Every Thursday, my daughter goes to ballet. Except she doesn’t actually leave the house and has never met her teacher in person. Everything is 100% online, which is actually perfect for this summer.
Virtual Camps Offer Families New Option During Pandemic Summer
Virtual or online camps and lessons are one new option available to families in the US this summer. Across the country, sports and summer camps are largely cancelled for in-person. If “live” camps are happening, it is very likely that they are going forward under much different circumstances than last year.
The YMCA is one of the few major, nationwide- camp and child care providers that remained open this summer. While they have not seen a large spike in cases, all Y camps have been following strict social distancing and cleaning procedures.
In addition, the CDC released guidelines to help camps and summer child care centers limit the risk of exposure.
Despite the guidelines, many parents have opted to keep their children home from in-person camps or child care entirely. To help fill the void, families are turning to online classes, camps and even summer school.
Camps Pivot to Online Options Early
As quickly as mid- to late-May, many summer camps were shifting from in-person to online options.
In the DC area, major summer camp provider Baroody Camps shifted from their traditional model to a hybrid. They opted to offer limited, small group camps in person alongside online only options. The in-person camps are limited to less than 10 children from the same neighborhood.
Camps across the nation also made these adjustments in response to the pandemic. All camps are offered with streaming video along with other ways to engage.
Parade Magazine shared more than 45 options for virtual summer camps to keep kids busy this summer. Their list included online camps from the San Diego Zoo and SeriousFun Children’s Network as well as classes offered by individual makers or themed courses.
Virtual Camps Offer Exciting, Cheaper Opportunities for Kids
The influx online camping experiences has broadened horizons for children who are not co-located to the camp of their choice. For example, children can now “go” to camp in SoCal while living in Northern Virginia!
In addition, many of these online camps are free or very low cost when compared to the expense of in-person camping. According to data analyzed by Care.com, camps can be very pricey for families.
In summer 2018, families could expect to pay, on average:
- Day Camp: $314/week
- Sleep Away Camp: $768/week
- Specialty Camps: $500-$1,000/week
For families that needed multiple weeks or months of camp-based child care in the summer, costs can rapidly soar into the thousands of dollars quickly. Virtual camps, in many cases, are significantly cheaper or even free this summer. Some online experiences, like private music lessons or tutoring, cost about the same as pre-pandemic.
Some Districts Offer Free, Inclusive Summer School
In May, many districts in Northern Virginia and across the country announced that they were offering free summer school for 100% of their students. Alexandria City Schools, for example, released a plan that automatically opted all students into the summer school program. Parents could choose to remove their child from the online-only experience, but everyone was included with no academic benchmarks to be met.
This Northern Virginia school district used the same platforms that students were familiar with from distance learning in the spring. Students may return to those online learning platforms should distance learning return in the fall.
Many districts around the country, including New York City, followed suit.
Parents Still Juggling Child Care & Work
While online camps offer some options to keep children entertained while parents work from home, many families are still juggling all the things.
Some online summer camps require heavy parent involvement or prep work. Many, like PBS Kids, provide tips and activity ideas alongside streaming videos and games.
Not all children are able to be occupied or remain attentive during online camp or classes. Younger children in particular have shorter attention spans, not always conducive to all-day, every day virtual engagement.
While online learning and camping experiences do provide some measure of relief for busy families, it’s not the same as in-person versions.
The key seems to be to find an online course or camp that aligns with your child’s age level and interests. Which is why every Thursday afternoon my basement turns into a ballet studio and my daughter shows her plies to Madame via Zoom.