This school year has been anything but normal for many kids and families around the country. As the summer approaches, many are left wondering if children will be able to attend summer camps in 2021 and see friends safely.
According to the American Camp Association, this is not only a possibility but a must for so many children who have spent the past year isolating themselves from others.
The summer camp experience can mean many things — a day camp focused on a special interest, an outdoor camp for exploring nature, or a sleep-away camp that challenges kids to grow outside of their family circle. According to Psychology Today, all of these experiences are beneficial to kids and help them develop socially and emotionally. “Whether it is a subsidized day camp in a city or a luxurious residential facility up in the mountains, camps can give our kids a spicy combination of experiences that prepare them well for life,” the site states.
While summer camp should always be fun, The American Camp Association (ACA) has conducted research that reveals many more benefits. The study, conducted by researchers at The University of Utah, found that summer camp experiences help kids with emotional regulation, developing independence, decision-making skills, and personal responsibility.
Contrary to popular belief, some summer camps did take place last year, even in the height of the pandemic. Safety protocols ensured that less than 1% of campers and staff had confirmed cases of COVID during the 2020 season. The learning from last summer has informed new safety guidelines.
“Last summer’s mitigation practices highlight the necessary foundation for a successful 2021 camp season,” Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of ACA tells Parentology. “Our new research demonstrates that children can be with their friends and counselors and take a break from technology this summer. In fact, camp provides critical support for children as they recover from the challenging effects of the pandemic in a safe environment away from home.”
Rosenberg says the first thing to look for is an ACA accreditation. “The primary purpose of the ACA Accreditation Program is to educate camp owners and directors on camp operation. ACA standards establish guidelines for designing and implementing policies, procedures, and practices.”
The ACA has developed specific guidelines around COVID health concerns, and while those guidelines have been made public to help ensure the safety of all campers, ACA camps go one step further.“ACA accreditation provides camps with standards to support an annual review of a camp’s health, safety, and risk management practices. Our vast network of camp professionals present opportunities for camp professionals to engage in ongoing education, networking, and professional development,” Rosenberg explains.
Kids all over the country have spent unprecedented amounts of time utilizing technology, being isolated from friends and activities over the past year. The psychological impact of quarantineon children and adolescents has already emerged and will most likely continue to do so over the next several years. Camp experiences may help kids who have been struggling socially and emotionally throughout the pandemic. Rosenberg feels it might just be a vital component in restoring emotional health.
“Camp is essential for the social-emotional well-being of campers after a year of online school and virtual programming,” he says. “Camps are a place where campers can meet new friends while developing teamwork, leadership, and relationship skills. Camp is a great way for campers to unplug, take a break from technology and enjoy the outdoors in a safe, healthy and supportive environment.”
The health safety concerns of camp are not the only obstacle. For many families who are struggling financially, the additional cost of summer camp is something that is simply not feasible. If cost is an issue, Rosenberg suggests checking with your camp about possible financial assistance — because it is available.
“[In March], the House passed the American Rescue Plan, which opens up $30.35 billion for afterschool and summer learning programs across the United States,” Rosenberg explains. “The ACA strives to ensure that every child has a camp option this summer. We know that the pandemic has been especially challenging for low-income households, especially during a time when schools are relying heavily on remote learning. Many camps have scholarship opportunities in place to ensure inclusive opportunities. Parents should connect with camps and ask about scholarship opportunities now to get enrolled well before summer.”
Psychology Today Harvard School of Education National Center for Biotechnology Information American Camp Association Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO ACA