With summer camp plans in limbo, experts offer tips to recreate the learning and fun at home

By Wendi Hawthorne
May 4, 2020

With schools remaining closed until the fall semester due to COVID-19, many parents are wondering what summer will look like as far as camps and activities to keep their children engaged academically. Pediatric experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) have advice for parents still waiting for answers on summer camps as well as those hoping to recreate the learning and fun at home.

Victoria Moss, senior project manager of the Dan L Duncan Children’s Neurodevelopmental Clinic’s Academic EnRichment and Outreach (AERO) program at The Children’s Learning Institute at UTHealth, said parents can recreate some of the fun, educational aspects of day camps without needing to purchase anything.

A young girl participating in an online class at home. Photo by Getty Images.

Since schools in Texas will remain closed until the fall semester, many summer camp plans are also on pause. Parents can look for online learning resources to help keep their children engaged academically. Photo by Getty Images.

“You can turn almost anything into a game. For example, you can play freeze dance to a rhyming poem and have the kids stop dancing when they hear a rhyming word, or you can have a scavenger hunt throughout your house searching for items that begin with a certain letter and putting them in a box to keep kids active and moving while keeping the learning experience fun,” Moss said.

When hoping to recreate the experiences children were looking forward to, Dana DeMaster, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Learning Institute, said it is important to discuss with your children what drew them to the specific camp or activity and look for online resources that can meet those needs. “Often as parents, our first inclination is to look to fill the void. But instead, we should have a conversation with our children to find out more about what they find interesting and were excited about in the first place, and build new activities together,” she said.

It is also important to understand that children may be disappointed because of missed opportunities to socialize with friends this summer. While it can be tricky to reinvent those experiences, with a little creativity, it is possible. DeMaster suggests reaching out to other parents to set up virtual play dates. “One example is a virtual pizza party where each child and can make and eat their own pizza,” she said. Other ideas include getting a group together virtually to create a choreographed dance, or a parent volunteering to read a book to the group via a video chat.

Parents who are still contemplating sending their child to summer camp may be wondering what questions they should ask before signing up. Susan Wootton, MD, an infectious disease pediatrician at UT Physicians and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said there are many variables that go into deciding whether your child can attend camp safely.

Wootton suggests parents stay in close contact with camp advisors and ask if there is an action plan to make sure kids can practice proper hand hygiene and maintain physical distancing. Find out what protocols are in place to isolate and ensure proper medical treatment if a child does get sick or show symptoms. In addition, parents should ask camp leadership if there are plans to limit or restrict visitors or vendors during the summer and ensure that safety measures are followed.

“Some camps may also require all campers be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival or come with a signed statement from their medical provider declaring that they are free of the disease,” Wootton said.

While many parents wait for more direction from camps across the city and state, The Children’s Learning Institute is offering online tutoring for the remainder of the school year and into the summer. For more resources visit: https://cliengagefamily.org/.

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