ST. LOUIS — Summer camp serves many roles: a rite of passage, a childcare resource during time off school, a barrier to summer learning loss, and in 2021 especially, a social change of scenery after an often isolated, screen-centric school year.
“We’re definitely moving in that direction where kids can go to things that are fine outside of their home and we can do it in a way that is safe,” said Dr. Heidi Sallee, an SSM pediatrician.
She said the latest CDC guidance on summer camps is helpful and straightforward; some highlights include:
- Outdoors are typically safer than indoors.
- Children should get frequent handwashing breaks
- Anyone who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 — which currently would include those under the age of 16 — should wear a face mask when distanced less than six feet apart (except when swimming)
- Kids should be separated into pods or cohorts to minimize contact
- Avoid close-contact games and activities
- Be extra diligent about safety precautions in the days before and after overnight camp
- Keep your child home if they're feeling sick
Dr. Sallee said it’s a good opportunity to teach your child about safety measures that keep others safe and help make these activities possible.
“You get to go to camp! This is going to be amazing! And all you have to do is wear a mask and wash your hands,” she says.
Blueprint4Summer is a comprehensive online guide to local summer camps.
Folks there advise reaching out to programs directly to ask about their precautions.
“Camps want to share that information because they want parents and families to feel confident and secure in them sending their kids,” said Zasmine Johnson with Blueprint4Summer.
The site also includes a guide to camp scholarships and free programs. If virtual really works for your family, there are some online camp options, too.
In their recent survey of St. Louis families, 82% of respondents said they plan to include in-person camp in their children's summer plans, and 75% cite health and safety as the top priority for summer overall.
“A lot of parents and families didn't have the best opportunities during the school year, and so they're really trying to figure out how do they get their kids outside, how do they get them active,” said Johnson.
With COVID-related capacity restrictions, the time to sign up is now.
“Don't delay because it could be open today and closed tomorrow,” said Johnson.