climbing day camp

Hey friends parenting during a pandemic,

I see you. I see you working hard to get your kids on Zoom school. I see you being creative with all the “celebrations” that we worry our kids are missing. I know how tough being a parent during the last 12 months has been. I’m here to throw you a lifesaver and reward you for all your hard work. I’m here to tell you about day camp for this summer.

Day camps, like Tumbleweed Day Camp in Los Angeles, are the antidote to the fear, isolation, and anxiety that are wreaking havoc in our families. Camp can cure these challenges, almost instantaneously.

How does going to day camp fundamentally combat anxiety, isolation, depression, and sadness? So glad you asked. There are 5 things that summer camps offer as fundamental experiences and are critically needed for children now more than ever. There is one prerequisite to going to camp this summer, however: you and your family have to be comfortable with some amount of risk. We’ll dive into how camps are creating incredibly safe (but not sterile) spaces for kids this summer, but I would warn anyone against being persuaded to attend camp if they aren’t ready. The safest thing you can do is stay home.

Being Outdoors

This is exclusive to in-person programs—you can’t get this on zoom. Not only is vitamin D and fresh air good for your health, observing nature can help grow your brain. Day camps are experts at playing and exploring outdoors, implementing nature-based programs that your children will love.

Being Active

Physical activity has often been touted as one of the most important ways to ward off anxiety and depression. Your child probably has not been as active as they might have been during a traditional school year—no PE or sports or recess. Camp provides opportunities for all sorts of physical activity.

Being Social

Maybe the most important of any of these fundamentals is that camp, most of all, is all about being social. There’s problem-solving, friendship-making, risk-taking, building mastery, making choices and so much more. By being in-person and having shared experiences, campers can begin to regain the social skills needed to be happy people.

Being around Other Caring Adults

You have heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” —well, that’s because we are not meant to raise children alone! Having my daughter interact with a different, caring authority figure changed the way that she interacted with me. Our kids need different types of leaders and communicators; they need to see younger adults in positions of care.

Unplugged

You know how you feel after a day of zoom calls and staring at your phone? Your kids do, too. Get them out of the house, off the screen, and into real life. When no one is using a device, it’s cool to be offline.

“Sure it’s fun and good for their mental health, but are day camps safe for my kids?”

Summer day camp is not only safe, but it’s also going to save your family this summer. When I’m talking to parents about how to choose an in-person program for their child—or when I’m looking for my own children—I use these published findings from the American Camp Association to guide my decision. When camps, like Tumbleweed, implemented several important interventions like mask-wearing, physical distancing, outdoor space, and small groups, only 0.1% of all people (staff, campers, volunteers) contracted COVID-19. It’s all about the layers of safety—there is no silver bullet to having safe, in-person programs. Camps that are successfully running are using these interventions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:

Masks on Everyone

Correctly fitting facial coverings have proven to be one of the most important interventions camps can use in combating the spread of COVID-19. All staff and all campers should wear a face covering at all times (there are some exceptions like eating and napping). And can I just say—masks at camp are not a big deal! The campers, my kids (ages 3 and 5), the counselors do not notice. Everyone would much rather be wearing a mask and be at camp than not be there at all.

All or Almost All outside

Science shows that being outdoors dramatically reduces the spread of COVID-19. When looking for in-person opportunities for my children, how much time they spent outside was almost as important as physical distancing.

Physical Distancing in Place All the Time

A great camp will figure out how to adjust their program so that they can maintain physical distancing recommendations as often as possible.

Consistent Groups

If we are trying to keep COVID out of camp, we need to decrease the number of humans coming into camp. Look for a program that has campers in the same, small group with the same counselors for the duration of the camp session—no mixing, no “drop-in” programs.

Community Norms

If counselors and campers go home at night and throw the rules out the window, none of your safety policies matter. Ask the director how they ensure that campers, counselors, and families are upholding safety norms inside of camp and outside of camp.

Bonus: They Ran in Summer 2020 & Are Still Running Now

Camps that ran during the summer of 2020 and are still in program now, are up-to-date with all the restrictions and protocols. And they know what their community is up to. Look for a camp that’s ramping up for Summer #2 of COVID safety, rather than one that’s figuring out how to reopen for the first time.

Moral of the story: treat yourself, treat your family, and send your child to day camp this summer.