Virtual Summer Camps Are Opening to Help Kids Learn While Social Distancing
Even as the country begins to reopen in many locations, we're all faced with a tough reality: Things are nowhere near "normal." Though some summer camps will be open for business, they face new restrictions, including temperature checks, face masks, social distancing, and no indoor activities—something some families won't be comfortable with. In other areas of the country, summer camps will remain shuttered this season, leaving parents with nowhere to send their children while school's out.
After months of working from home combined with virtual schooling and—in many cases—limited childcare, this is a tough pill for parents to swallow. To help, some camps are moving their curriculum online to give parents that reprieve they're looking for while also giving kids the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and explore the world around them.
Like traditional camps, most camps are geared towards grade school children, with some exceptions for those as young as 3 and as old as 15. And there are options abound to suit nearly any child's interests. There are more general interest camps offered by The Boy Scouts of America and Outschool. For animal lovers, organizations like The Bronx Zoo and The Great Lakes Aquarium are offering week-long camp sessions. There are also plenty of options in the arts—Camp Broadway, for example—and even STEM, sports, and cooking camps, too.
Despite the wide range of choices, it's important for parents to be realistic about one thing: Virtual camps aren't exactly an equal replacement for the day camps of summer's past. For starters, the vast majority of virtual summer camps occupy just a few hours per day, typically anywhere from one to three hours. And, depending on the child's age and personality, as well as the subject matter of the camp, there may be some parental supervision required—especially if your child needs some gentle encouragement to log on to the computer in the first place.
But the reality is "the fear of physical interaction is still very real and, for now, [virtual camp] is better than nothing," says Alyssa Cohen, a childhood education specialist, virtual summer camp leader, and founder of Wild Roots Education Services. "No matter where their family is or what their living situation is like, virtual camp gives children an opportunity to look outside of those four walls." There are plenty of other benefits to this new format, too. For starters, virtual summer camps are much more affordable than in-person alternatives. Prices range from free to $250 per week, with the majority falling somewhere under the $100 per camper per week range. (According to data from Care.com, in-person day camps average $314 per camper per week.)
Another big bonus? Families aren't limited to camps in their immediate geographic area. As a result, parents can cast a much wider net when considering the options, giving their child access to camps that may have otherwise been too far away or too expensive. And perhaps most importantly, camp leaders like Cohen say that these virtual alternatives offer kids something we're all craving: some semblance of normal and a stronger sense of community.