CAMPS
Recreation Center Camps
Your local rec center may have the most affordable camp in town. (Our does!) They usually have swimming, baseball, soccer, and arts and crafts and try to keep prices down so the whole community can participate.
Camp Invention Affordable Summer Camp
With over 1,600 summer programs nationwide, Camp Invention is a well-respected program from the National Inventors Hall of Fame that is led by local teachers. It encourages children to develop their curiosity, learn teamwork, and practice hands-on problem-solving.
Cost: Around $250-300 dollars per week.
Montessori schools nationwide hold day camps that help students develop their creativity and love of learning while music, art, and STEAM activities. The camps are an extension of the Montessori private school early learning experience but open to the public.
Price: Varies by location, but typically around $200-300 per week.
Waldorf (also known as “Steiner”) Schools inspire a joy of learning, play, and nature.
Price: Varies by location, but starts around $250 per week with scholarships available for these generally low-cost summer camps.
Visit: Search for “Waldorf Schools Near Me” Here are a few:
YMCA Camps– Low-Cost Summer Camps
The YMCA had day camps and sleep away camps all over the country. Most are incredibly affordable and have sliding scale programs based on family’s income.
Boys and Girls Club of America– Inexpensive Summer Camps
From their website, “At Boys & Girls Clubs we do whatever it takes to ensure all kids are on a path towards a Great Future, even in the summer. Unfortunately, some kids face challenges that threaten their ability to have positive summer experiences that could lead to a great start to the school year. We provide kids with safe and fun summer experiences that give them the confidence to learn, explore, grow, and discover their passion. From equestrian and robotic camps to swimming lessons and gardening clubs, Boys & Girls Club is the place where kids can celebrate summer and engage in unique experiences. “
The Science Guys Camps
The Science Guys hold camps at various locations around Nashville for as low as $200 a child.
Camp Creativity at Michael’s
Michael’s Craft Stores hosts a program called “Camp Creativity” on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10am-noon There is a new craft each time (including the kid-favorite–slime!) and kids get stickers and coloring pages to take home.
Cost: $3 for a 30-minute session
SUMMER CAMP SCHOLARSHIPS AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
HUME is a 425-acre Christian summer camp for middle school and highschool aged kids in The Berkshires of New England, with generous scholarships called “Camperships.”
Apply For a Camp Scholarship Here: https://hume.org/camperships/
The S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation
S.P.A.R.K.S. is an adorable acronym for “Science Projects Are Really Kid’s Stuff!”
STEM programs for for elementary age children through hands-on programs that provide enrichment in every area of science. They have programs in New York, New Jersey, Deleware, Tennessee, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
Many of the camps listed here, on The Pathways to Science website, offer scholarships or free summer camps for kids.
Free Virtual Summer Camps
Especially since Covid, virtual camps have taken off. Check out some of these:
And there’s always “Mommy’s Cheap Summer Camp!”
Did you miss our video about creating your own “Mommy Summer Camp?” Check it out below!
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