“Dad, are we going to have summer this year?”
The question from Matt’s young daughter, Cassady, offered a glimpse into her emotional state. She was feeling the stress and confusion from COVID-19 and worrying whether “normal” would ever return. Matt knew he needed to make her believe it would, and then make it happen.
“Yes, we’re going to have an unforgettable summer,” he reassured her. “It’s going to be a little different than past years, but we’re going to have fun and lots of new adventures.” Matt sat down with Cassady and asked her to brainstorm on all the fun things they could do this summer while social distancing. In just a few minutes, they filled two and a half blank pages.
Meanwhile, he also had to think about Cassady’s older brother, who as a rising seventh-grader, was too old for traditional camp but too young to be totally self-sufficient. The family was taking social distancing guidelines seriously, so letting him go to the beach or play pickup hoops games with his friends was out of the question. Without a plan in place, Matt worried it would be a long summer consumed by video games and social media.
The bottom line is, summer must go on this year. To ensure children’s social and emotional learning continues, they need regular opportunities to play, exercise and socialize with their peers.
Parents will need to get creative to fill the void left behind by summer camps, family trips, visits with relatives and playing with friends. Amid the uncertainty, they are pivoting to alternatives they know they can rely on whether the pandemic sustains or worsens.
Just like the millions of parents who transitioned to working remotely, traditional summer camps are doing their best to replicate their activities virtually. It’s a formidable challenge for the traditional day camps that thrive on outdoor fun with large groups of kids. “That phrase, ‘social distancing,’ is not really in a camp’s vocabulary,” Ron Hall, executive director of the nonprofit Maine Summer Camps, told CNN. Yet many are ready to try, and are offering financial incentives such as affordable registration fees and steep discounts for next summer’s tuition if you support their business today. Parents should check the offerings at camps in their area, as each is approaching the challenge in its own way and the pandemic’s prevalence varies from place to place.
STEM and Art Classes
Kids can mix up the fun with weekly science and art camps offered both by local businesses and by national leaders in the virtual learning experience space. New Jersey’s Brookdale Community College has partnered with tech-education leader Black Rocket to organize a series of Virtual Summer STEAM Camps offering kids ages 8-14 live lessons in video game design, coding, creating YouTube content, and deep dives into popular games like Minecraft and Fortnight. In-person Lego camps like Bricks 4 Kidz and Snapology have been very effective in moving their operations online, developing daily build challenges for various age groups and even moderating Lego play dates and birthday parties. Local art and culinary camps have adapted, too, offering curbside pickup for supplies that will be used each day for their online lessons. How about a ballet lesson from Misty Copeland or a basketball clinic with Stephen Curry? Teens and tweens can find affordable opportunities to train with their heroes in the arts and sports through online subscription services like MasterClass.
Fun Home Improvements
The cost of some camps isn’t far off from a semester of college, yet, many parents work throughout the summer and need safe and healthy day activities for their kids. Fortunately, many of the alternatives emerging now recognize that there needs to be – and should be – affordable options for everyone.
With the expense of traditional camp off the books for many, some parents are choosing to invest a portion of that savings in equipment and home improvements that can entertain their kids all season long. Outdoor infrastructure like a basketball hoop or volleyball net, or indoor amusements like ping pong or pool tables can make memories (and rivalries) that will last a lifetime. If your child really misses the park, you can order a swing, slide and clubhouse set for the backyard — the assembly may even be a welcome diversion for dad.
States ruled that outdoor play would be exceptions to the stay-at-home orders for good reason. It’s healthy, it’s safe, and it’s essential for keeping kids active at a time when the entire country, adults included, is basically grounded. Parents with yards should encourage their kids to go outside and give them leeway to do whatever they find fun, even if it’s messy. “Parents worry they don’t have outside activities for their kids, but the reality is children naturally know how to play,” Christy Merrick, director of Natural Start Alliance, observed in National Geographic. It also happens to be a uniquely good time to enjoy the outdoors, as data has shown dramatic improvements in air quality and other environmental conditions since March.
Keep Social While Distancing
With a bit of imagination and a healthy dose of personal responsibility, friends can find ways to spend time together. It’s a matter of figuring out ways to keep far enough away from each other to avoid risk, yet close enough to carry on a conversation. Taking a well-distanced bike ride through the neighborhood can be a great way to exercise and socialize. The same can be said for hikes on a nature trail or even walks through the neighborhood with the kids keeping to opposite sides of the street.
Be Alert for Online Abuse
Of course, the pandemic has driven so much of young people’s social lives online. The use of social media, screen-sharing apps and text messaging have surged as kids try to stay in touch and maintain a semblance of their social lives. With this greater reliance on digital communications comes the increased risk of cyber-bullying and abuse.
Although classes will conclude in a few weeks, schools who have partnered with a reliable anonymous reporting tool like STOPit should continue monitoring their account for reports of abuse, bullying or other threatening and harmful behaviors. And for increased coverage as summer break begins, STOPit’s 24/7 incident monitoring service is a valuable add-on to ensure that any time-sensitive reports receive immediate attention.
Whether it’s this fall or a year from now, America will beat COVID-19 and send its kids back to school. It will be crucial that they aren’t carrying with them tensions that were brewed online, adding to what will already be a stressful situation for school staff, parents and students alike.
Contact STOPit today to learn how it’s anonymous reporting platform can help thwart cyberbullying and conflicts within your student body throughout the summer months.