2020 is proving to be a year like no other, one that is far from normal. At this point I’m ashamed to say that devices and screen time is taking up much of my kids’ day. I’m desperate to find something to keep them productive this summer. Our normal summer typically consists of day camp where I send my kids off at 9:00 am and pick them up late in the afternoon, tired and dirty. This year most of our summer camp options were canceled due to COVID-19. I would love to register my children and ship them off to camp; however, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, so safety is my main concern. I’ve been struggling with this decision as I’m sure most parents are. Do I send my kids away to their happy summer place for some “old-fashioned” entertainment and normalcy, or keep them home?
Social distancing restrictions are being eased across the country and this coincides with the start of summer where several states are now seeing an increase of COVID-19 cases preceding Memorial Day. It is clear that COVID hasn’t gone away and won’t until there is a vaccine in place. In making this decision we need to assess the risk, get input from our children on their feelings of camp and of course review the 2020 summer camp guidance and recommendations.
Assessing the situation and risks is challenging as the guidance is continually changing and there is a lot of contradicting information floating around.
- For most children if they contract COVID-19 their symptoms tend to be less severe and not dangerous. However, we are seeing cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children who have even been asymptomatic for COVID.
- Individuals with auto-immune deficiencies are at a higher risk for complications related to COVID-19. If your child or anyone is your household is at “high risk” for complications, you may want to reconsider camp this year.
- If your child goes to camp, is there anyone at home that they would endanger should he/she contract COVID? What about extended family? Grandparents or cousins? Are you willing to social distance from your family as a precaution?
- Educate children that some friends or fellow campers may be more susceptible to COVID. Talk to them about not getting to close to their friends and remind them of normal hygiene precautions such as washing hands, how to cover their cough and not sharing water bottles or suntan lotion.
- Face coverings may be encouraged or required, talk to them about the proper way to wear a mask. Teach them that wearing one is good as they are protecting themselves and others from germs.
- What activities are being offered at camp this summer? Consider the risk level based on the size of camp groups and activities available. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/summer-camps.html
- Look for a camp that is outdoors, open air or in a well-ventilated area.
How does your child feel about camp? If camp is a consideration, talk to them and ensure they are not feeling too anxious. Our children have been separated from their friends and going back to normal activities during a pandemic can be overwhelming or scary. Summer camp might be a good way to ease them back into normalcy or it might cause extra anxiety. After all, there will likely be screening daily upon arrival and again possibly again at departure.
As you are making this decision, do your research and ensure that your camp is following the recommended protocols and potentially going above and beyond. Does opening comply with local and state orders? Are COVID-19 cases in your area decreasing or increasing?
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has worked with the American Camp Association (ACA) on guidance for opening camps. Do your research and make sure your camp is following recommendations and committed to keeping your child healthy this summer.
- 2020 Camp Operation Guide: https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/coronavirus/camp-business/camp-operations-guide-summer-2020
- Safeguards and decision tree for Camps: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/Camps-Decision-Tree.pdf
This summer you may want to stick to a camp that you are familiar with unless your camp options are limited and necessary. Choosing a camp that you are already comfortable with will cut down on anxiety for both you and your child as you return to some level of normal. If you decide camp isn’t a viable option for your kids this summer, there are options for virtual camps. Or you might want to plan a summer with activities that can include social distancing such as hiking, camping, fishing or other low contact outdoor sports and games and bike rides to keep your kids healthy and active.