kids doing crafts outside


To Summer Camp Or Not To Summer Camp?

May 31, 2021

When I think of summer camp, I am reminded of the rite of passage of grass stains, slathered sunscreen and making new friends. All that fresh air you inhale as you discover the great outdoors, learn new games and skills, then return home exhausted, ready for bed, excited to wake up ready to enjoy a new day full of adventure.

This is the year I hoped camp would be on the agenda for my son. That he would get to experience all the above, and come out with new, lasting memories. That he would be able to step away from the dumpster fire that has been this pandemic and to be a kid, in all its glory, even if it’s just for the day.

Kids have been affected by so much in the last year, like school's ever-changing structure, guidelines around going inside friends' houses and the government bans of playgrounds.

Laura Mullin's daughter has been attending school in bed, and she doesn't know if she should be worried, annoyed or jealous. Read her piece here.

While here in Ontario we have been told that camps will open, there are no details about that yet, so it's been a challenge to ensure my son will have a great summer. And as COVID continues, it's also been challenging ensuring I have enough work to provide for him. A carefree summer at camp on the horizon would allow him to immerse himself in the outdoor activities he enjoys, which have diminished with the shift back to virtual learning.

"I am getting burnt out trying to feel optimistic about the future."

I think summer camp would provide a great outlet for my child’s emotional and social development. It would give him more independence and allow him to figure out new things on his own. I would much prefer an afternoon of my son finding bugs in the dirt, than watching him and his restless classmates as they interact through a screen. It’s not the way kids are made to play, especially in the summertime. Kids need to be around other kids.

After a year with no after-school programs, clubs or organized sports, camp would be the opportunity to focus on a new interest without the distraction of graded academics. It could open his mind up to new experiences and new acquaintances and given him the chance to have some real fun.

Brianna Bell wasn't expecting her kids to start questioning the provincial government's decisions during the pandemic. As she writes, her kids are becoming "jaded and untrusting."

I still remember my time at summer camp, getting too many mosquito bites, swimming in a lake, and learning new songs and dance moves. When I was old enough to go to overnight camp, my favourite thing was staring at the stars at night, putting in perspective how big the world actually is. For me, summer camp was an escape from my life at home and a time to not think about the bustle of the city. I had the chance to be free and the opportunity to be somewhere new and I know it was a great help to my single mom to get a break from parenting.

"But I am just waiting like everyone else ... for summertime to be what we used to remember it as: barbecues with friends, swimming in pools and summer camp."

I am getting burnt out trying to feel optimistic about the future. With the diminished support and resources, the current social and educational climate is unsustainable for children and parents. But what’s the alternative? As a parent, I relied on having camp, play dates or swimming lessons to assist with covering child care and help with trying to solve some of the puzzle that is parenting in the summer. If these options don’t exist, or aren't safe, what are the options in play from June to September?

Considering the warm weather only lasts for four months, kids should be outside for as much as possible. They should be getting messy, building sandcastles and running through splash pads. I know outside the risks for transmission are lower, but I still think about how close other kids may get to him, if they will be masking and what happens if there is an outbreak? But to be honest as a parent I consider these risks all the time, how could I not?

I want the best summer for my son, I want him to experience the joys of camp. I want him to come back with friendship bracelets, traded Pokemon cards and memories to last a lifetime. But I am just waiting like everyone else — for clarity, for numbers to go down, for vaccines to speed up and for summertime to be what we used to remember it as: barbecues with friends, swimming in pools and summer camp.

Article Author Vanessa Magic
Vanessa Magic

Read more from Vanessa here.

Vanessa Magic is a writer, award-winning costume designer and musician. She loves making up magical stories and singing songs to her adorable four-year-old son. When she is not in mama mode, she facilitates workshops with Inclusive Stylist Toronto, an initiative she co-founded that encourages inclusivity within the film industry for costume design and wardrobe styling. Currently, she is a participant in the BIPOC Film and TV Kids writing workshop where she is developing an afro-futurist science-based show.

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