Pool noodles and 'airplane arms': New rules for city-run day camps

City-run summer day camps are open in London, although they're happening with new rules to keep kids as safe as possible from COVID-19 transmission

City-run camps taking about 350 kids a week with new rules for physical distancing

City of London camp councillors Hannah Galati, left, and Naomi Simpson use pool noodles to help young campers understand the concept of physical distancing early on. About 350 campers are taking part in city-run camps every week with new physical distancing protocols. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News )

Some parents might be surprised to learn that City of London day camps are operating, although with new safety protocols aimed at keeping kids safe from COVID-19 transmission. 

About 350 campers have been taking part in day camps spread over 11 different sites across the city, including community centres and arenas.

In order to test the new safety rules, the rollout of the camps was staggered with six sites on July 13 and the rest opening a week later.  

But like everything in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, camp this year is different. 

In a typical year, campers at each site would be encouraged to run, play and socialize together. To ensure physical distancing, campers are now broken into separate cohorts each, with eight campers and two coordinators per group. 

The cohorts are kept separate throughout the day, with members of each cohort even using different washrooms. 

The physical distancing rules are taught to campers early in the week. 

Pool noodles, not just for pools

Pool noodles are now a key tool for camp coordinators to use as visual references and tactile reminders about physical distancing.

"We say 'You have to stay one pool noodle apart,'" said Naomi Simpson, a camp coordinator. "We also say 'Remember your airplane arms or your butterfly arms' to keep apart. We start teaching that on Monday, by Tuesday they've pretty much got it."

In a typical year, campers would visit a nearby pool during their day, but that's not happening now. Instead, during inside time, the campers go on visual field trips using educational videos shown on a projector.

As for masks, they're not required for kids although camp supervisors have them in case they need to assist one of the cohorts. If parents want their children to wear them, they're allowed. 

There is also enforced distancing during drop off and pick up times, and indoor areas like gyms and activity rooms are cleaned between the times they're used by each cohort.

Minimizing contact also means there are fewer games and more crafts, with each camper getting their own glue, scissors and other tools. 

"We're doing things that are still getting the kids active, but without touching," said Simpson.

Despite the new rules, camp continues to to be fun. 

After months with kids shut inside, and several camps and sports not being an option this year, parents may be happier than the campers.

"The feedback has been super positive so far," said Simpson. "I've heard from parents at sign out that each day when their kids are coming home, they're nice and tired and they are really loving camp." 

Camps filling up

Campbell said camps are filling up, especially some of the most popular sites. There are some spots still open for registration, but they tend to be in the weeks closer to Labour Day. 

Parents can contact London Parks and Recreation for registration information.