There’s no doubt that the summertime rite of passage, attending summer camp, benefits kids, no matter whether they attend a day camp or an overnight camp. But the coronavirus pandemic left many families at a loss last year as many summer camps either went virtual or weren’t held at all. So, what does this Summer 2021 look like for families desperate for a return to more of a normal summer?
It’s looking hopeful.
Camps are already busy planning out the summer, says Colette Marquardt, executive director of American Camp Association, Illinois, based in Chicago. Day camps in Illinois are approved to open while Illinois overnight camps are not yet allowed, she says.
As always, she says, safety of campers and the camp staff remains the most important focus,
Marquardt says many day camps operated very successfully in 2020, so they are busy doing the normal work of getting the programs planned, getting the staff hired and working on extra changes and precautions to their programs. Those precautions include masking, extra sanitation and creating cohorts among small groups as well as changing programs to keep social distance but also creating a camp feel so kids can still play together.
As Illinois overnight camps await the green light, they, too, are preparing. “They are eagerly anticipating that they will be able to operate this summer,” she says.
Across the country, as other states handled overnight summer camps differently, Marquardt says there are quite a few success stories from last summer to show that camps can operate safely. “We are just doing a lot of education around that and planning,” she says.
Do your research
Since every camp situation will be different, Marquardt continues to advise 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. “It’s good to start preparing the children that camp’s going to look different, similar to how schools are looking different,” she says.
- Make sure to check refund policies and ask about protocols if there is an exposure.
- Be flexible.
Marquardt also urges parents to start looking now to claim a spot because she predicts there likely will be fewer spots available than previous summers.
If all else fails, Marquardt says she saw quite a few successful virtual and alternative programs held last summer. While virtual camp was certainly different, it did the one thing it was intended to do: kept the community together, she says. She saw programs offering arts and crafts, songs, even virtual campfires. “It gave them that connection that is so important to their development,” she says.
Even if things proceed as normal this summer, she says some camp programs are looking at hybrid options to keep a virtual presence available. “We’ve seen what the power of connecting virtually can do,” she says.
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This article originally published on April 7, 2020. It has been updated with the most recent information.