A pediatrician provides parents a sanity check.
Dear Doctor: Should I send my kids to summer camp this year? Am I taking a risk?
If it’s in your power to do so, send them to camp! While the risk of COVID-19 is unquestionably still there, we are in a much better place than we were last summer in terms of the virus thanks to widespread vaccinations. So, based on the latest health guidance from the government and the state, we should all be able to take a deep breath and feel good about letting our children reclaim a part of their childhood that they lost last year.
This may not take away your anxiety about sending them back into an environment with large groups of kids, especially if they haven’t fully transitioned back to school this year. As you try to decide what is best for your family, it’s important to check these boxes:
- Find an American Camp Association (ACA) accredited program. While you always would like your camp to ACA accredited, this year being part of the ACA is that much more important. They outline strict, layered mitigation strategies — including masking, cohorting, physical distancing, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, proper handwashing, and respiratory etiquette. A study of 486 camps that served 90,000 campers reports that only 30 campers had confirmed COVID-19 cases in 2020.
- Ask lots of questions… For day camps that organize day trips, will the camp require masks on buses, especially on warm weather days? Counselors will likely have to wear masks, but will your kids have to the whole time? What happens on rainy days, since many camps are based on outdoor activities – if they go inside, what will they do and how will they be distanced? What happens if a child gets sick – how will they be isolated and tested? Getting the complete picture can help you make informed decisions to feel more at ease.
- Try to control your anxiety around them. Getting back to some sense of normalcy is important for everyone in the family. Your children may be just as anxious as you about taking this big step. This experience may be even more important for children feeling this way. Being home all summer may make it that much harder to re-enter school both socially and academically in the fall when school gets back to full swing. Summer camp allows them to make that transition without judgement or the pressure of academics – it’s just about socialization and fun.
Your pediatrician can be a great sounding board when it comes to concerns over summer camp and getting back to other activities. Don’t forget to make an appointment now to get your camp physicals and forms completed – so you can beat the rush!