Hey, parents: Are your kids better slime makers than bed makers? Are their Minecraft rooms way cleaner and neater than their actual rooms?
You’re not alone. Many elementary schoolers, tweens and teens are lacking in basic life skills — sometimes because they haven’t learned them yet, and sometimes because they’re just too lazy or disinterested.
So what if we told you there were summer camps where kids can learn everything from sewing and typing to map reading and leadership — practical skills they can use throughout their lives — and that they’d have so much fun along the way, they might not even realize they’re learning how to be functioning human beings capable of one day taking care of themselves?
For a crash course in things like budgeting, cooking and doing laundry, check out Actual Life Skills 4 Teens. Taught out of co-teacher Amanda Adams-Barney’s Germantown, Md., home, the program walks middle and high schoolers through some of these everyday tasks.
Classes are offered throughout the year, plus a one-week summer session June 25-29 ($345 for half-days, $485 for full days). Each day, kids will discuss budgeting (like how much that car they want will really cost them) and learn versatile cooking basics. For example, “If you can brown meat you can make spaghetti sauce, you can make tacos, all kinds of different things,” Adams-Barney says.
Other class time covers skills like ironing, cleaning and etiquette. “Our motto is ‘Skills plus experience equals knowledge,’ ” Adams-Barney says. “These are basics that will take you far.”
Kids can delve deeper into money matters at financial literacy camps held at the Potomac School in McLean, Va., and put on by the Spark Business Academy. Sessions are held throughout the summer for rising first- through ninth-graders ($495 per week). Themes explored include concepts like entrepreneurship, investing and Bitcoin.
Today’s tech-savvy kids are experts at swiping and tapping. But typing on a computer may still be slightly out of reach. For about 10 years, Georgetown Day School has been offering touch-typing camps to help get kids up to speed.
“We’ve noticed that students younger and younger are being asked to do homework or research assignments using the computer, and they don’t know how to type,” says Vinita Ahuja, director of extended learning and auxiliary programs at Georgetown Day School. “We want to make sure students can be efficient and not focused on just finding the letters.”
Touch-typing sessions will be offered Aug. 13-17 and Aug. 20-24 for rising third- through 10th- graders ($235 per session). Instructors use drills and software to help students learn things like posture and hand placement to increase their typing accuracy.
Typing’s not the only skill kids aren’t learning these days thanks to those cellphones they grew up using: With GPS, they no longer have to be able to read a map to know where they’re going. But the Lowell School in Northwest D.C. teaches middle schoolers old-school navigation techniques at its “Amazing Race” camp, held June 18-22 and June 25-29
($430 per week).
Kids are given clues that lead to them to interesting but little-known places around D.C. Once they’ve figured out their destinations, they head to Metro’s website to map bus and train routes to get them there. Getting lost is part of the learning experience.
“Counselors let [the kids] lead the way and only step in if they are grossly or dangerously off-course,” says Dawn Smith, director of auxiliary programs and service learning at the Lowell School. “But by the end of the week, they know how to figure out Metro routes and navigate public transportation.”
Got a kid who’s constantly asking for new clothes? Help them think outside the mall with Sidwell Summer Camp’s machine sewing camp. Ten one-week sessions will be offered June 11-Aug. 17 at the D.C. campus of Sidwell Friends School for rising fourth- through 10th-graders ($560 per week). Participants can choose from more than 20 different patterns and fabrics to create their own fashions.
If your little one is ready to grab life by the handlebars but hasn’t quite figured out how to yet, consider American Inline’s “Learn to Ride a Bike” camps. Offered at various locations in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Anne Arundel and Montgomery Counties throughout the summer ($200 to $445 a session), the camps help kids transition from training wheels to pedaling on their own, teaching them about balance, braking and other biking basics. American Inline also offers camps for more experienced bike riders and for beginner skateboarders and rollerbladers.
Other area camps teach kids life skills that help them not only survive in the world but also thrive in it. Maryland Leadership Workshops offers summer programs for middle and high schoolers where they develop the communication, decision-making and management skills necessary to be a good leader. Attendees stay on campus at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County during the five peer-led, week-long camps ($895 to $995 per session), so they also get a taste of living on their own.
As our world becomes more interconnected, the ability to speak a foreign language will help kids go farther (literally and figuratively). The French Academy offers language immersion camps for children ages 5 through 12. Six week-long sessions take place during the summer in Chevy Chase, Md. ($400 for full days, $290 for half days; half-day sessions are also offered in Alexandria during some of those weeks for $280). Each week has a different theme, and all relevant games, crafts and activities are done in French. Attendees are a mix of total beginners and more experienced French speakers.
“The more exposed to different languages you are, the easier it is for you to learn phonetics [in general],” says Natacha Manet, director and senior teacher at the French Academy. “That’s not just important for learning French, it’s important for learning any other language. And kids who are bilingual or trilingual do better in school because it generally helps the brain to remember things.”
More D.C.-area summer camps: