Summer is an exciting time of year for most of us. It’s a time to work on personal fitness, take a vacation, clean out the garage, go swimming in a lake or ocean, and much more. It’s also the season when many families send their kids off to summer camp. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still a threat, many school administrators and parents are questioning whether it’s safe this year.
The health and safety of campers and staff is always the highest priority. An infectious outbreak at a camp can spread among its members and those they come in contact with outside of camp. That’s why it’s important to begin by reviewing and updating all health-related procedures for your kids, families and staff. As an administrator, it’s your task to create those guidelines and also communicate them to ensure that everyone understands the health and safety protocols.
Below are 4 strategies to ensure safety, success and fun at your summer camps this year:
- Local & State Guidelines: Following the mandates and recommendations from government authorities is essential. Consult local, state and CDC websites to better understand the protocols for safe reopening. Most regions are practicing phased reopening strategies so be prepared to adapt to stricter or looser protocols as data outlooks change. For example in Ontario: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/2019_summer_day_camps_guidance.pdf
- Strong Planning: Develop a detailed health & safety outline for every aspect of your summer camp. A structured plan should include guidelines for sanitation and physical distancing where possible. Virus testing and temperature checks can prevent the spread of infection if you have the capacity to do them. It’s also important to consider what actions will be taken in the worst-case scenario of virus detection.
- Regular meetings: Hopefully everyone is very mindful right now of what they need to do to stay safe. You can take the initiative to inform your staff with weekly meetings during your summer camp. Use this time to reinforce important ideas, learn from mistakes and react to changing information from government bodies.
- Transparency: Talk to your teachers and staff. Find out if they’ve had any issues and discuss those openly. Invite staff to share concerns about safety and challenges to their jobs. Everyone has an important voice in this unusual process.
Great Ideas for an Exciting Summer Camp Experience
In spite of the coronavirus, it’s still possible to prepare a fun summer camp experience. Talk this over with teachers and get their input. There are so many clever, ingenious ways that kids can enjoy summer and still remain safe and healthy. Below are just a few ideas to get on the right pathway to a great summer for everyone!
Socially distanced pods
One new approach involves dividing kids up into “Pods.” Each pod is limited to about six children with a single counselor for each one. This is a safer system as it limits everyone’s exposure, yet there are still enough kids to have fun, play games and make some awesome memories. Another big advantage to these smaller groups is that kids will get to know each other better. They can make lasting friendships with the other children in their pod.
This idea has become very popular whether there’s a health emergency or not. Create a summer camp experience around the theme of singing, dancing, acting and other performance arts. Counselors can help the kids decide on what their activity will be, then help them develop their craft. They’ll need encouragement and confidence to perform before their friends and family and counselors will be very crucial to the kids each building up that level of confidence. This will be an exciting and popular summer camp experience that kids won’t ever forget, just be sure to maintain safe distance when singing indoors.
Outdoor nature games
Outdoor activities are safer as virus transmission is most common with close indoor interaction. Take kids out in small groups and teach them to stay a few feet apart as they move down a lovely trail in the woods. Outdoor games are especially good for kids because they’ll get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Counselors can instruct the children to look for fossils, unusual plants, frogs, insects and other cool things. Take photos for the parents and be sure to tell everyone to dress appropriately. Bring water and light snacks for children at all times, and take breaks every hour so no one gets overheated.
This idea is gaining popularity because it keeps everyone completely safe while still making sure your kids have a fun summer. Most families have internet access, along with several devices in the home, and there are almost unlimited options of games and exciting activities for online campers. PBSkids.org has a great range of online activities from reading and spelling games to mystery/adventure games. Camp counselors can set up a daily array of activities for the kids so that their time together as a group is maximized and doesn’t get boring.
Don’t underestimate your kids
Most kids know about and understand COVID-19 by now. They are aware of social distancing, washing hands and other best practices for staying safe. Even children as young as five or six can be taught to wash their hands, wear masks and stay at least six feet away from another person. Sometimes we underestimate children and think they’re too young to know what’s going on. Instead, kids have shown over and over how adaptable they are – their brains are wired to be flexible. Communicate clearly and consistently and kids will follow the direction, and then we can all enjoy a fun, safe summer!