20+ Great Ways to Keep Kids Busy This Summer

Whether you’ve got a budding artist, activist, or future tech wiz on your hands, these Philly summer activities will keep ’em entertained, engaged, and energized. Here, our 2021 guide to warm-weather things to do with kids in Philadelphia

20+ Great Ways to Keep Kids Busy This Summer

Whether you’ve got a budding artist, activist, or future tech wiz on your hands, these Philly summer activities will keep ’em entertained, engaged, and energized. Here, our 2021 guide to warm-weather things to do with kids in Philadelphia

Pat yourselves on the back, parents. You’ve gotten your kids through a year of virtual learning. You’ve wrangled them into masks, arranged FaceTime playdates, and ushered them through months of social distancing. And now, just as the school year is winding down—and teens at least are getting vaccinated—things are (mercifully) opening back up throughout the region.

While some camps are still on hiatus, there are plenty of great activities to keep your kids moving, learning and having fun all summer long. Below, we lay out 20+ activities (virtual and in-person!) for every type of child, teen and in-between. Happy summer!

RELATED: Looking for things to do in Philly for grownups? We’ve got a guide for that, too. 

Things to do with kids in Philadelphia this summer


Your kid: doodled their way through virtual classes

Sign up for: art classes 🖍

A kid uses watercolors to paint a picture
Make the summer colorful with a great local arts camp. | Photo by Anita Jankovic / Unsplash

This summer, Main Line Art Center is offering virtual and in-person camps, through which teaching artists will lead kids through “creative adventures.” For younger kids, this means learning about different art styles; for pre-teens and teenagers, this means more in-depth sessions focused on one medium, like glass fusing, sculpture, painting or printmaking. Virtual camps for ages five through nine take place in weekly sessions, from 9 to 10:30 am, and run all summer long (June 21st to August 27th). Prices start at $140 per weekly session for members (it’s $165 for non-members), including supplies. On-site camps also run in weekly sessions through the summer; you can choose morning and/or afternoon—or do both for a full-day art-a-thon. Prices start at $240 for members and $266 for non-members. Get more details here.

The Philly Art Center, with locations in Queen Village, Fairmount and Cherry Hill, rolls out a full roster of its award-winning camps this summer. The weekly sessions—for ages four to 12—run through August, and explore subjects like engineering, science, anatomy and nature through an art-focused lens. Sessions start at $295 for a full day; discounts are offered when you book three or more weeks. Find more info here. (Word to the wise: Spots book up super-quickly; register ASAP.)

A kid uses crayons to color a picture for his parents
What inspires creativity more than a rainbow of crayons? | Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

For an at-home activity, check out Fresh Artists, a non-profit that offers mini ‘Weekend Art Kits’ to help kids exploring their creativity outside of school. Each kit is filled with an assortment of recycled paint chip samples (the program is done in collaboration with Behr Paint) and instructions for creating vibrant paper mosaics. The kits provide everything else you’ll need, too, like cardboard, six pages of ideas and inspiration, a small bottle of glue, a black marker, and chalk. The materials are enough for three kids to make two projects. The kit is free to students, but you can also purchase one for your children for $40 and they’ll deliver a free weekend art kit to two students in need. Order your kit here.

RELATED: Kids from Philly create art that encourages their parents to vote


Your kid: has a flair for the dramatic (for better or worse)

Sign up for: acting camp 🎭

Two young girls dressed in ballet attire perform a dance
Let your budding actors hone their craft at a drama camp. | Photo by IIONA VIRGIN / Unsplash

During the week of July 12th, the Abington Art Center hosts two drama camps for kids ages nine to 16. The morning camp (from 9 to 12 pm; $90) is all about acting, and the afternoon camp (1 to 4 pm; $175) focuses on musical theater. Sign up for the full day and they offer a free supervised lunch hour in between courses. The best part? Each camp caps off the week with a performance. Check it out here. (Psst: They also offer art camps like sculpture and wheel throwing, comic and illustration, and ceramics.)

RELATED: The Unscripted Project uses improv to boost confidence in local youth

At the Walnut Street Theatre’s famous acting camp, kids from ages 7-18 learn everything they need to become stage actors, from a beginner musical theater camp to a performance division that results in a full show directed by industry professionals. (This year’s shows: Cinderella and Our Town.) Camps (all in person this year) range from one week ($350 for full day) to once a week for eight weeks ($130)—and, even include evening sessions for adults if you want to get in on the fun. Sign up here.


Your kid: snacked their way through quarantine

Sign up for: cooking camp 🍪

Two kids stir things in bowls to bake a cake for their mom
Your kiddos can cook up big fun at a culinary camp. | Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Have a budding Top Chef in the house? Hudson Table in Northern Liberties has you covered. In addition to weekly themed camps (Around the World, Baking Techniques) for kids aged 8-14, Hudson Table holds culinary competition camps in the vein of your favorite food shows, allowing your mini-chef to let their creativity soar. Classes for week, including all supplies, run $525. Sign up here now, smaller than usual camps are selling out fast.

The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli has a full menu of summer camps for kids and teens starting in June. The weekly camps, which are offered in morning and afternoon sessions, range from cooking and baking (for ages eight to 11) to pastry arts and global foods (for ages 12 to 15). There’s even a teen camp for kitchen basics like knife skills. (Gulp.) Each camp is $320 for the week; register here.

To keep your sous chef cooking closer to home, check out the Kitchen Wizards’ virtual programs. The lineup is as creative as it is wide-ranging; themes include ‘Cookies from Around the World’ (ages five to eight), ‘Historical Doll Cooking’ (ages six to 11), and ‘Chocolate, Chocolate, and More Chocolate’ (ages eight to 12). The two-hour classes start at $100 each and run throughout the summer. See the calendar and register here.


Your kid: needs to burn off some energy

Sign up for: sports camp 🏸

Kids holding tennis rackets and wearing tennis shoes await their turn on the tennis court
Kids interested in tennis can find lessons and camps galore this summer in Philly. | Photo by Christian Tenguan / Unsplash

Legacy Youth Tennis and Education offers tennis camps for a variety of age groups: Munchkin Camp introduces five- to seven-year-olds to the game, while full-day training camps teach technique, strategy and conditioning. Prices start at $400 for the week, ($450 for the elite training camp) or you can drop in for the day for $100. Have more than one child? They offer 10 percent off for each additional sibling. Get details here.

RELATED: Philly youth sports program fights incarceration through basketball

Get your kid reaching new heights at The Cliffs at Callowhill. The indoor climbing complex features a summer’s worth of camps—June 14th to August 27th—for curious climbers ages six and older. Cost is $450 for a five-day session (hours are 9 am to 3 pm) and activities include bouldering, top-rope climbing, and climbing games. Sign up here.

A young girl skates at a skate park near Philadelphia
What’s more exhilarating than a few runs around a skatepark? Good thing Philly is full of them. | Photo courtesy Jessica Blatt Press

Stock up on basic skateboarding equipment (a standard popsicle board, helmet, knee pads and wrist guards) and then let the pros of Skate the Foundry do the rest. The weekly half- or full-day camps (held throughout the summer at seven different locations in the area) teach kids ages six through 15 the fundamentals of the sport, from balance to body coordination. Full-day camp (9 am to 3 pm) for five days is $510; half-day (9 am to 12 pm) is $300. Want a cheaper, more convenient option? Consider their virtual lessons, which are $40 for 30 minutes of private instruction.


Your kid: spent all of lockdown playing video games

Sign up for: tech camp 💻

A kid does basic coding on their tabliet
Encourage your budding techie. Watch out, Silicon Valley! | Photo by Robo Wunderkind / Unsplash

iD Tech is holding virtual and in-person summer camps for kids ages 7 to 18 in which “tech rockstars” (i.e. software engineers at Disney and Google) teach coding, game development, robotics and design. Among the course offerings: Minecraft adventure design, YouTube animation and storytelling course, and app development. There’s a max of five students per instructor so your child is getting more individualized attention. Prices are $400 with code TOGETHER50. Register here.

Over at Penn, a three-week summer high school coding camp kicks off on June 14th. The virtual class teaches browser-based technologies, foundational coding and creative problem-solving. Go here for more info, or call 215-310-5478.

Award-winning Lavner Camps offers 40-plus in-person STEM and tech camps—from Roblox and game theory to 3D design and video production—at 10 different area locations. One-week all-day camps start at $599. Check out the calendar of offerings here.


Your kid: came out of this past year wanting to make a difference

Sign up for: volunteering opportunities 🌱

Teens can sign up for Philly Reaching Coaches to teach other kids how to read
Local teens can help other kids learn to read. | Photo by Alexis Brown / Unsplash

Teens 14 and older can apply to volunteer with Philly Reading Coaches, a program that helps K-3 students develop their reading skills by pairing them with a trained volunteer for weekly one-on-one reading support. The volunteers will spend at least one hour each week (between the hours of 3 pm and 6 pm) reading online with a young student. The goal? To get the city’s kids reading at grade level before they enter fourth grade. (Children who hit this mark are more likely to have high school success.) The program is currently making plans for this summer and the next school year; fill out an interest form here.

RELATED: This new teaching method might help more students in Philly learn to read

The Free Library welcomes kids in grades seven through 12 to volunteer in its many branches. A sampling of opportunities: shelving, clerical aide, and—our favorite—teen book critic. Fill out an application here.

Teens looking to spread the word—and allay fears—about the COVID-19 vaccine should look to Teen Philly Vaxx, a new student-led group that’s working to get their peers vaccinated. The collective of Philly high school students (with the help of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and CHOP’s Policy Lab) is harnessing the power of social media to educate teens and promote vaccination. They’re also hosting festive vaccination events where kids can get their shot and socialize (safely) with one another. Reach out to the ambassadors via their social media handles—see them here!—to find out how to get involved.

Kids 14 and older can volunteer in the MANNA kitchen, helping with various tasks like chopping veggies, filling meal trays, packing meals and baking. (The Philly nonprofit provides nutritious, medically tailored meals to people at acute nutritional risk; they work with nearly 10,000 volunteers a year.) Volunteer hours are held in three shifts from Tuesday to Thursday (7-10 am, 10-1 pm, and 1-4 pm), and in two shifts on Fridays (7-10 am and 10-1 pm). And no, you don’t need to have cooking skills. Click here to create an account and access the volunteer portal.

Two little girls walk hand in hand during a volunteer Love Your Park Week event
Make like these kiddos, who joined a volunteer Love Your Park Week event at Tacony Creek Park. | Photo by Albert Yee

Another must-do activity: Get your kids involved in citywide clean-ups. The events will get them moving, working with a team, and feeling some good ol’ civic pride. While many clean-ups have been put on hold, there are still some to add to your calendar, like a Cobbs Creek Park cleanup on June 12th (ages 16 and up; pre-register here). Find out if your block is involved in an upcoming cleanup here. (And if it’s not, why not organize one?)

Or go solo: Love Your Park offers a map of “well-loved” parks that could always use some TLC, and they’ve even got a video that teaches you how to do it safely. (Some tips: Wear gloves, use a trash grabber, and set your bags by a park trash can for collection.) Rather be by the water? Click here to inquire about volunteer opportunities with the TTF Watershed, a group dedicated to preserving and caring for the 33-mile Tookany/Tacony-Frankford watershed.

Header photo courtesy of Skate The Foundry

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