Over the past two summers, the coronavirus pandemic has made it so difficult for parents and camps to make sure the kids get the opportunity to attend summer camp, a rite of passage where kids experience not only fun, but develop persistence, grit, self-confidence and friendship along with learning lots of new skills.
So, what does this camp season look like for families desperate for a return to a more normal summer?
“This is the time of year that registration opens and we’re hearing reports that people are coming back by the numbers, which is wonderful,” says Colette Marquardt, executive director of American Camp Association, Illinois.
Safety of campers remains the most important focus, “Camps are continuing to proceed with caution and keeping tabs on what’s happening with COVID,” she says, adding that work has been underway since the end of last summer to set up programs and train staff to assure parents that kids will have a great camp experience.
“This year, parents and children will continue to see some changes from last summer, “ she says. That includes loosening some protocols because more children are vaccinated and the COVID numbers are dropping.
“I think we’re going to see it be much closer to 2019 and before, but certainly, it’s not just a jump back to 2019. We’re going to make sure we’re proceeding with caution to make sure we take care of the children.”
Parents and kids are eager for summer camp
Unfortunately, some camps were forced to close permanently due to the pandemic and some are still planning on reduced capacity. That means this year, parents need to register for summer camp early to avoid disappointment.
“This year we will see our numbers (of campers) return closer to, if not beyond, pre-pandemic because we also know parents are hungry for trying to find those social-emotional places for their children this summer,” Marquardt says.
Camp is particularly important for kids this year, she says.
“It’s very important that children have access to social and emotional learning, which is what camp is super strong at. We teach those skills through activities like arts and crafts, archery, swimming and boating. Those are really fun activities, but those are the tools we use to teach the social-emotional health skills,” she says.
But after two years of isolation, with limited social interaction outside their immediate circle or limited social experiences, Marquardt says this summer will be even more important to get children into those social interactions where they get to play and be around other children and caring adults.
Do your research
Since every camp situation will be different, Marquardt advises parents to check in with camps they are interested in. Camp directors, she says, are ready for some of parents’ tough questions. “Don’t worry about sharing the areas you are nervous about,” she says.
- Ask what they are doing to prepare to respond to COVID and how camp might be different. Look at the different protocols in place to make sure they fit with your family and family values. “All of the camps are creating policies and procedures around that should be able to answer that,” she says.
- Make sure to check refund policies and ask about protocols if there is an exposure.
- Check to see if the camp American Camp Association accredited. The accreditation is an opt-in program that puts the camps through a peer review with a focus on making sure the camp adheres to camp industry standards. Marquardt says accredited camps receive a constant flow of information about COVID protocols and COVID safety.
- Feel free to ask the camp director any question that is a concern for you.
- Be flexible.
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