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Kids need summer camp more than ever, so here are tips on how to do it safely

Multiethnic group of happy male friends with soccer ball
Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 19, 2021

It's that time of year again. This is when parents start looking for summer camps for their kids.

We asked the experts what summer camp will look like this year as we all try to navigate a post-pandemic world.

Summer Camp before COVID seems like a whole different world.

The YMCA says, if your last camp was in 2019, be prepared.

Everything will be further from the moment you sign your child up to the moment you drop them off.

“There will be safety protocols ahead of coming to camp," said YMCA CEO Paul McEntire. "They are often different requirements. Sometimes it is a test before you show up within 48-72 hours. Some do that that varies a good bit."

For McEntire, the camp is his job.

“We operate just over 320 overnight resident camps across the country and 10-thousand-day camps,” McEntire said.

This year, he says, they're moving towards more of an educational focus.

“That is one thing that will be distinctly different at many of our camps in 2021- dealing with the loss of learning that everyone’s going to have to be working on probably for a couple of years to help children catch up,” McEntire said.

Of course, the fun will be there, but it might look a little bit different, and COVID safety protocols might vary by region. In general, though, you can expect masks and minimal group mixing.

“As much as possible, the programs and activities and the things the kids love those are all the same," said McEntire. "A handful of things aren’t safe enough to do in COVID.”

As for safety and guidelines, they rely on the CDC.

Dr. Tanya Altmann, a Los Angeles Area Pediatrician and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that if there ever was a year that kids need camp, it's this year.

“This year, summer camp is going to be more important than ever for our kid's social and emotional well-being," Dr. Altmann said. "I’m online every day looking for camp options for my boys because I don’t want them sitting at home on zoom anymore. I want them outdoors, doing things and learning and having fun.”

She also says we've learned a lot. We know how to prevent transmission. We know the outdoors is safer. We know that we need to distance and wear a mask and do the proper sanitizing.

"Code Ninjas," a franchise that teaches kids to code, is primarily indoors.

In San Diego, the owners tell us that their summer classes are already filling up. There are only seven kids per session. A 6-foot distance, temperature checks, and masks will be enforced. For those who are still not comfortable, a virtual option is available.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes, but I think there are so many ways to make camp safe and fun and an amazing experience that these kids need this summer,” said Dr. Altmann.

At the YMCA, enrollment is already ahead of 2019 registration numbers, proving that parents need a break and want their kids to have a good, old-fashion summer.

"We know camp is such an important component for children for their social, emotional health, mental well-being, relationships and for just being a kid that’s always been what camp is about, right?' McEntire said.