Figuring out if your kid is emotionally ready for sleepaway camp is a big decision. But this year families have another set of concerns to weigh. Are your kids prepared to go to sleepaway camp and what will that look like during COVID? And are you ready? Before deciding about sleepaway, consider these factors: Has she slept at a friend’s house or spent any time away from home, even for a day? Does she have friends or a sibling going to the same camp? Can she do things on her own without a lot of adult assistance? Does she want to go?
Even if your kids have gone to sleepaway camp in the past, you need to consider whether they’re ready for sleepaway during the pandemic. Did he really love the camp because it was soccer-focused or had a lot of day-trip excursions? If so, will he be happy with it if camp is different and has restrictions this year? Before booking, have a sit-down with your kids and help manage expectations for the summer. But chances are, they will be excited to experience something new and different away from their Chromebooks.
PLANNING FOR 2021
“We are counting down the days until summer when they can go have an experience that is different than what they’ve had for the last year,” says Susie Lupert, executive director of the American Camp Association, NY & NJ. “We are excited for the summer to have kids be kids again and to have some much-needed interaction with other children and fresh air and sports and art and just be able to have some fun again.”
While Governor Murphy announced recently that sleepaway camps will be allowed to operate this summer, a lot of logistics are still in the planning stages. Lupert and her team are hard at work alongside state governments trying to determine guidelines for the summer. Using a template of what camps did around the country last summer with very few cases nationwide, she is confident that sleepaway camp will go on this summer. While camp guidelines will comply with CDC and state health department rules, it’s unclear if that will involve testing or quarantine for all campers before they leave for overnight camp, or if campers will have to stay in small pods or with bunkmates.
“We are hoping that by summer there are a lot of people vaccinated and we’re really hoping to see a lot of progress with that,” says Lupert. “We’re telling camps to try and plan for the groups, but we’re not sure what it looks like yet as far as how those groups can interact and how large those groups will be. Our expectation at this point is similar to last summer. Plan on larger group sizes than last summer, but still plan on having kids in cohorts, but hopefully they can interact more.”
Cohen Camps sleepaway camps in the New England area plan to create a closed community bubble that feels as normal as possible, according to Jonathan Cohen, president of Cohen Camps, which include the all-girls Camp Pembroke in Massachusetts, and the co-ed Camp Tel Noar and Camp Tevya in New Hampshire. “COVID precautions are top of mind for us,” says Cohen. “The basic steps of handwashing, physical distancing, mask wearing and cleaning/disinfecting… will all play a role at camp. Campers will do most of their activities with their cabin mates. Depending on CDC recommendations, we may expand to larger pods as each 3.5-week session progresses, while still wearing masks and washing hands just as carefully. Above all, we’ll stay vigilant and flexible, adjusting along the way!”
A RETURN TO NORMAL-ISH
Cohen Camps were closed last summer, but Cohen says he can’t wait to get back to what makes sleepaway camp special and he won’t let COVID get in the way of that at his camps. “Friendship, confidence, growth, camp spirit and fun will fill our days, as always,” assures Cohen. “Sure, some activities may feel a bit different and there will be more cabin activities. We’re adding open-sided tents to move more activities outdoors. Special events in camp will replace out-of-camp field trips. Our campers want and need their camps more than ever, and their core experience will be here for them.” Cohen says the experience will be welcoming for all, including first-time campers and their parents. “We promise you, it won’t take long for you to feel you are a part of the camp family,” says Cohen. “Our staff spends a lot of time building cabin communities.
Your camper will have lots of new friends by dinnertime the first day. Some ways of living together will be new to all of us this summer, everyone will be exploring together. Your counselors will take great care of you and will support you every day. Many of our staff grew up at camp so they understand what it feels like when you first come to camp. We make sure that every camper feels part of camp as quickly as possible.”
But if you’re serious about sleepaway, you’ll need to make a decision sooner rather than later. Cohen says his camps have very few spots left, and a waitlist. Says Lupert: “I think parents are looking forward to giving their kids that have been doing remote learning some relief.”