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6 Ways to Safely Prepare Your Child for Summer Camp This Year

6 Ways to Safely Prepare Your Child for Summer Camp This Year

With proper planning, your children will be prepared for a summer of fun and camp safety.

It's time to break your children away from the computer screens and send them outside. Yes, summer camps are back and better than ever. In fact, summer camps in New York are planning in-person sessions, with the camp activities children love, including swimming, arts and crafts, and camp spirit events. Many in the New York metro area have already opened registration.

However, despite the vaccination efforts and decrease in COVID-19 cases across the country, many parents will still be worried about sending their children to summer camp this year.

How to Prepare Your Child for Camp This Summer

Not to worry. By following these 6 tips, you will know how to keep your child safe and keep yourself sane:

Ask lots of questions about every camp you’re considering for your child.

Last year brought more uncertainty than most people have ever had to deal with. While there is a lot of hope that the upcoming summer will bring relief to parents and children across the country, it's still important to ask the right questions when signing your child up for summer camps.

Dan Weir, Senior Director of Program Development & Enrichment for the YMCA of Long Island, suggests parents ask the following questions when evaluating summer camps this year:

  • How are the camps preparing for COVID-19 during the summer? "Every camp should have a safety plan in development they can share with you," Weir says.

  • What is the make-up of your staff and members’ experiences with summer camp?

  • Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association? Why is that important? "Accredited camps hold themselves to over 200 standards ranging from program quality to safety," Weir says.

Find reassurance from professionals that summer camps are safe

It’s understandable that sending your child to a summer camp during a pandemic may fill you with anxiety. However, there are many reasons to believe that things may not be as dire come summertime, especially since camp in New York is preparing COVID-19 safety protocols.

"In 2020, New York state gave day camps robust guidance on how to operate camp safely," Weir says. This includes frequent handwashing and sanitizing, keeping the camp clean, completing health screenings with children and staff, having campers and staff members wear face coverings, and social distancing when appropriate. "Parents should feel very positive about sending their child to a licensed summer camp in New York state," Weir assures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided guidelines for prospective campers as New York state and the country begin to reopen in 2020. Some of these guidelines include staying home when it is appropriate, continuing to follow proper hand hygiene, and reminding your child to not share food or drinks with their fellow campers.

Even the professionals are positive about this summer season.

Explain to your child that things will be different at camp this year from previous years.

Kids may be super excited for upcoming summer camps, as they should be. However, if they have gone to one before, they may not realize that things may look very different to what they remember, especially if you weren’t comfortable sending your child to camp in 2020. It's important to relay to them that there will be changes this time around.

Explain to them that the safety protocols they have been following for more than a year (hand washing, social distancing, wearing face masks, etc.) will be happening at the camp, but also impress upon them the magic of camp. "The camp experience is completely different than any other activity children participate in," Weir says. "We recommend that parents remind children no matter how many safety protocols we will follow, it will never impact the magic of camp."

Before picking a camp, visit in-person if possible.

Obviously, camps will look and function a lot differently than previous summers. While you can read about the safety protocols in place at specific camps, you can't fully understand how the camp will function unless you visit.

For example, by visiting in-person, you can see for yourself where security is, whether the staff members are wearing masks, how many hand sanitizer stations are set-up, etc. Weir provides 3 key factors to look out for visiting a camp:

  • Is it a clean and well-maintained facility?

  • Is there an indoor or covered space to keep camp running during inclement weather?

  • Does the camp offer fun activities to meet the interests and abilities of your child?

A camp's website largely provides general information that relates to as many children as possible. By visiting a camp in-person, you will know from the tour whether the facility is the correct choice for your child.

Keep asking questions during the camp season.

While there is a lot that goes into picking a camp, the hard work doesn't stop after you have made the decision. You want to make sure that the camp is still fun and following its own safety protocols throughout the summer, so ask your child about their day at dinnertime.

Of course, after a busy day of having fun at the camp, your child may be exhausted and won't want to answer many specific questions, so keeping your questions light and open-ended. "Often, a family will get a much better picture of how camp is going when they ask for a story," Weir says.

What kinds of questions should you ask? Try the following:

  • What friends did you make?

  • Do you have a funny camp story to share?

  • Did you try anything new today?

  • What activities did you do today, and which one was your favorite?

  • What were the staff/counselors like?

These will give you a general idea whether your child is having fun and staying safe.

Remind yourself that this summer will be new and exciting.

Keep reminding yourself that, more than likely, this summer will be filled with sun, sweat, and camp spirit in a safe environment. Focus on the social time your child will get and the friends they’ll make. At the very least, the camps have no plans to slow down.

"We are offering all our core staples—swimming, sports, arts and crafts, STEAM activities, adventure and team building activities, and camp traditions like color war. All of these activities have adapted to still provide a fun experience while mitigating any risk of communicable diseases," Weir assures.

Now more than ever, camp will be a fun escape for kids during the summer months. While it’s important to focus on safety, remind yourself that camps can still "provide a safe place for children to discover, dream, and grow."

Main image courtesy YMCA of Long Island

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