Camps to help children easily resume their social activities | Camps

For over a year now, millions of Americans have been isolated from the things they know. Children, in particular, find it difficult to do without friends and teachers. With vaccines on the rise and COVID-19 cases dwindling, kids will likely have the chance to finally reconnect with their friends this summer.

Gina Cuffari, owner of Snapology of Cleveland in Beachwood, and Mark Nestor, camp director at Hawken Sports Camp in Lyndhurst, said they can’t wait to see the kids come together at the start of their camps.

The average day at Snapology this summer will be similar to years past, except with smaller groups and indoor mask mandates. Most days will consist of LEGO building, learning through play, robotics, STEAM and themed lessons taught by experienced teachers.

“Everything has changed for our kids in the last year,” Cuffari said. “Children are resilient, and they seem to understand why they had to limit social interactions. While many have enjoyed more time with their families, some children have been isolated from their friends. For some kids, this summer will be the first time they’ve interacted outside of a virtual environment in quite a while.

Hawken School is open throughout the school year. Nestor said he saw a significant impact in the fall when students first returned after being away for five months. He predicts this summer will be similar in that the children will be happy to be back with each other.

“Even with masks on, you could see the joy on the kids’ faces and that there was real loss during the time apart,” Nestor said. “And so with the summer camp, it’s really a chance for kids from different schools who usually see each other in the summer to reconnect. And I imagine we’ll see similar reactions to what we saw in the fall of the school year.

Although Nestor said Hawken will have to implement COVID-safe protocols, they are trying to use them to their advantage. He said the smaller group sizes will likely be conducive to positive social relationships.

He added that the camp will reintegrate children into social situations by using typical ice-breaking activities to begin with and then moving on to more intentional ones. For example, the girls’ day camp campers will put on a talent show, while the boys’ camp will have mystery themes that encourage the boys to work together.

Cuffari said Snapology will do similar activities for its campers.

“While some aspects of our team approach have changed due to COVID precautions, kids can still collaborate and share their creations in our programs,” Cuffari said. “Snapology programs can help children get back into their social habits by enabling independent activities shared with the group. Some children will experience anxiety or fear about returning to an in-person setting, and we are ready to help children adjust and have fun while feeling safe. Children will be encouraged to share their LEGO builds and showcase their creations safely.

Cuffari said having children in a social routine with their peers has many benefits.

“Communication is one of the most important,” she said. “Children learn to listen to others, solve problems and collaborate when they play and work with other children. Reflection, self-awareness, and conflict resolution are also important benefits for social interactions with others.

Nestor said this pandemic has revealed how important it is for kids to socialize with other kids in person, despite how good some virtual programs are.

“I think we already knew that, but what the pandemic has really shown us is that human connection is a basic human need,” he said. “Without that, children really struggle. Many parents told us that the children were really depressed and noticed behavioral changes at home. And when they went back to school, a lot of that was dropped. And the virtual platform, while a necessary tool, does not replace in-person human interaction.

Joel C. Hicks