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These Virtual Summer Camps Are Here for the Social Distancing Era

Is your kid a mini Mia Hamm or the next Julia Child?

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With the COVID-19 pandemic still a dark reality across the globe, our summer is likely going to look different than years past. But for some, that means more than simply kissing those carefree rooftop happy hours goodbye. Parents who rely on summer camp for childcare are scrambling to find an alternative source of entertainment for kids at home. Luckily, many of those programs are now going virtual. 

Whether you're convinced your son's the next Picasso or your daughter's got the makings of a mini Mia Hamm, there's something out there for every interest. Here are the best virtual summer camps to keep your kids busy.

The Met Opera Global Summer Camp

The iconic Met Opera is hosting an eight-week summer program for campers aged eight through 18. Conducted entirely online with Google Classroom and Zoom, students will score instruction from writers, artists, musicians, puppeteers, bakers, and clowns. Participants will partake in hands-on activities, learning prompts, and opera performances. The online camp runs Monday through Friday, between June 15 and August 7. But here's the real kicker, mom and dad: the summer camp is entirely free. Keep the kids occupied and buy yourself something nice.

The Bronx Zoo Wildlife Camp

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Bronx Zoo has pivoted its annual wildlife camp to offer students an online experience while still managing that IRL feel. Campers will virtually meet for roll call before observing live animals, taking behind-the-scenes exhibit tours, and taking lessons from Wild Conservation Society animal keepers and scientists. The program also includes self-directed activities, so you can make your own schedule. 

The Bronx Zoo is holding four-day sessions throughout the summer, the first beginning June 22 and the final one kicking off August 31. The subjects range from wildlife careers and mysteries of the animal kingdom to animal tales, animal senses, and animals & art. Registration is available online and will run non-members $275 for the first kid and $100 for each additional sibling. Members pay $250 and $75, respectively.  

Art Camp in a Box

Art Classes for Kids is hosting an "art camp in a box" so you children can get the full experience even while at home. You can register your little Van Gogh for either the beginner (ages five to eight) or advanced (ages nine plus) class to receive Zoom access and a box filled with the necessary supplies to participate -- including colored pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels, and clay for sculpting. Each $175 fee includes enough materials for 10 projects and your online class pass. 

National Academy of Athletics 

Virtual and sports camp might seem like an oxymoron, but the National Academy of Athletics has created a video program so your budding athlete can continue training. If your kid's into basketball, baseball, volleyball, even martial arts, you can sign them up for a five-day online series, featuring drills and instructions from legit athletes like a former New York Mets player JJ Newman or Bears Super Bowl champ Ken Taylor. The basic virtual sports camps are only $48 per week while the all American camps with pro athletes will run you $58 per week. 

Broadway Teaches Kids 

With social distancing and all, your Broadway baby won't be able to take to the stage any time soon. Luckily, Broadway Teaching Kids is hosting a virtual theatre experience so your little performers can keep working on their craft even in quarantine. The eight-week program is available for three age groups: sweet stars (aged five and six), shooting stars (for seven, eight, and nine year olds), and shining stars (for 10 through 12 year-olds). The first week kicks off July 6 and the final session will be held between August 24 and August 28. 

"Through lessons, games, and exercises, we will take your child on a journey to artistically express themselves," the site reads. "Students will tap into their imaginations and learn skills to create fantasy worlds. They will leave the 'BTK Camp' with a toolbox filled with exciting and usable skills to continue with on their life’s journey."

The program includes dance classes, vocal lessons, acting exercises, theme days, and crafts. Tuition is $450 for the entire week, $300 for morning sessions (three classes), and $225 for afternoon sessions only (two classes). Register online.

Avid 4 Adventure Online Camp

This Zoom experience feels a lot like your classic outdoor camp with yoga classes, outdoor skills instruction, and camp games. You can register your children for the morning session (9:30am - 12pm MST) or afternoon (2pm - 4:30pm MST). Private camp is available for groups of 10 or more. Dial up camp director Cici McGeehee to set it up and check out the deets online.

"Outdoor focused, captivating and most importantly, fun -- our online camp curriculum has been carefully curated to introduce kids to new experiences where they will learn and grow," a camp description reads. "Kids gain new skills and knowledge in outdoor-focused topics inspiring them to get outside." 

Bake-a-Camp

Want a camp experience for your kiddos that you'll benefit from too? Baketivity is hosting its virtual bake-a-camp experience. And the best part? You can eat their creations. Your little Julia Child will score a box with four themed Baketivity kits. Each week the recipes will get a bit more advanced, with new topics, themes, and cuisines throughout the entire camp.

The four-week program -- which includes all the supplies for chocolate caramel nuggets, cream puffs, a chocolate log, and whipped gourmet cupcakes -- costs $199. Some ingredients must be independently purchased. A t-shirt, and child-friendly activity book semi-sweeten the deal.

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.