The pandemic has forced us to face so much uncertainty over the past months, and as we near the end of the school year, we know two things: Scientists are all but guaranteeing a second wave of the virus, and summer will look a lot different for many of our families. My children have been asking questions about the camps, places, and people they look forward to and if those will still happen this summer. I can only give them an honest answer — I don’t know.
For parents, summer understandably feels a little terrifying. While summer camps will reopen in mid-June, there is no word on whether playgrounds will reopen, and travel will be limited. And even if the shelter in place is lifted, we will likely still be social distancing and wearing masks. So how do we recreate summer to still make it fun and memorable?
Just in time for the end of the school year, the city announced modified summer camps can restart on June 15, but with a much different look for both public and private camps. The camps will be limited to “pods” of 12 children, and priority registration will be given to children of first responders or essential workers. The camps will run for three week increments to keep the children in consistent groups.
Many camps made the call early to offer sessions virtually. A virtual experience is not the same as being in person with other kids and camp counselors, but importantly, it has helped our kids connect and establish a routine. Virtual camps also provide childcare help for parents working from home. The key is finding something with enough variety so your children will stay captivated and engaged. It may be important to sign them up with classmates so they can see a friendly face and feel like they are connecting with friends. Some camps are sending home “camp kits” with activities for kids to work on away from the screen.
Recent research suggests that many of us will forgo airline travel this summer and hit the road instead. A road trip is a great alternative, especially if you need a change of scenery for a few days. Most families are opting for private homes over hotels because it is easier to control sanitization levels, and there is less interaction with people outside your family or traveling group. Just make sure the area you want to visit open to outside visitors. Places like Tahoe and local beach communities have made it clear that rentals are not allowed. Residents in these communities are concerned, with valid reason, about an influx of visitors and not enough local hospital resources to deal with a virus outbreak. When the shelter in place is lifted, some of these restrictions may also ease.
If you aren’t ready to stay far from home, there is always the escape of a day trip. You can pack a picnic, stroll a beach, or hike in the headlands. We are lucky to have so many beautiful outdoor oases within a day’s driving distance.
SIMPLE AND SLOW
These two words used to be foreign in our family’s vocabulary, but we have grown accustomed to them now. Will my kids survive without the summer camps and activities they usually do? Yes, they will, and with a slower schedule they may have to learn how to create their own fun just like I did during summer. We will stock up on new books, puzzles, and games because those are things we have enjoyed and spent time doing together. We will look for projects to help the organizations we support such as sorting supplies or online tutoring. And there will be lots of time to safely explore areas of the city either on foot or bike. My son wants to bike to Coit Tower, my daughter wants to walk down Lombard Street, and my youngest wants to explore a new playground in McLaren Park, which we hope will open sometime this summer.
Our children our resilient and flexible, often more than we are. This pandemic has taught me that, and I have learned a lot watching how my children have dealt with sudden changes and disruptions over these last few months. We will create memories this summer and we will have fun. It will be different than past summers, but we will keep doing what we’ve done — establishing routines and taking one day at a time.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive and healthful conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]