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Military Youth and Teen Programs

Benefit overview

Military youth and teen programs are designed to support military children as they transition from childhood into adulthood. Youth centers are available on almost every installation where families PCS. Centers are staffed with trained professionals who understand how to connect with youth, support them in their teen years and recognize the signs of stress. Continuity of programming between installations can help your child feel part of the military community and make the transition to a new installation smoother.

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Support for military youth and teens

Child and youth programs provide safe, developmentally appropriate places for your child to socialize and grow, develop essential skills and make lasting connections. Enriched program experiences and activities are available year-round, including during summer breaks, holidays, and before- and after-school hours.

Youth Programs and centers

Active-duty service members, National Guard and reserve members, and Defense Department civilians may all take advantage of youth and teen programs, both on and off installations. Installation youth centers offer continuity of programming to youth as they transition to new installations, and each youth center offers its own unique catalogue of activities.

Encourage your youth to engage with their local youth center. A variety of experiences are waiting, including computer labs for homework support and tutoring, gymnasiums for supervised sports and fitness, music and game rooms, field trips, safe spaces to hang out with friends and more.

Your local installation can also connect your child or teen to a variety of youth programs and resources, including youth development programs, youth sponsorship, sports and fitness activities, volunteer and leadership opportunities, and camps. For additional information about quality programs offered near you check with your local youth center.

Military Youth Centers: A Critical Constant

Youth Sports and Fitness Programs are designed to engage youth in fun activities that enhance the emotional, physical, social and educational well-being of participants. They are offered in a variety of settings including leagues, camps, clinics or instructional formats and are supervised and organized based on age, developmental level and physical ability.

Open recreation time is available after school and on weekends on a drop-in basis and is also available during the summer and school vacations. Children and teens can drop by and hang out with friends in an environment with caring, professional adults. Open rec times also have scheduled activities, such as cooking lessons and homework and tutoring help. Your local installation youth center also offers a variety of youth development programs that emphasize leadership and service, education and STEM (or science, technology, engineering and math) programs, health and wellness, and the arts.

Installation youth programs offer a variety of instructional programs, including gymnastics and martial arts, an assortment of dance classes, and music and theater offerings.

Military installations offer youth sponsorship to facilitate the integration of military-connected youth and teens into new surroundings when making a PCS to a new installation. The program is primarily directed toward preteens and teens. Most sponsorship programs offer outreach (providing youth/parents information on the local area, schools and activities), newcomer orientation to share programs and services available on installation and in the surrounding community, as well as peer-to-peer connection at the gaining installation.

For more information, contact your new installation’s youth program found on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. The youth program staff at your new installation can offer more information on the Youth Sponsorship Program. Your local school liaison can also assist with youth sponsorship referrals to ensure a smooth transition for your child to new schools and to help connect youth to peers who are already participating in the installation, school or community programs.

For families with young children, Sesame Street for Military Families offers transition support and resources.

Service-specific child and youth programs

Every branch of the military service has its own children and youth program which offers instructional, recreational and educational youth programs. The youth programs listed above are provided at most installations. Service-level child and youth programs provide these age-appropriate activities in a structured setting either on or off the installation. Check out your service-specific program.


Visit MyArmyBenefits to review all of the programs available to Army families.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Marine Corps

Visit Marine Corps Community Services child and youth programs for a list of programs offered through MCCS.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.


Navy child and youth programs offer youth recreational services for children and youth through 18 years.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Air Force

Learn more about Air Force child development and youth programs available from birth through age 18.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

National Guard

Visit the Army National Guard Child and Youth Services to learn about youth programs available to National Guard families.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Our Military Kids offers grants to National Guard and reserve families during deployments. The grants help cover children’s activities when families have trouble accessing support services from military installations. Our Military Kids also offers grants to children of injured military members to pay for participation in sports, fine arts and academic tutoring.

The Military Family Readiness System serves National Guard and reserve families. The program educates unit and family members about their benefits and entitlements, including participation in Child and Youth programs. You can find out more about family programs and eligibility for Military OneSource services, as well as learn about your family’s benefits through the Military and Family Support Center nearest you.

Camp programs

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A variety of camps are available to provide new experiences for children and teens and to help them connect to other military youth. Read more to find out about available camps.

Defense Department summer camps may be a great addition to your children’s summer lineup to keep them engaged and having fun after school lets out. From teen adventure and science camps to installation-specific camps, DOD STARBASE and DOD STEM, you can find something so your youth or teen can start exploring. Check with your local installation youth center for additional summer camp information.

Your installation’s youth program offers an array of summer camps for children, youth and teens. For more information, contact your installation’s youth program found on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Operation Purple® Camp from the National Military Family Association brings together military children from all services and offers a family retreat that provides military families with a chance to reconnect and bond.

The Armed Services YMCA offers Operation Camp, fun and educational day and residential camps that encourage healthy living and recreation. These camps offer opportunities for military children to make meaningful connections with peers who also experience the challenges of military life. Serving over 10,000 children each year, these camps help youth build confidence, improve social skills and equip them with tools and resources to better handle the challenges of military life.

Sponsored in conjunction with Purdue University, Military Teen Adventure Camps offer outdoor experiences for military-connected teens ages 13-18. Children of active-duty, National Guard, reserve and retired service members have the opportunity to participate at little or no cost. Camp activities include whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing, ropes courses, winter camping and backpacking. The camps allow teens to build their leadership and teamwork skills as well as self-confidence.

Children and youth programs offered through military partnerships

If your closest military installation youth/teen center is not conveniently located near your home or duty station, you can still benefit from other military youth and teen programs in your area. The DOD partners with several organizations to offer additional programming and options for military-connected youth. These include partnerships with 4-H and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. They help military youth build resilience, independence and leadership skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Explore offerings from Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, National Military Family Association and more.

The U.S. Armed Forces has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 30 years to help support children of military families with youth development programs, curriculums and activities. Boys & Girls Clubs of America programming includes education and workforce readiness programs, such as:

  • Mission Youth Outreach— a free membership to local Boys & Girls Clubs for military youth ages 6 to 18 who do not live near or have access to a military youth center
  • Military Youth of the Year — a program honoring for exemplary military teens who have overcome setbacks, demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments, and are prepared to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood
  • CareerLaunch— a program for youth ages 13 to 18 to explore careers, assess skills and preparedness for postsecondary education or joining the workforce, and navigate college and job-search resources
  • Money Matters— a program for youth ages 13 to 18 to learn how to manage a checking account, create a budget, start a small business, pay for college, and save and invest
  • diplomas2Degrees— a program designed to prepare high schoolers for college and career success by helping teens develop both short- and long-term goals and prepare for postsecondary education through experiences such as college tours
  • Summer Brain Gain— a program to encourage summer learning and keep youth engaged in reading through one-week themed modules for elementary, middle school and high school students
  • MyFuture— a program that teaches foundational technology skills and develops computer literacy
  • Torch Club — a citizenship and leadership program open to preteens 11-13 years of age that focuses activities on service to the Club and the greater community, health and fitness, education and social recreation
  • BGCA Military Youth of the Year: Inspiring Authenticity, Confidence and Courage Video

4-H Military Partnership brings the resources of land grant universities to military youth programs. These resources include youth development professionals, research-based curricula and high-quality training and technical assistance for installation youth programs staff.

Military youth can join 4-H clubs in their community and also participate in summer camps around the country. 4-H offers a wealth of resources in STEM subjects, healthy living, citizenship, public speaking and other military core program areas providing valuable life skills, curriculum and resources for military youth and teens across the country and around the world.

The Armed Services YMCA offers a range of programs for military families, including:

  • Operation Hero After-School Program— This free after-school program is designed for military children in grades 2-8 to help students cope and adjust to the unique challenges of military life, such as frequent moves and deployment separation.
  • Operation Camp— These fun and educational day and residential camps encourage healthy living and recreation.

Operation Purple® Camp brings together military children from all services to connect with peers who have similar experiences, like frequent moves, deployed parents and even a parent’s injury. Youth enjoy kayaking, horseback riding and service activities to help the community.

Operation Purple Family Retreats® helps families each year reunite and reintegrate after deployments. Families can unplug and relax and also attend organized activities to help strengthen and renew their relationships.

Operation Purple Healing Adventures® serves families each year through family retreats designed specifically to help families of wounded, ill or injured service members. These long-weekend experiences help families adjust to their “new normal” and rediscover family fun and togetherness’.

Parents and youth can rely on youth centers to be a safe, supportive and consistent place to hang out — no matter where the military takes them. The continuity of programming between installations and connection to community are valuable benefits to help your youth make a smooth transition between installations. Youth programs are just one aspect of benefits available to your military-connected child or teen. Discover more ways you can help your military youth and teens transition and explore the wealth of child and youth education and employment benefits available.

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