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Can kids attend camp this summer? What newly released guidelines say

five children playing water during day time

Detailed guidelines issued by the American Camp Association and the YMCA recommend extensive cleaning protocols and safety measures to protect kids during the pandemic.

May 18, 2020, 8:15 AM CDT / Source: TODAYBy Scott Stump

Summer camp is going to look a lot different this year as parents weigh whether to send their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of camps are making numerous changes emphasizing health and safety, which could mean wearing masks when appropriate and daily cleaning of sports gear and aquatic equipment.

Tom Rosenberg, the president and CEO of the American Camp Association, and Paul McEntire, the COO of YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), spoke to Savannah Guthrie exclusively on TODAY about the joint release of detailed guidelines by their organizations on Monday outlining best policies that camps can use to keep children safe during the pandemic.

The thought of a group of 6- or 7-year-olds excitedly gathering at camp and practicing social distancing or rigid hygiene may not be easy to envision, but the guide provides a host of details about everything from pool safety to cleaning life jackets to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Parents can definitely expect to see safety as the first and foremost focus at camp this summer,” Rosenberg said. “For camp directors, the health and safety of our campers is paramount.”

About 20 million children, adolescents and adults enjoy roughly 14,000 camps across the country every year between day camps and overnight camps. The YMCA runs about 10,000 day camps on its own, as well as 325 overnight camps.

A majority of the YMCA day camps are planning to open this summer as long as they are in compliance with state and local guidance, while some overnight camps have decided not to open this summer, according to McEntire.

Some camps may have shortened sessions and others may be conducting the camp virtually, according to Rosenberg.

“There are going to be lots of different choices, but not necessarily looking typical this summer,” Rosenberg said.

A host of changes are recommended by the guide, including regular sanitizing, hand-washing, social distancing, staggered meals, smaller group activities and staggered arrivals and pick-ups.

The guide put together by a panel of experts is basically a detailed expansion on the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding summer camps during the pandemic.

The recommendations also include routine cleaning of all outdoor equipment after each use and providing campers with their own equipment like tennis rackets or bows and arrows for the duration of camp if possible.

When it comes to pool safety, the guidelines state that there is no current evidence that coronavirus can be spread in a pool or water play area, so properly disinfecting with chlorine or bromine “will likely inactivate the virus in the water.”

people playing water during daytime

Other guidelines include physical distancing while swimming, keeping activities confined to the same group of campers and same instructors and regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment like oars and life jackets.

Some camps may also plan to screen campers ahead of time with two weeks of temperature checks while also determining if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive. Campers also could be screened if they have traveled to a hotspot like New York City, which has been the center of a rare and potentially deadly condition linked to COVID-19 in children.

Whether campers are given COVID-19 tests is up to the local and state governments and the resources available, according to the experts. Overnight camps are urged to have places to isolate any campers who could have been exposed to COVID-19, while day camps are recommended to have parents come pick the child up immediately.

There also are many parents who may not have much of a choice when it comes to sending their child to camp this summer.

“A lot of parents have choices whether to send their child to camp or not, but many others don’t,” McEntire said. “They utilize overnight camp and even more day camp as child care because they have to go to work, and so we feel responsibility to design that so that they can be as safe as possible, so children when they’re with us have fun, be outdoors and allow that parent to go to work.

Why Doesn’t My Child Want To Go Outside?

Some kids won’t leave the house at all – even for daily exercise. Here’s how to help get then outdoors.

By Victoria Richards 05/01/2020 11:25 am EDT | Updated May 1, 2020

Our kids can be reluctant to get outside right now. Here's how to coax them outdoors.
Our kids can be reluctant to get outside right now. Here’s how to coax them outdoors

You might think lockdown has left us all yearning to be outside – at a time when we’re restricted in our outdoor activities, even staring out the window can feel a lot like a case of ‘wanting what you can’t have’.

Not so, for some kids. My three-year-old is one of them: every time I start panicking he’s been staring at a screen for too long – and that he’s going to be left with vitamin D deficiency from lack of exposure to direct sunlight – I’ll yell out, “It’s trampoline time, now!” To which he’ll gleefully yell back, “No, thanks!”

He’s not just being obstinate and it’s not because he’s obsessed with screens, either. It’s not even a direct dislike of the big outdoors; he just gets so… absorbed in whatever he’s doing. And nine times out of 10, that’s something inside.

It can be playing with LEGOs, building a den, or following the cat around making “meow” noises and asking “what language do pussycats speak,” like he’s a tiny scientist, conducting an important field experiment.RAISE THE KIND OF PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO KNOWSubscribe to our parenting newsletter.Successfully Subscribed!Realness delivered to your inbox

My toddler isn’t alone. Twitter user Katherine recently bemoaned her toddler’s unusual behavior, saying he was “uncharacteristically moody, all the time” and doesn’t want to do anything, go anywhere “or even leave the house”.

And she wasn’t the only one experiencing the phenomenon of the ‘reluctant child’. Many parents responded to the tweet sharing that their child, too, doesn’t want to go outside during lockdown.

One mom said her five year old had barely left the house in five weeks. “I can count the occasions on my fingers,” she said. “Maybe it’s hard for them because they are told we have to stay home, so they can’t differentiate.”

“Maybe it’s hard for them because they are told we have to stay home, so they can’t differentiate.”
“Maybe it’s hard for them because they are told we have to stay home, so they can’t differentiate.”

Another parent said her daughter wants to get in the car as soon as they leave the house. “I literally have to bribe her to walk!” she said, while another mom confessed she’d been “bribing” her daughter into the stroller with snacks.

Why is it, then, that our kids are usually desperate to get outside – but now they’re suddenly not? Consultant clinical psychologist Emma Citron says we need to bear in mind kids aren’t used to having quite so much time at home – or just being. “They’re not used to having their parents around, all the time, either,” she says.

“Remember they’re the same as adults – it can be very hard to motivate ourselves, and it should be no surprise that children are the same,” she continues. “We often have higher expectations for our children than we do for ourselves, but we have to remember they’re just like us, struggling with the same existential feelings of anxiety, stress or low mood – and they’re trying to adjust to that.”

Naturally, they’re going to be less motivated. And, says Citron, if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, it’s not likely to be fear of the virus that’s keeping them in. “It’s more likely that they’re adapting to their ‘new normal’ and finding things they enjoy doing indoors that help them feel safe and secure.”

Try not to worry, she adds. “I think it’s about going with the flow and being flexible around expectation. Don’t introduce rigid rules, you can afford to be more flexible than you would normally, at a time like this.”

Here are four ways to coax your child out to get some fresh air, whether that’s in the backyard or for their daily walk or exercise.

Introduce ‘active hour.’ Citron says you could suggest an active hour, or active 40 minutes, once a day and see how your kids take to it – “followed by their favorite Peppa Pig video,” she adds.

Keep talking. Keep communication up and if they don’t want to go outside, ask why they’re feeling that way, she adds. “Model it; say, ‘Darling, I’m feeling that at times it’s hard to get going, are you finding that too?’ Empathy is important and so is sharing the common experience with your child.”

Don’t look nervous. “If your child is anxious about going out because of the virus, try not to look nervous or jump away from joggers,” Citron says. Don’t ask nervously, ‘Why haven’t you got your gloves on?’ Instead, try to chill out as much as possible.”

Change your expectations. We should try to change our expectations of our kids at this time, she adds, and remember that, like us, they’re going to be struggling and having difficult behaviors. “Don’t pile on the pressure,” she says. “Keep your expectations real – and achievable.”

Have a story or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email me at throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

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