Summer programs galore!

Carolyn Smallwood
Carolyn Smallwood

Summer is just around the corner and believe me, I’m just as excited as your children are! For many of us, summer is the time to get out and have fun. Don’t let it pass you by! Below are a few summer programs that may help your child get the most out of their summer. The programs on this list are either free to participate in, or they have scholarship programs for interested (and committed) families to keep cost from becoming a barrier.

Spots tend to fill up quickly, and summer programs start soon. If you see something that interests you, act fast. Here’s to a great summer!

Group Of Young Children Running Towards Camera In Park
(Stock photo)

Education and personal growth

  • Hennepin County Northeast Library offers free programs for all ages in addition to some parent-child classes. The Library Lab provides a space for children to learn about the wonders and excitement of chemistry; Bruce the Bug Guy presents a lively, entertaining, hands-on program featuring all sorts of creepy crawlies; The Hennepin County Northeast Library also has baby story time programs, yoga classes, spaceship origami, and so much more! Check them out at or call 612-543-6775.
  • The Barnes & Nobel Summer Reading Program helps children in grades one-six read books of their choosing to earn a free book of their choice. Visit a store near you or check them out online at
  • The Boys and Girls Clubs (Jerry Gambles Boys & Girls Club of the Twin Cities in Near North and the Southside Village Boys & Girls Club of the Twin Cities in Powderhorn) offer programs for ages five-18. Yearly membership fee is $5 per child or young adult with breakfast and lunch provided. Programs include academics, sports, arts, nature, teen programming, mentoring, and more. For more info, contact: Near North — 612-522-3636; Powderhorn — 612-822-3191.
  • Park Avenue Freedom Schools Summer Program accepts children who have finished kindergarten through eighth grade. Weekly themes focus on identity and the ways children can make a difference in themselves, in their families, and in their communities. More info at or at 612-825-6863.
  • WE WIN Institute is a free program for K-4th grade children. Students earn school credits while they enhance their math, reading and writing skills. The program also includes activities such as mural painting, gardening and dance. Transportation, breakfast and lunch are provided. Upon completion of the program, committed students will be eligible for a trip to Valley Fair! Visit the website at or contact them at 612-721-2364.

Sports and activities

  • Minnesota Vikings Youth Skills Development camp is a four-day, free co-ed football camp for ages eight through 18 hosted by the MN Vikings and professional coaches. Spots are limited. For more information, contact Jeff Robinson at 952-828-6500 or Char Davis at 612-230-6448.
  • The Brian Coyle Center & Teen Programs offers school and summer programs for K-12th graders from day camps and field trips, overnight camping opportunities, and athletic teams to tutoring services — you’re sure to find something that fits. For more info, call Pillsbury United Communities at 612-338-5282.
  • Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board offers swimming lessons for children of all ages. Locations vary. For questions and more information, call Sahara at 612-655-7564.

Art and music programs

  • The Minneapolis College of Art and Design offers summer camps to students ages five-18. Participants are also offered an extended care option that offers both free play time and organized activities with Children’s Theatre Company. Scholarships are available, but limited. Register by phone at 612-874-3765.
  • MacPhail provides accessible musical learning experiences through over 50 different camps designed to meet the needs of the student. Program is open to ages three through grade three. Contact student services at 612-321-0100, or visit
  • The Loft Library Center Young Writers’ Program advances the artistic development of young writers and inspires a passion for literature by offering creative writing classes to youth ages six-17. Located on Washington Ave. downtown, The Loft fosters a thriving literary community in the heart of Minneapolis. Register online at or call 612-215-2575.


Carolyn Smallwood is the executive director of Way to Grow, an early childhood education nonprofit in Minneapolis working to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed in school and life.