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5 Health Factors to Consider when Choosing a Camp During a Pandemic

5 Health Factors to Consider when Choosing a Camp During a Pandemic

When selecting a camp for your children this summer, there are certain things you should ask camps about COVID-19 guidelines and policies—and how the camp plans to keep kids safe.

As our global community evolves and perseveres in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are collectively innovating and setting standards in an attempt to settle on the new normal in all walks of life. When it comes to summer camps, the name of the game for 2021 is public safety. Camp directors and staff are hard at work developing and testing protocols to keep the children in their care safe and healthy.

For parents, this new normal means applying an additional set of health-based criteria when deciding on in-person and summer programming for their children. So, just what should parents keep in mind when selecting a camp for their kids this summer?

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Camp During COVID-19

Does the camp have a well-laid out health and safety plan?

For a camp to build trust with the families it serves, transparency and communication with parents are essential. When a camp puts its activities and policies on clear display, it shows confidence in the quality of its content. A clear agenda also allows parents to hold a camp accountable when it does not deliver on promised content.

Apply this same level of scrutiny when reviewing a camp’s COVID safety plans. Ask the camp director the following questions about the camp’s health guidelines: 

  • Does the camp have a clear, documented plan detailing the health policies to parents? 
  • Does the camp have a plan of action for incidents up to and including a COVID outbreak at camp? 
  • How do the camp’s public health policies compare to the ones laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

If the camp does not have a concrete set of guidelines, it may have put an insufficient amount of thought into how to react to public health threats.

Does the camp take place in a safe location?

COVID-era safety guidelines have taught us that where you are doing something is just as important as what you are doing. The common consensus is outdoor activities have a lower risk of COVID transmission than indoor activities. This is something to take into consideration when choosing a safe place for your child to spend their summer. 

When considering a camp, look on its website or reach out via email for the following information:

  • How much of the day will campers spend indoors vs. outdoors?
  • Where is the camp located? Is it near a park or another spacious outdoor location?
  • If camp activities are held indoors, what special considerations are being taken to make the indoor space safe? Will social distancing be mandatory? Is the camp installing specialized ventilation or air filters?

What is the state of public health in the community?

Unfortunately, the topic of public health, safety, and the responsibility we each have as neighbors and citizens have created some social divides. Norms assigned to mask-wearing, social distancing, and congregating are largely regional based on the severity of the pandemic and local opinion. 

If you find that your views contrast with the majority opinion in your area regarding public safety, then attending an in-person camp may not be the best option for your family at this time. While New York state has issued requirements and best practices for summer camps to follow to keep campers and staff safe, it’s possible that some camps may shape their policies based on what local families are petitioning for. If that’s the case with a camp you’re considering for your child, it might be best for you to look for virtual summer camp programs or smaller, pod-based child care options with families who are on the same page.

Is the size of the camp conducive to public health?

Last year, many camps opted not to run, some pivoted to run their curriculum online, while those that ran in-person programs had to limit capacity to ensure social distancing could be maintained. This is another important factor for parents to consider this summer. After all, even with ample public safety guidelines, too many campers and staff in one place may lead to COVID transmission. 

Here are questions to ask regarding camp size and capacity:

  • What is the camp’s registration limit?
  • What is the on-site staff-to-camper ratio?
  • What percentage of the camp’s normal capacity are they operating at?

Related to camp capacity limits, parents may also want to ask how socializing at camp will happen for kids. Are kids placed in cohorts or groups for the entire summer? Do kids get to socialize with campers outside their cohorts at all? And what does lunchtime look like in terms of socialization?

What does the camp expect of its parents?

Though public health and safety policies are important for the camp to have in place, they can only be effective when clear expectations are outlined for attending families. It takes the cooperation of camp administration and families to produce an environment conducive to public health. If camps fail to provide a clear set of guidelines for families interacting with the camp, the overall efficacy of the public safety efforts may struggle.

These are important questions to ask:

  • Are parents required to wear face coverings when they pick up and drop off children? And what does pickup and drop-off look like?
  • Does the camp encourage parents to pack basic sanitary materials (hand sanitizer, extra masks) for their child? Are these materials provided by the camp itself? 
  • Does the camp have a policy in place that allows it to deny any parties who may have COVID entrance?

Please keep in mind that these pieces of advice are subject to change, as camp directors are constantly reassessing the guidelines to best uphold public safety. Regardless, these considerations should help inform your decisions as you plan for a fun and safe summer for your kids! 

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Alioune N’Gom is the founding director of the New York Society of Play. Throughout his career, he has established complex core programs for many New York-based after-school and child-care organizations focusing on complex and strategic games across several mediums. His mission with the New York Society of Play is two-fold: (1) to help kids find a safe space in which to express themselves and pursue their interests and (2) to promote emotional growth through social play. He is also a longtime, avid Pokemon fan, LARP-er, and Dungeon Master!

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