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Education Featured Parenting Summer Camps - No School Camps

Summer Camps in Howard County for Summer 2020

26+ High Quality, “Don’t Miss This”, Great Summer Camps

NOTE 1/22/20: A few of the summer camps I am listing below haven’t put up their 2020 pages yet. I will work on updating this as soon as the camps put up their offerings. This means you may encounter old information or broken links.

Summer 2020 is approaching, and so is summer vacation–so I have made a list of summer camps in Howard County (as well as near me in adjoining counties). The list of camps includes academic sessions for the many Howard County GT students, sports, drama, arts, crafts, and music.

As a former teacher, I can tell you that summer break can do some damage to your child’s academic skills.  Every year there are too many kids who come back to school with lower reading and math abilities than they left with the previous school year.

The reason this happens will be obvious to most parents who have themselves spent their childhood summers watching TV, hanging out with friends, and avoiding anything remotely academic. Some of this is great, but not too much it seems.

[Need gift ideas for the brainy kids in your life? See my list of present ideas for toddlers, kids, and teens]

Of course, there were always a few kids who did not suffer from the summer effect and still had time to relax and be kids during summer.  These were the children whose parents were on top of making sure that some of the kids’ summer experiences would actually add to what they learned in the previous school year.

With that in mind, my friends and I have been discussing all of the fun and interesting summer camp options that are available these days around Howard County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore Maryland.

Please drop me a comment if you know of ones that I missed. BTW, I am only listing camps that I have first-hand knowledge of–these aren’t paid listings, but just interesting summer camps that I think kids will actually benefit from attending–some are learning camps for gifted and talented (GT / TAG) kids, and others are just general fun camps.

[BTW, if you’re looking for birthday party ideas for kids in Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery County, or Anne Arundel County I have been keeping a list!

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  1. Idea Lab Kids – A friendly place with loads of options. Great STEM Camps in Ellicott City. Here is their 2020 camp schedule.  They also have a great aftercare program.
  2. Glenelg Country School – In Ellicott City, this school has some amazing choices for summer learning fun including in theater, GT math, dance, chess, robotics and sports. I highly recommend checking out their offerings. The school has a wonderful campus in the forest in a rural part of Ellicott City. Camps run until the end of July.
  3. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth – Great offerings for gifted and talented kids around Maryland including classes in Baltimore and Sandy Spring Friends School.  Students must be specially admitted to the program before they can attend the summer camps, and that won’t be possible for kids who aren’t advanced in academics.  CTY camps are renowned in the USA and we’re lucky to have them right in our backyard. BTW, if you’re looking for an alternative to the CTY camps, there is also SIG Day Program at the Woods Academy in Bethesda.
  4. Camp Invention – This is a really cool idea for kids in grades 1 to 6. There currently aren’t any schools hosting this camp in Howard County, but they may be worth some travel time or could be close to mom or dad’s office. The one that I have linked is in nearby Catonsville, at Westchester Elementary.
  5. Howard Community College – These are very popular summer GT camps and summer classes–popular like a rock concert–the registration begins and ten minutes later it’s “sold out”…Check out the options.  Many of them are very good! For 2020 registration opens on January 30, 2020. Don’t miss your chance–review the options and get ready to sign up in time! 
  6. Terrapin STEM Camp – Located in Laurel at St. Marys of the Mills Elementary School, this camp offers all day long programs for grades K-5 with before and after care. Kid’s learn about several aspects of STEM each day through fun and hands on experimentation. Activities include Zome Tools (I am a fan of these!), Lego robotics, 3-D printing, and coding,
  7. Imagination Stage – This Bethesda, MD venue is a promising place for fun and creative learning. This is definitely not in Howard County or even Baltimore, but if you happen to work out that way in Montgomery County, definitely consider sending your kids there for a week or two. Registration for 2020 now open.
  8.  Howard County Art’s Council Center for the Arts–they have all sorts of art camps, including acting. There is very limited space for these summer camps that go late June until Mid August. If your child is interested in the arts, this is definitely a “don’t miss” summer camp! Registration for 2020 opened 1/3/2020.

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  9. Club SciKidz – Space explorer, science chef and other great days of fun await your child at this camp in Ellicott City. Deep space robotics? 3-D Printing? Minecraft? Emergency Vet? YES! My kids have really enjoyed their camps. Registration is now open!
  10. Columbia Academy  (Not updated for 2020!) Columbia Academy in Columbia Maryland has some wonderful summer camps for all ages of kids. For more about Columbia Academy–see my post about private schools in Howard County.
Camp IO Hands on Science and Yoga Camp in Maryland
Great Summer Camps in Central Maryland
  1. Camp IO– Yoga and science camp in Columbia, MD for kids ages 6-11. $330/week (as of January 2020.  This camp looks great for boys and girls who love science and need more balance in their lives-mandalas and model rockets, a brilliant combination! My kids have enjoyed their camps in the past (including their School’s Out camps).
  2. Howard County Conservancy has some great camps.  They are nature themed and take place in Woodstock, MD and Elkridge, MD. Conquer the trails of the Patapsco Valley, learn about some of the amazing beasts in our forests and streams, go green! My kids have enjoyed their camps in the past (including their School’s Out camps). Registration opens January 15, 2020.
  3. IDTech  – Computer programming summer camps camps for kids and teens. In College Park and Towson. Great for gifted and talented kids.
  4. Howard County Parks and Recreation – Affordable and interesting camps for younger and older kids.
  5. Howard County Public Schools – Want to learn Chinese this summer? How about a biomedical skills camp? Only at HCPSS! In person registration begins February 1, 2020.
  6. Karate Camp – Wilde Lake Karate would be a great place to learn martial arts this summer. Check it out!  
  7. Drama Learning Center – Great camps where kids can hone their drama skills in Columbia/Ellicott City.

[Looking for gift ideas for the brilliant kids in your life? Check out my huge list of ideas for kids of all ages]

  1. Columbia Association – Columbia Association offers many nature and art camps that I have heard good things about. This year’s program looks fantastic.
  2. Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts / Toby’s Dinner Theater camp – Great way to get into some great acting skills.
  3. Walters Art Gallery – The Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore has summer camps!  Sold by the week, these camps are very interesting for kids first grade and older.  This looks like a wonderful experience!
  4. Terrapin Adventures – If you’ve never been to Terrapin Adventures in Savage (near Savage Mill), you’re in for a high-flying treat. Their camps are full of outdoor fun, exercise, science and more. This looks really cool. Very limited space.
  5. Loyola University – Reading skills for elementary aged kids and speed reading camps for grades 6-8th taking place in June and July. Call 800-834-3693 for camp information (Ellicott City, Columbia, Elkridge and Catonsville).
  6. YMCA Camp – The YMCA in Ellicott City has several options for traditional summer camps. You may also be interested in the camps at Lifetime Fitness in Columbia.
  7. Camp Oasis – Music, drama, and other fun in Columbia.
  8. Columbia Horse Center – Horsemanship summer camps for Howard County horse lovers.

Thanks for reading my list of summer camps. I also have a list of school’s out camps in Howard County.

Categories
Education Parenting Recommendations Reviews

FamZoo: A Debit Card for Your Kid’s Allowance

My Review of FamZoo – An Allowance and Finance Education Solution for Families

Looking for advice and ideas on how to make more out of giving your child a weekly allowance or to reward them for meeting goals or doing chores? Look no further than FamZoo.com.

FamZoo is a great solution for families to handle this time-honored tradition. Not only does it provide a great, easy-to-manage system for giving your kids money, it teaches financial literacy, and encourages charitable giving.

Here’s a quick summary of the features that make this a great option for families with kids:

  • At its most basic level, FamZoo is a MasterCard debit card for each of your children.
  • The card is the same as many bank-issued debit cards/ATM cards.
  • When you order the cards, each kid over the age of 13 years old can get their own name on the card.
  • Kids younger than 13 years old get their parent’s name and their name on the card.
  • The parent’s transfer money into a FamZoo account and then it can be distributed as required either automatically in regular intervals (such as for an allowance) or as the parent authorizes.
  • There is a web-based and iOS application that parents can use to setup accounts, transfer money to kids’ cards, and keep track of transactions/spending.
  • Savings and charity accounts can be created. Parents can decide on an “interest rate” for their child’s savings account. (The parent pays the interest, but the kid learns about the value of saving.)
  • When a child earns money, some of it can automatically be diverted into the charity or savings accounts. Parents can setup a “savings match” program if they like.
  • If a debit card is lost, there’s a checkbox in the app/web account that can disable it instantly.
  • Since it’s a debit card, and you set the pin, the possibility of theft / fraudulent use is minimized. It is easy to order replacement cards and to transfer the money on the old card to the new account.
  • Debit cards also mean no chance of accidently going into debt, late fees, overdraft fees. The money that you put on the card is all that is available for your child to use.
  • The debit card is on an ATM network (MoneyPass), so your child can withdraw cash as needed (from the available balance on her card).
  • Teaches responsibility.


Watch the video below to learn more about how FamZoo works:

Interested in a 30-day trial? Click to learn more about FamZoo.



Categories
kids activities Parenting

Five Ideas to Keep a Digital Record of Your Child’s Growth and Best Memories

I love the idea of keeping track of my kid’s best memories, growth, and accomplishments with a digital record. Below are some ideas I use in hopes of creating future-proof records for family and friends to enjoy.

  1. Conduct a yearly video interview with your child. We do ours every New Year’s eve. Sometimes it can be difficult to think of questions to ask. I always ask about how school was going, their favorite teachers and classes, but I like to include more philosophical questions as well. This year, I asked my friends on Facebook for help. I got some great ideas:

“Do you feel the movie Wonder Woman empowers girls & young women to be smart & strong?”
(Jeff)

“Do you think Mariah Carey nails her New Years singing after last years debacle ??”
(Tom)

“2017 was the year of the fidget cube, fidget spinner, slime, and squishies.
Which was your favorite, and why? What do you predict will be the next kid craze?”
(Jennifer S)

Heather:
* What advice would you give your parents?

* What do you think you will be doing 10 years from now?

* Why do you like being your age?

* What is your happiest memory?

* Who do you like to hang out with the most?

* What is your favorite thing to wear?

“What traits do you value in your friends? What do you like about yourself?”
(Mary Anne)

“If you could meet one person who would it be?” (Leigh De)

“What is your favorite meal, including beverage and dessert? “(Melissa)

“Are there any accomplishments that you will be striving for this year? “(Svetlana)

“What are your favorite words? Least favorite words this year?”

2) Like the other ideas, this isn’t original, but it’s a great way to keep track of your kid’s accomplishments–set up an email address on Gmail when they are born (may improve the chances of them getting something remotely close to their name. And whenever you have a thought about them, or they’ve reached a milestone, accomplishment, etc, you can email accolades and artifacts to that address. When they reach the right age, give them the username/password to the account. If you’re going to do this with Gmail, you need to use the Family Link feature. Otherwise, you’ll have an issue when you put in their birthday–you need to be 13 to have a full Gmail account!

3) Tag them in their Facebook photos. Eventually they’ll have an account and they can go through and see.

Photo Wall of Childhood Pictures4) Take a yearly photo for a photo wall. The secret to this idea is to purchase a whole bunch of matching picture frames that you’ll store until they’re needed. Each year, take a photo of your child for the wall. This could be done by taking “the same” photo every year as they age, or by just selecting one or two of the best photos from every year to put on the wall.

5) Use Google Photos to Back Up Photos of Events and Great Times. Google photos is an excellent way to backup all of the photos you take, especially those taken with your mobile phone. Aside from being free, several other things make it great:

  1. Any photo you take with your phone can automatically be backed up to the cloud.
  2. Google has done an amazing job of making the photos searchable–you can search for things that are IN the images (that you haven’t tagged with text)…want to find photos of people on the beach? Just search for beach. Want to find photos of people on the beach wearing sunglasses? You can search for that too.
  3. Google’s photo assistant will automatically gift you with animations and videos. It will even find similar photos of when your kids were younger and create a new photo that shows the old picture and new picture side-by-side. It also makes videos about my kids…since it knows their faces, it finds pictures of them and puts them together in a video with music and transitions (it also recognizes family pets–I get an occasional “meow movie”).

6) Use Google Photos to Back Up Art and Writing – Google Photos is also a great way to backup your child’s artwork, writing and other school projects.

If you’re like most parents, it can be difficult to part with the various schoolwork projects your child brings home. On the other hand, after you have accumulated boxes and boxes of art, it becomes a bit of a space issue, and perhaps in some cases a fire hazard.

Snap a photo or two using your phone’s camera or using Google’s special app just for taking photos of documents. If it happens that the item in question was created digitally, just make a folder in your Google Drive to house it.  Eventually, you’ll want to just share that Google Drive directory or photo album with your child’s Gmail account (when they finally have their own.)

Categories
kids activities Parenting Phone Bills Technology

Parental Control Apps to Monitor and Control Your Child’s Screen Time

As a parent, I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it did. Screens have invaded the minds of my two girls, and I needed to get control over it. Since my kids switch between a few devices and types, I needed to use a combination of things to reign this in. Here is what I was up against:

  1. Mobile Phones – My kids both have mobile phone devices from Republic Wireless. That means they can use either mobile data plans or WiFi to access the internet. I needed to be able to control the apps they use, the time of day they can use them, the websites they visit, and be able to update the time they can use these devices as needed, such as when the schedule changes temporarily or to reward good behavior.
  2. Amazon Kindle Fire Tablets – The cost of the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablets is so low (especially on Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday or if you get a refurbished unit) that we got one for each of them. They also got Amazon Freetime Unlimited for Kids so they do lots of reading on the devices. But they also spend time doing other things including using some educational apps that I recommend anytime, and some not-so-educational things, like watching Rhett and Link videos on YouTube.
  3. Chromebooks-I LOVE chromebooks in case you were wondering. They are quick, virus-free, and reliably do what they are designed to do–run a chrome web browser and Google Docs. Unfortunately, the parental control options are quite limited, so this required some thought.

The parental control that works for us

Given the mix of devices above, there isn’t one complete solution. Especially because of the mobile data on the kids’ phones, I needed to come up with something extra for that, but here is what works in our household:

Google WiFi – I have to say I am very pleased with Google’s WiFi product. It was easy to setup and depending on the size of your home, you can add additional “nodes” around the house to get full coverage–it sets up a mesh network around your home very easily.  You can purchase either one node at a time or buy them in sets of three. Three will do quite well for most medium and larger homes. Once you’ve setup your Google WiFi, you control it through an app on your phone. Among other things, that app allows you to easily pick out devices on your network and schedule the time they are able to access Wifi. For most of the things my girls do on their Chomebooks, Phones, no WiFi means things aren’t going to work. They definitely won’t be watching videos on YouTube for example if they have no WiFi. This takes care of alot of the issue, but not all of it.

Parental Time Limit App for iPhone and Screen Time – I really like this kid-supervision app. It is installed on the mobile phones and works on Android and iOS devices. It allows us to set a limit for the total amount of time the kids can spend on their phone using apps. You can restrict app installs, and set limits for specific apps. You can also use this app to schedule the time the phones can be used.

There is an easy “pause” button that allows you to turn off access on the kids’ phones–great for dinnertime. When you click it, you can set the amount of time the phone will be in pause mode. You can also add time if you like. In fact, one great feature is that you can setup tasks that. The app costs about $4/month with discounts for multi-month purchases.

There is a limited free version of the app that will let you get the hang of the app, and is potentially all you need.

Kid’s FreeTime App – This is specific to the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablets. It is more difficult to use than the ScreenTime app mentioned above, however the basic version is free and included with the Kindle Fire Tablets. It limits time in apps, and also prevents kids from installing their own apps or books. The Kid’s FreeTime Unlimited add-on allows kids to choose their own books and movies based on Amazon’s pre-selected titles that it feels are okay for children.

Categories
Education Engineering Parenting

Two Great Interactive STEM Exhibits at the Smithsonian

If you are a parent in central Maryland and you’re reading this, odds are you’ll share the refrain I hear so often “The Smithsonian museums are so close to us, yet we only go if guests are in town.” It’s really sad when parents say this, because their kids are missing out on so much great stuff.

I’d like to recommend two relatively new exhibits at the Smithsonian that are truly outstanding. They are especially good because they are interactive and unusual, not to mention fun. The exhibits in question are at the National Museum of American History and at the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History.

Spark!Lab: Become an inventor at the National Museum of American History. This exhibit is great for young people to be creative while learning STEM concepts. There are several stations they have created that mostly coincide with the current theme. For example, when we visited, the theme was “things that roll”, so there were several stations dedicated to wheels, pulleys, etc. My kids had a great time inventing a skateboard that they made out of cardboard and then got to test on a miniature skateboard ramp. They also had to use pulleys and wheels to create something that would roll along a “high wire”.

[Looking for gift ideas for your child’s birthday? See my list of educational presents for kids of all ages!]


There was also a station where the kids have to invent a controller for a video game. This was our favorite. The kids are shown a video game and given a controller box along with some “parts”…they can plug things into to the controller box and learn to control the characters on the screen with their invention. There was a staff member at the station to help guide them as they worked through what worked and what didn’t. We spent about 25 minutes at this station and the kids loved every minute of it.

We can’t wait to go back when they change the theme to see what else they can learn there. The museum is open every day but Christmas day (December 25), but note that the exhibit isn’t open on Tuesdays and that this exhibit’s operating hours are 10am-4pm.

Q?rius (pronounced “curious”): This exhibit found in the basement of the Natural History Museum is fantastic for kids of all ages. They have powerful microscopes and thousands of samples for visitors to explore including, birds, fish, bones, insects, sand, rocks and more. To say it’s “cool” is an understatement. They also have quite a few preset activities and the kids can sign up to get a badge and an account to track their investigations.  Bring your kids and check it out for yourself. The exhibit hours vary quite a bit depending on day of the week and time of the year. You can see the hours here, but mainly note that the exhibit is closed on Mondays.

As a bonus, you’ll want to check out the WONDER exhibit at the Renwick art gallery, complete with wallpaper made up of thousands of insects arranged in interesting shapes.

Want to know more about what’s going on at the Smithsonians. They have a calendar of events that I find very helpful.