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Have Your Kids Participated in a FREE Apple Camp? Check Out My Sidekicks Experience

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Have your kids participated in Apple Camp?

Last month, I eagerly signed my 10 and 12-year-old boys up for a FREE 3-day “Creating Characters and Composing Music” workshop to take place at our local Apple Retail Store in Austin, TX. The boys participated in the camp for the first time last week and were really excited about going to the Apple Store to “play” on these Apple devices and possibly learning a few new things they didn’t know about.

If you haven’t heard of Apple Camp, it is a FREE workshop that is held at the Apple Retail Store each summer for kids ages 8-12. Spots fill up SO quickly every year, so you have to act fast to get in on one.

Sooo… my boys arrived at Apple Camp the first day really excited to learn something new…and I was hoping to venture over to Starbucks to sip on an Iced Skinny Caramel Macchiatto for an hour-and-a-half while reclining in one of their lounge chairs, reading a book and listening to elevator music.

WELL, that didn’t happen… what was I thinking?

Unfortunately, parents are not allowed to leave the Apple Store during the duration of the workshop – even if Starbucks is right next door. Instead, parents are asked to sit at a table for 90 minutes on bar stools that are harder than hard and listen to an employee talk about various security features of the iPad and iPhone and/or answer any questions that parents may have. I could have really used a coffee.

The first day, the kids spent the entire time drawing on an iPad Pro using the FREE Sketches app and an Apple Pencil. My 12-year-old son is an avid artist and had previously purchased the Procreate app for his iPad ($5.99 on iTunes) and used it many times, so he felt the Sketches app was a bit inferior.

The second day, the boys learned how to make music using the updated GarageBand app. If you have a child who has never really explored with the GarageBand app on an iPad before, this would be a great workshop for them! However, my 10-year-old son is pretty savvy when it comes to making and editing YouTube videos with music, so he felt like the material wasn’t really new information.

The last day was spent making their storyboard drawings come to life with music in GarageBand. Although the GarageBand app offers different musical features than that offered in iMovie, my 10-year-old son said he’s not really sure how often he would use GarageBand in his YouTube videos.

So, What Are My Apple Camp Tips (+ Pros and Cons)?
  • Different workshops are offered, so be sure to pick one during registration that your child doesn’t know much about already.
  • If your child knows about all of the different workshops being offered, don’t sign up! Save the spot for someone with children who may be less familiar with how those programs work.
  • Workshops fill up really quickly, so if you don’t register within a couple weeks of when they open in June, you’ll be put on a waitlist.
  • Note that parents must stay with children during entire workshop (that means no venturing to Starbucks or doing a little mall shopping during this time. Instead you get to be tempted to buy the latest laptop or iPad 😉 ). This may vary by location now, but this was the policy at my store.
  • Workshop days were split up on 3 separate days (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at our store) – our Apple Store is 30 minutes away, so I would have rather had 1-2 longer workshops.
  • One of the best perks is that kids get a FREE T-Shirt and Apple USB drive bracelet (pretty awesome!)

Overall, the workshop was a good experience considering the boys got a FREE T-Shirt, USB bracelet and also got to play on iPads for a couple hours. However, if your kids are older, are very experienced with iPads, have created storyboards previously, know how to make music and/or use the GarageBand app, or already know how to make and edit YouTube videos to music, you may want to pick a different Apple Camp workshop and/or save the spot for someone else as they may be a little bored.

Note that these are my OWN personal opinions based on OUR experience with the GarageBand workshop. I know that many Hip2Save readers and their kids thoroughly love Apple Camp, so please consider signing your kids up for a workshop (if available) and sharing your experience too!

Share your Apple Camp thoughts!


Written by Mary for Hip2Save. Mary is a proud mom to 3 kids in Austin, TX, who thrives off running long distance, bargain shopping, warm weather, a yummy latte…and a little Candy Crush from time to time. She loves quality time with family & friends and sharing great deals with others.

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Comments 51

  1. Jess

    Omg the same thing happened to me. We were running late and I wanted to lose my mind when I realized I couldn’t leave and get a coffee!! I am non functional with no coffee in me. My group probably thought I was so unfriendly! My daughter is doing coding and programming. She said the first class was pretty boring.

  2. Dee

    I really appreciate the honest review and also that you mention NOT to sign your kids up if this isn’t really something they’ll be interested in doing. So often, there are offers for free or low cost things that are snapped up by people who really don’t want/need it but will take it because it’s free and the people who could use it are left out. I see this a lot with baby items–there will be a deal posted and it’s snapped up instantly. Those of us with babies often don’t get there fast enough and then I’ll read people posting, “I got four of these, I’ll put them away until I have a baby shower to go to!” Um, great, but I have a baby that could have used that NOW. How about just getting ONE? UGH. That’s my biggest peeve with couponing/bargain hunting–the people who snatch up several of something they don’t even need. So I really appreciate seeing someone on this site suggest not taking up the spot unless it’s something that will really be good for your child!

    • Deb

      That reminds me of an old episode of “Extreme Couponing” where a woman had a 3-year stockpile of diapers, but didn’t even have any “baby daddy” prospects!

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Oh my LOL! I do think that the workshops probably would have been GREAT for my boys if they were about 2-4 years younger. However, they have just learned so much from good ‘ol YouTube videos in the past year that they were a little checked out during the workshop. I do commend the Apple employees for their patience with a bunch of 8-12 year olds though! 🙂

    • Shannon

      Totally irks me too! I remember when a deal for the kitchen aid mixer was posted and someone commented thanks I got 4, great to sell on eBay. Come on!!

  3. Heather Seibel

    We did the Coding camp last week and my 10 yr old had a ball. For the parents they had a mini workshop for us on coding as well. This week we are doing the iMovie camp and same thing, the kids started theirs and the parents made their own too, I was quite proud of how mine turned out. We are having a great time with them. I do agree that the stools are not comfy at all!

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      That’s awesome Heather! Maybe we can all email Apple and ask them to upgrade their stools! 😉

  4. Jessica

    My kids would LOVE these workshops, but I couldn’t sign up because they are over 3 days during the work week. I can’t take off work to have my kids attend these. It’s a bummer they don’t have a longer workshop on the weekends or even offer them later in the evening.

    • Karla

      APPLE Stores will be offering the classes in the afternoons throughout the year, so you won’t be left out if you were not able to sign up for the camp. Go to the app and scroll until you see “What’s happening” at your store. The classes will not be consecutive days as it is for camp. The afternoon classes are designed for working parents to schedule it around a regular work day, but the kids will not receive the t-shirt or the USB bracelet. My kids attended and enjoyed the Movie Making camp. I didn’t mind staying at the store with my kids since the workers showed me a few simple features I wasn’t aware that are available. At the store we visited, I was not pressured to purchase any new Apple products and the employees kindly worked with parents who did not have an iPhone.

      • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

        Oh that’s cool! Thanks for the feedback Karla!

  5. Joy

    Wish there were ones for teens ages 13-15. This age group gets so bored in the summer because they are too old for other traditional summer activities.

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      I agree! That would be great!

  6. Melissa

    Thanks for the heads up. I could handle sitting there while my kid was in the class if I had my phone to occupy myself. But having to be part of a captive audience for an Apple employee would be like sitting thru a timeshare sales pitch.

    • Monique

      My kids did it and I wasn’t required to do a class. I just sat and read. It was not a big deal.

  7. Lindsay

    I say save the gas, and get on YouTube. There are tutorials on how to use all of these apps.

  8. Deb

    I am older, but pretty computer savvy. The free Apple classes for adults seem to be a similar experience. By the time they teach a 75 year-old how to update the OS on a device, because the class depends on everyone having the latest version, the class is over and nothing new has been learned. All Apple would have to do is state in the signup the software requirements and advise participants that they won’t have time to update during the class.

  9. Dwilson19

    We did! The kids loved it got a free shirt and free usb bracelet

  10. Lindsay

    My daughter(14yr old) has taught herself how to play the ukulele from YouTube this summer.

    • Babs

      Awe! that is so very cool! Good on her!

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      How neat! That’s awesome!

    • HBee

      It’s so sweet that she taught herself to do that! It seems like the ukulele is “cool” again!

  11. Kate

    I signed my son and daughter up for 2 different camps ( my son did coding and my daughter did the music composing ) so we went every single day for a week. I thought the staff was AMAZING with the kids and the program was really good quality. The fact that I had to stay ( with a younger child in tow ) did not bother me. The head instructor made every effort to include my in my children’s learning, asking for my feedback, providing me with a set of headphones to listen to my daughter’s music. They were at least 15 kids in each camp and I understand that it would be a big liability to Apple to keep everyone safe, and even make disciplinary decisions should they arise. The last day we took a big bag of candy and a thank you card for the whole crew.

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Thanks for the feedback Kate! That was very thoughtful of you to bring candy and a card to the staff!

  12. Suzanne H

    I am taking my son for his first class today. I just hope he doesn’t get frustrated b/c we don’t own Apple products so he has 0 experience. I’m a little worried that the other kids there will zoom past him and be upset that he’s holding them back!

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      I hope he has a great time Suzanne!

  13. Mom Of 5

    We went last week to the coding one. It was good because my son knew little about coding and robotics. The big take away to share was Today at Apple. Check out your local area and they have sessions throughout the day for an hour to meet people’s needs. They have ones for adults, kids, everything in between. They are free!!!! Sign up and they will provide the materials needed but you are welcome to bring your own. We look forward to doing some of these with our kids especially during the summer days when we need a break from our house!! Our nearest Apple Store is an 1 hour away so we will make it into a day trip.

    I learned a lot from our camp about how to take better pictures with our iPhones from our parent camp which was going on during the kids camp!! It was great since I could not leave!

  14. Teia

    We just got back from my 10 year old’s Apple Camp. She is doing the coding camp. She said it was okay, but she is going to give it another try. I think I was more excited than she was after it was over.

    • Teia

      I forgot to mention the parents were allowed to leave and go to Starbucks. It was right next door, so that was convenient

  15. barbara

    my experiance with these camps was fantastic. parents were not held captive. my child learned alot, made some cool stuff and went to all three camps. Starbucks was next door and I went everyday except the last when parents viewed what kids had been working on. counselors were fantastic and she got usbs with her work to take home as well as certificate and a shirt.

  16. Sandy

    I’m actually at the Apple Store now. My daughter is doing the iMovie camp and she seems to be loving it. Free shirt too.

  17. Steph

    My 12 yo son did this same Camp last week and Loved it. I didn’t mind waiting after half way through the first class. I got to talk to other moms and grandmas there and it was a fun time. Instructors were awesome and kids are so proud of their creations.

  18. Jsturner1

    My kids did these three years in a row loved the first two but last year we’re bored. They used to give the t-shirt and $30 earbuds. The last year it was the shirt and the bracelet. My store was nice and let me run into the mall for a few minutes. I mean with all the people running around they would not know if you ducked out for 5 min. My younger child loved playing on the iPads waiting.

  19. Amy

    My son loves the coding classes. You are required to stay, but why is it such a big deal?? They are your children and if you actually read the info given at the time of sign up you would know that you have to stay the whole time. Also, they do have an employee that speaks with the parents and goes over some things if you would like to listen. You are not required to pay attention. Most parents stayed on their phones or iPads. I enjoyed watching how excited my son was to be there. The employee that was speaking at ours last time actually helped me figure out what had been wrong with my phone for quite some time and I was extremely thankful for him taking the time to do so.

  20. Paige H

    My son went last year to 2 of the 3 classes, at age 11. A lot of the information he already knew, so he was a little bored, and he was practically the oldest one in the class too. Getting the t shirt and the bracelet was a nice bonus though!

  21. T

    We did movie camp: first day is boring, then you have homework to do (taking pictures, making videos) – that’s my least favorite part; second day putting movies together (we are not iFAMILY, and were doing our homework on amazon fires. People at apple store couldn’t transfer our photos and videos on their devices (even thou they said they could work with anything) 🙁 I was almost crying (kids too) on the inside. It was a mess, and lots of stress! Never again…

  22. Shannon

    My kid would love this! But the nearest Apple Store is 105 miles away 🙁
    I wish they offered one online!

    • Lindsay

      I’m in the same boat. To far away and not worth my drive. However, there are quite a few YouTube videos that walk you through most of apples apps.

  23. Mara

    We’re currently doing the movies Apple Camp. My daughter is 8, and this is her first time making her own movie. I think you’re right – these camps are perfect for kids who are new to these apps/programs. She’s thrilled to be making her own movie – something that YouTube savvy kids would probably be bored with. And our store is across from a Starbucks (literally 10 steps) so they told us that we could go out and get a drink and sit in the chairs just outside the store, which was awesome. (I could actually see my kiddo from my seat) What was not awesome? The parents who took advantage of that opportunity. Several parents disappeared into the mall to go shopping. And, even more egregious? The mom who dropped her daughter at Apple Camp, her too-young-for-Apple-Camp son at the iPad display, and went shopping. The Apple Store is not babysitting, and I’m sure it’s parents like that who make Apple have a “parents must remain in store” policy. Be considerate of others.

  24. Krista

    Any reviews on the Microsoft free camps…? We are signed up for next week.

  25. Jennifer Gadbois

    My son did the camp and loved it! The stools are uncomfortable ( especially at 8 mo pregnant). I brought a book to read. It was nice to have some time to read.

    A friend and I took a coding class with our boys that was offered at Apple. That was fun!!! It was an hr long in the afternoon.

  26. Robin

    Here in Mishawaka, IN, parents were allowed to leave the store, but asked to stay close. I sat in the comfortable chairs outside the store, had my Starbucks (located a few stores down), and read a book. Both of my kids LOVED the coding camp even though they had worked with Sphero before. Sorry to hear that other stores had a bad experience.

  27. shay0518

    Apple Stores do free daily “Today at Apple” sessions. There is a whole category for kids & parents. Check it out!
    https://www.apple.com/today/

  28. Diane

    My 12 year-old daughter just did the iMovie camp. I was allowed to leave (thank goodness). The first day all they did was come up with an idea and make a storyboard (written out). They had to do all the filming at home. The second day they spent editing – that’s the one day she picked up a few new tips. She had problems though because they only wanted a 2 minute video and hers was 6 minutes. She didn’t know enough about editing to get it down to 2 minutes, so it didn’t come out very good. All they did the last class was watch the videos, and class was really short. I feel like they could have done a little more with them. I agree, this class is seriously for beginners; my daughter didn’t get too much out of it.

  29. Emilytwinmom

    My twin 9yr olds are in a coding camp this week and on the first day left jumping up and down yelling today was AWESOME! They cannot wait to attend the rest of the week, and have already made some new friends. I am however seeing how older kids could get bored, it’s def an “intro” level camp.

  30. Clair

    We did several of the Microsoft Store camps. It was a little annoying that I had to sit there the whole time, but I took my tablet and a book and a pair of headphones. I thought the classes were great though especially since they were free! My 10 yr old really enjoyed them and it was fun to catch a glimpse of what they were doing and how she interacted. We all know how kids respond when we ask “what did you do today/” LOL

  31. Mom on nh

    We did the sketching and garage band last week. Waaaay to noisy for kids to focus on the MANY directions at the beginning of each session. Also day 3 was a share out for 2 classes. It was 1 1/2 hours of looking at kids unfinished projects. Free t-shirt was good.

  32. Pat

    I wasn’t allowed to leave my granddaughter either. I went the first year and her grandpa took her the second year. Since he is computer illeterit I am sure it was fun for him.
    I asked my granddaughter if she wanted to go this year and she said no. She didn’t enjoy the last two years she went. She said she didn’t learn anything she could use or was interested in. It depends on your child if they would be interested.

  33. Susie

    Gosh, I have 2 techie kids (9 & 12 yo) in all 3 camps. This is our first time. Perhaps we are just the geeky types, but my kids are having a blast. They love stopping in the Apple Store anytime. Our store stays quite busy, and since the camps take place out on the open floor, I would never consider it wise to leave my kids and expect the staff to babysit. There are just too many people circulating. The camp teachers are fun and energetic and are meeting the kids where they are in knowledge. The teachers picked up on where my kids are and have taught them advanced usage skills. Parents are encouraged to stay close, and I spent time learning new photography skills, photography apps, other usage tips and other functions with staff. It has been fun! The rest of the time I was able to grab a tea at Starbucks nextdoor and sit outside near the Apple Store window. I could see my kids the whole time. My kids are working on their movies as I type. Fun project. They were instructed to keep them to 2-3 minutes, so that we can get through them all in a timely manner Friday. If they film more than that, staff showed them how to have the app trim it to a trailer. And…. all for FREE!!!

  34. Mari Pon

    Any Apple camp in Long Beach, CA??

  35. Suzy

    My son did the coding class last week and really enjoyed it! The counselors were great and I was able to go to Starbucks (which was right next door) and sit right outside the Apple store and read my book. It was great because I could see my son the whole time but I got to relax and enjoy a little break too! The counselors knew where we were (there were several parents that did this) and they didn’t mind at all. On the last day one of the counselors came out and chatted with us about the camp and he was saying that each store has some say in how they run things. Overall it was a great experience and we’ll definitely go back next year!

  36. charlette

    Guess it varies by store because my son did the coding camp last year I wasn’t required to stay. I walked around the store and around the mall as well. He has a blast and is looking forward to doing it again this year. But definitely agree about the stools, they’re horrible. What I really appreciated was there were Apple staff members everywhere watching the kids. No one could get near those kids.

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