NEW YORK CITY (NewsNation Now) — It’s the time of year when memories get made — summer camps are back after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to shut down, and parents are lining up to send their kids this year.
Many see camp as a powerful antidote to a pandemic-ravaged school year that left young people stuck indoors, glued to computer screens. And experts say if there was ever a year to send kids to summer camp, this could be it.
“Camp is really a life-changing experience that I wish every kid could have,” said Brett Fromson, a Beber Camp alumnus.
For many, the focus changed from caring for kids to saving the business amid the pandemic. Camp employees in places like Mukwonago, Wisconsin, or Settoga, New York, saw the difference a year made — where right now everything is changing.
“Like in an amazing way, super busy. Days are filled with conversations with parents, conversations with staff and just, living the life that we didn’t get to live last spring and into summer,” said Genna Singer, the director of camps at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan Camp Settoga.
Camps have updated guidance from the American Camp Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says at camps where everyone’s fully vaccinated, “it is safe to return to full capacity, without masking, and without physical distancing.”
Kids are really excited about camp this summer, and of course their parents are too, but also meatal and physicals health professionals who say the return of camp and physical outdoor activity is critical for children of all ages for all sorts of reasons.
“Even if your child didn’t traditionally do summer camps or outdoor activities, this is the summer you might want to consider that,” said Dr. Saa Bode with the American Association of Pediatrics.
A sentiment echoed by the guidance from the CDC, which says, “youth camps can play an important role in the lives of children, including supporting their social, emotional, and physical development.”
“One of the things we’re hearing from pediatricians and social workers and school psychologists is the deep need for social development and social exploration and opportunities to connect with new people and with children, Singer said. “And to really go outside of their comfort zones and to have a chance to test their limits and try new things, and that’s exactly what camp is for.”
Nearly four million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. While severe illnesses among children are rare, they can still get sick, and they can still spread the virus. So it’s good for parents to take precautions and consider some things when they choose a camp.
“Do they have medical personnel, like a school nurse or a camp nurse, that is going to assess kids quickly if they do come down with symptoms? And what is the plan, what are they doing as a result of that,” Bode asked. “I think as a parent, you can be pretty reassured if that is in place that you can send your kid to an overnight camp. They can have a great experience, and you can feel like they’re gonna be safe while they’re there.”
It’s still safety first, in a way, more than ever. “We want everybody to be able to come to camp and be successful and happy -that’s the bottom line— and safe,” said Debbie Morris, assistant director of community care at Beber Camp.
Camp directors say there’s just too much on the line.
“So we’re excited to get back and rebuild this community and deliver what we think is gonna be the best summer for kids,” said Micahel Wax, camp director at Beber Camp Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
In other words, happy campers getting back to normal.
“I hope that every single child gets a chance to get out of isolation and be around other people and have some fun,” said David Christopher with summercamps.com. “We’re all desperately missing some fun.”
More information on what experts recommend for children considering summer camp: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/summer-camps.html