Sing along with me, “Drums please! [insert drums] Summer, summer, summertime, time to sit back and unwind…” Now that I’ve reminded you of a familiar tune to help put you in the mood, here’s the reality- Summer 2020 is different af…especially for parents. Now that we’ve made it through another school year courtesy of Zoom, Blackboard, Webex and Google Meet, we are now front and center for our next role- Camp Counselor!
#Rona sure did remind us that she hasn’t gone anywhere with increasing rates and infections spreading to kids throughout in-person camps that decided to open. So the option to send kids to a camp is definitely cancelled. Hello Virtual Summer Camp! Online options ranging from cooking and art classes, to music lessons and STEM instruction started popping up in April giving parents different cost options ranging from free, to affordable, to ‘does a nanny come with that?!’ I was right along with many of you as I toiled over what to do with my 8 y/o that would excite and engage him for a few hours a day while I powered away at the computer. For me, I don’t have the option of a relaxed schedule during the summer; so camp it is. Although the virtual options eliminate outdoor time for kids, I made a decision that it was worth it…mostly for my own sanity…and I took the plunge. I decided on 2 arts-based camps as Tre loves anything involving markers, glue and creativity. Now that they have both ended, here are my experiences from both, along with my lessons learned. Get ready to take some notes!
Experience with camp #1-
Thanks to Camp Notre Dame at Home Tre participated (alone) in a 2-week program where he created specialty art projects from different countries around the world. Kids followed guided videos and detailed printed instructions to create everything from a raffia basket to their version of construction paper Kente cloth. Each day they logged on in the afternoon for 30-40 minutes of a physical activity paired with an opportunity to showcase their completed projects. Visit Camp Notre Dame at Home for more information.
Pro: Tre kid loves creating so it was right up his alley. All of the materials were mailed so we did not have to purchase anything. Another bonus was the live session was at 3:00 so that helped with my work schedule.
Con: As a single child, he was alone as there were not other kids he knew in this camp. There we days he was not interested in me helping him at all.
Experience with camp #2-
Little Prints Arts was the second camp Tre participated in, and this time, I came up with what I think was a genius idea- he ‘camped’ with a friend…in-person! My friend and I combined forces to purchase 2-weeks of this camp and host 1 of those weeks at our own homes complete with sleepovers, meals and entertainment. The 1-week themed sessions had campers log in from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., where they participated in a guided movement activity, followed by creative art projects. There was also a log-off lunch break as well. Visit Little Prints Arts for more information.
Pro: Having 2 kids (of the same age) participate together was almost like having built-in childcare! They helped each other with the activities.
Con: I said it was almost like having childcare! I had to help them more with the activities that required paint and warm water; especially since the materials were close to the computer. This meant more time away from my work day than I anticipated.
4 Lessons Learned About Virtual Summer Camp
- Your involvement will INCREASE. Kids need help with the activities to stay on track so they don’t miss any instructions and to help with managing the pieces of the projects. Remote working parent? Get ready to have lots of interruptions. You can either do the get up/sit down dance, take an extended break during the online time or temporarily move your workspace to be closer to where your kids are.
- Join forces, if you can. Partner with another parent to have your kids participate in a virtual camp together. Being online eliminates the ability to connect in the normal way. My solution- join forces other parents as much as you are comfortable given COVID. This will address the friendship building, companionship, social and emotional impact being isolated has had on them. As a parent who is still working from home- the week my son was away was a lifesaver.
- Find a balance that works for you. Mix in online camp, family time (planned or spontaneous) or no online camp at all. Don’t feel pressured to do what other people are doing. Do you! And while you are ‘doing you,’ remember to have fun. Hot day? Throw on your bathing suits and run around in the sprinkler (see our pic at the top).
- Come up with some kind of plan. For some parents, not making plans is not an option at all, especially for parents who still have to work (virtually or in-person) and/or for those who are essential. Your plan may change week to week or day to day, but having one is the key. For me- having a plan cuts down on the stress and anxiety ‘winging it’ can cause.
Well, August is a few days away and there are still several weeks left before we’re back to ‘Zoom School.’ I was all planned out for June and July…now let me go figure out what in the world my son will be doing until for the rest of the summer! I hope the insight I’ve gained from my experience with virtual camp, along some lessons learned has been helpful. –krystal