Even kids need a break from their holiday break (and so do you). Enroll your cookie-munching, cartoon-watching, pajama-wearing kids in a winter camp to feed their minds some much-needed stimulation before school starts again in January. These programs offer full- and half-day curriculums that teach kids useful new skills like coding, sewing and stirring up savory holiday treats.
Putt Putt Fun Center
Putt Putt Fun Centers in Fort Worth host a two-week winter break camp every December. Their stellar facilities stockpiled with arcade games and, of course, golf keep kids ages 5–13 entertained from morning till evening, but the fun is organized—the daily schedule includes arcade play and morning snack followed by a swing at the outdoor batting cages (weather permitting) and putt putt course. For lunch, kids can pack their own or purchase a $6 plate on site. Kids finish the day with board games and puzzles and a camp-provided snack. Sign up by Dec. 2 for the $135 discounted price for the full week, or register day-of.
Cost: $135 per child (ends Dec. 2 at 5pm) $200 per child for the full week; $40 per day per child (two-day minimum)
When: Mon–Fri, Dec. 19–Jan. 3, 7:30am–6pm
Where: Multiple locations, 817/897-6996
Work up an appetite while you’re at the office because you may come home to homemade polar bear dip (a high-protein white bean hummus) or snowman bark (frozen yogurt bark with pretzel stick arms and raisin buttons) courtesy of the YMCA’s three- and five-day Holiday Camps for ages 5–12. Culinary explorations are just some of the activities curriculum director Kelly Geigner has planned for campers, along with making snow, conducting a hot chocolate science experiment and building igloos from Styrofoam cups during daily STEM challenges. Gear up for indoor ski activities, and dress your kid in jammies for Polar Express day. As part of the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program developed by the University of Texas, campers will burn energy and build teamwork skills through regular games and physical exercise. Register online by Dec. 18. Before- and after-camp care available at no extra cost.
Cost: $30 per day per child
When: Dec. 19–23 and 26–30, 9am–4:30pm
Where: Town Center Elementary, Coppell. 469/348-9622
Cost: $30 per day per child
When: Dec. 28–30, 9am–4:30pm
Where: Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, Dallas. 469/348-9622
Cost: $25 per day per child
When: Dec. 19–21 and 26–28, 9am–4:30pm
Where: Newman Elementary School, Frisco. 469/348-9622
The answer is yes, your kid can cook — or he will after attending Camp Can-I-Cook’s mini winter sessions for chefs-in-training ages 7 and older. Choose a week of sweet and savory Holiday Recipes or Winter Comfort Foods, or both. During each three-hour session, kids whip up and eat fare from different cultures (both camps’ full menus are under wraps until the first session). And to ensure kids don’t get too hangry waiting for their kitchen timers to ding, instructors prepare snacks for the midday break. Campers aren’t the only test-tasters — kids take home their self-made dishes and a copy of every recipe so you can indulge too. Want to get in on the fun? Join your kiddo for gingerbread house decorating Dec. 19–23 at 4:30pm or 6pm; reservation required. Register online for camps and decorating by Dec. 18.
Cost: Camps, $60 per day or $199 per week; gingerbread house decorating, $38.50 per child/adult duo
When: Holiday Recipes, Dec. 19–23, 9am–12pm or 1–4pm; Winter Comfort Foods, Dec. 26–30, 9am–12pm or 1–4pm
Where: Young Chefs Academy, Frisco. 972/335-4449
Young Chefs Academy
Put off making reservations at that five-star restaurant because your growing gourmand will be able to serve a delectable three-course meal after enrolling in Fort Worth’s Dinner Party-themed camp. During each three-hour session, mini chefs learn to dish up critic-worthy appetizers, entrees and desserts. Kids make 5–8 meals each day and take home copies of the recipes to practice in their own kitchens. (Lucky you!) Instructors suggest you feed campers a light lunch before class since kids will munch and test-taste all afternoon. When class ends at 3pm, the feast begins — kids sit and savor their self-made menu. Register for camp online by Dec. 20.
When: Dec. 27–29, 12–3pm
Where: Young Chefs Academy, Fort Worth. 817/989-2433
Minecraft mods, Java tutorials, her own personal robot — if any of these were on your kid’s Christmas wish list, then sign her up for Tech EdVentures’ weeklong winter camps in Preston Hollow and Plano. During the Robot Garage-themed Tiny Tech Camp (Dallas and Plano), children in kindergarten through second grade learn about basic electronics (such as how batteries power motors) and program robots to say hi, draw pictures and navigate around obstacles using sensors that detect infrared light. At Minecraft Makers (Dallas only), Tiny Tech campers collaboratively code and build neighborhoods for Minecraft residents, combining gaming skills with good citizenship to ensure that all their digital denizens have food, shelter and fun activities to do.
Minecraft and robotics are also on the menu during Jr. Tech Camp for kids in third–sixth grade. At Minecraft Mods camp (Dallas only), budding computer scientists use Java to create custom-designed additions to the game — think blue pigs (instead of pink), hilly terrain or even special powers for the characters. In Robotics Lab – Mission to Mars (Dallas only), young engineers learn C++ programming and design elements that real engineers use every day, then practice their new skills to program sophisticated robots to navigate around obstacles and collect artifacts as if exploring the surface of Mars. And in Game Maker – Digital Game Design (Plano only), campers create video games to take home (and challenge you to some friendly competition). Budding gamers learn their way around Game Maker, the same programming software used by professional game inventors, to add sound and special effects and code animated characters and backgrounds. Sign up for all camps online; the limited spots (20 in Tiny Tech Camps and 14 in Jr. Tech Camps) sell out fast, so avoid the waitlist by registering early. Extended-day (to 5pm) and early drop-off options available at registration for an additional $50.
Cost: $450 for five-day camps; $375 for four-day camps
When: Dec. 19–23 and 27–30, 9am–2pm (times very per camp)
Where: Congregation Tiferet Israel, Dallas. 972/905-1777
Anshai Torah, Plano. 972/905-1777
School of Rock
Take the stage at Winter Break Rock Music full-day camp at a School of Rock studio in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Rockstars ages 6–18 learn to play an instrument and perform in a band before showcasing their skills at the end-of-camp concert. On the first day of camp, instructors assign parts — guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocals — and songs. Each day, kids get one-on-one instruction to learn their parts then practice as a band under the leadership of music professionals who teach music theory, songwriting and rock appreciation, exposing kids to the heroes of rock ’n’ roll like the Rolling Stones and AC/DC. All skills welcome; instruments available at the studio. Register online for one of the 20 spots. Sibling discounts available.
Cost: $495 (call for special rate)
When: Dec. 19–23 and 26–30, 9am–3pm
Where: Multiple locations
Sci-Tech Discovery Center
Get your child off the couch and into the laboratory during Winter Wonderland one-day camps at Sci-Tech Discovery Center in Frisco. Each day, first–sixth graders do 2–5 different winter activities — campers might grow crystals and learn about snowflakes, make ice cream, observe liquid nitrogen demonstrations, even join a winter mini-Olympic obstacle course.
If your kid is more of a tactile learner, he’ll love the Master Builders day camps. In the fully equipped Makers Shop, elementary-age kids become North Pole (supervised) toymakers using kid-friendly drills, sanders and even 3-D printers. After a bout of woodworking, campers take on the block building challenge where they erect structures from 4.5-inch long KEVA planks. On another day, kids learn to engineer a house that can survive the huffing and puffing of the big bad wolf. Register online in advance for all camps.
Cost: $85 per day ($75 for members)
When: Winter Wonderland Dec. 19–23, 9am–4pm; Master Builders Dec. 26–30, 9am–4pm
Where: Sci-Tech Discovery Center, Frisco. 972/546-3050
Oil and Cotton
Artists and crafters ages 4–12 find something new to do every day from Oil and Cotton’s slate of one-off morning and afternoon camps. For two weeks, kids pick and choose the activities they like best or want to try out, be it sketching and painting, sewing or collaging. Sign up online for one or all of the three-hour sessions to create holiday ornaments (Dec. 19), tie-dye napkins (Dec. 22), weave snowflakes on a circular loom (Dec. 27) or fashion “snowbiles” in the style of famed mobile-maker Alexander Calder (Dec. 29) — and that’s just a sampling. Visit Oil and Cotton’s website for the full calendar of events and to register for one of the 8–12 available spots per session.
Cost: $45 per camp; siblings receive a 10% discount
When: Dec. 19–22 and 27–30, 9am–12pm and 1–4pm
Where: Dallas, 214/942-0474
Highland Park UMC
What better way to zap the holiday jitters than at one of Highland Park United Methodist Church’s four-day sports camps? During Christmas Sports Camp, kids ages 5–12 spend their mornings indoors learning and playing basketball, flag football, dodgeball and capture the flag. But if your little athlete is a diehard dodgeball fan, sign him up for the afternoon Christmas Dodgeball Camp. Dodgers ages 5–12 are split into groups according to age and learn strategies to throw, catch and, of course, dodge the soft, foam balls. All that practice culminates in a farewell tournament on the last day of camp.
After Christmas, the church hosts New Year’s Basketball and Sports Camps. Basketball enthusiasts learn to dribble, pass and shoot then put those skills to the test during scrimmages and games of knockout. And if you’re out of town for the Christmas Sports Camp, sign up for the New Year’s version offering samplings of all the same sports. Register online; 60 spots available at each camp.
Cost: $125 for Christmas camps; $130 for New Year’s camps
When: Christmas Sports Camp, Dec. 19–22, 9am–12pm; Christmas Dodgeball Camp, Dec. 19–22, 12:30–3:30pm; New Year’s Basketball Camp, Dec. 27–30, 9am–12pm; New Year’s Sports Camp, Dec. 27–30, 12:30–3:30pm
Where: Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas