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A Summer Without Bug Bites or Sunburn? Adventures in Virtual Camping


We may be “over” coronavirus, but it’s clear this pandemic is not over for us. Summer has looked a lot different for our family, and we’re certainly living a smaller life.

I wouldn’t have called us an on-the-go, big-life family necessarily, but in hindsight, we definitely were! Last summer, my now-eight-year-old attended her first sleepaway camp with the Girl Scouts. We took a trip to the beach with my in-laws. Other day camps and church events were consistently on our calendar last year. Regular trips to the library for summer reading activities and overflowing bags of checked-out books have been features of every summer of my girls’ childhoods.

Until now.

One way for Miss Eight to experience some fun from home has been with virtual camps. So far, we’ve participated in two from the LSU Online & Continuing Education’s pre-college program. The week-long camps gave her access to fun content and twice-daily Zoom calls (which are still a novelty for my children!) to check in with the camp teacher and meet new friends doing the same activities.

As a rising third grader there were several options, and the first we chose was the Hogwarts-themed camp. Harry Potter rules around this house (J.K. Rowling’s recent tweet-storms not-withstanding), and my older daughter loves nothing more than reading the books (we own them all), watching the movies (a pandemic purchase) and listening to the audiobooks (we check out on repeat from the library). The camp was very hands-on for me, much more so than our first foray into online learning this spring. I spent about an hour searching for my glue gun for a project! (It turned up AFTER the camp.) We made it work, and the activities were all great fun and definitely inspired learning. She’s still doing Minecraft-inspired drawings of the characters and writing in her custom-covered spell book.

Kids Can Code was the second camp, and this was way lower-key on my end since there were no supplies to find or crafts to supervise. We have a permanent stain on our dining table thanks to the invisible ink from our first camp! As my daughter says, it didn’t ruin the table, as it still functions as a table. But it sure doesn’t look great! For the coding camp, everything was on the computer, and she loved it and has continued tinkering with the various sites and tools introduced during the week.

These first two virtual summer camps were so successful that we’re looking into adding a few more to our calendar and considering checking out some Girl Scouts camp-from-home options, too.

A Vacation Bible School from a local church presented entirely online was another way to fill the time, and this one was engaging for my four-year-old as well as older sister. Crafts, snacks, story videos and nightly calls helped fill our time and give our days structure. I have established I’m not a mom who “plays” easily, so I’ll gladly sign up for activities that ease some of that burden through these long, hot days.

While we do stay at home the majority of the time, we have gradually added short trips to our community pool to our routine. We joined for the first time this year, pre-pandemic, thinking Miss Eight could join the swim team. It wasn’t clear if the pool would be able to open, but so far social distancing has made cooling off (and learning lots of new diving board tricks!) possible for us. Our many semesters of swim lessons have been paying off and a sliver of something fun beyond our home provides a lot of health advantages for my girls, mentally and physically.

We have a preschool in-person camp for little sister starting soon, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Big sister did a week-long, in-person horse camp earlier in the summer that felt bizarrely normal, although with only eight students and entirely outdoors, it felt like a “safe enough” option. That may be where things will end up for the foreseeable future–what is our “safe enough” option?

How is your summer shaping up? Have your kids been able to take part in online or regular camps? Let me know in the comments.

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30 Jun 2020


By Mari Walker

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