Can you believe it? Summer camp 2021 is rapidly approaching. While the past year has predominantly been made up of virtual classes and learning from home, this summer many educators will be offering in-person camps. But...is it safe? We get it — as parents, we’re torn between the desire for our kids to meet new friends and experience adventures, as well as keeping them safe from COVID-19. 

So, is summer camp safe for kids this year? The short answer is yes. However, this “yes” depends on a variety of safety and health guidelines that should be followed in order to ensure your child is in an environment that is taking precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We compiled information from the CDC and other health experts in order to answer common questions most parents (including us) have.


What is the risk of getting COVID-19 during a summer camp?

When it comes to risk, the two important factors to take into consideration are the amount of campers and the time spent indoors. The CDC states that the more people a camper or staff interact with, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The lowest risk of spread would entail a small group of campers that stay together all day. These campers don’t share objects and prioritize outdoor activities. Let’s breakdown the types of risk:

  • Lowest risk: Small group of campers that stay together all day and prioritize outdoor activities. These campers work to stay 6ft apart, don’t share objects, and make sure to practice good hygiene (more on that next)!
  • More risk: Campers mix between groups, but still maintain social distancing. Outdoor activities are prioritized and all campers are from the local geographic area (such as community, town, city)
  • Even more risk: Campers mix between groups and don’t maintain social distancing. However, campers are still from the local geographic area.
  • The most risk: Campers mix between groups and don’t remain 6ft apart. Indoor activities are prioritized and campers are from all different geographic areas.


What are hand hygiene guidelines for youth and summer camps during COVID-19?

When it comes to fighting COVID-19, good hygiene (especially washing your hands) can make a big difference. It’s important to teach and reinforce hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Before your children go to camp, make sure you have monitored how they wash their hands. 

Depending on the age of your children, we’ve found it’s helpful (and fun!) to make a game out of hand-washing. Whether it’s singing happy birthday twice or twinkle twinkle little stars, any song that lasts 20 seconds while you’re washing is ideal! For more tips on practicing good hygiene, check out the tips and tricks this pre-k teacher uses.

Here’s what you need to know about the CDC safety guidelines for the following types of camps:

Oh yes, there’s no shortage of types of camps. From day camps to weeklong, to sleepaway and virtual summer camp, it might seem overwhelming to select an option for your family. Whether you’re searching for summer camps for your toddler or teen, here’s what you should be thinking about when you book the following camps:


Day Camp

What is a day camp? In a day camp, kids typically go to an educator’s business, community center, or recreational center in your area during the day, where they participate in supervised activities and hang out with other kids. At the end of the day, they go home to sleep at night.

About the risk: As mentioned above, the lowest risk for camp is when they take place predominantly outside and/or if your child is around the same campers and counselors all day. When you’re packing for day camp, always remember to pack your child with a mask and hand sanitizer. While many camps will have these materials in place, it’s always better to be safe! 


Weeklong Camp

What is a weeklong camp? Weeklong camps follow a similar routine as day camps. Children typically meet with the same educator and group of campers, however instead of just a day-long activity, the camp runs for the week.

About the risk: The same precautions campers take for day camps should be followed for weeklong camps — that means loading up on masks and hand sanitizer. However, longer camp means more opportunities for interactions with other campers and groups. While there’s no doubt your camp will be following CDC safety guidelines, it’s important to remind your little camper that it’s best to stay in their group, and to avoid mingling with too many other campers outside of their immediate group.


Sleepaway Camp

What is a sleepaway camp? In a sleepaway or residential camp, kids stay away from home overnight, often at a location in the wilderness. During the day, they participate in supervised activities and socialize, and at night, they sleep in cabins or even under the stars.

About the risk: Searching for overnight summer camps? Sleepaway camps add new factors to consider — however many parents will be attending them this summer. The CDC has guidelines in place for overnight camps such as ensuring beds/mats sleep head to toe and are at least 6ft apart from each other. Physical barriers — such as plastic flexible screens between bathroom sinks and beds — will most likely be in place, as well.

While sleepaway camps sound risky, many parents believe they provide a far better opportunity for a “bubble” than day camps. Lots of camps will not have visiting days in order to avoid an influx of parents and visitors.

Virtual Camp

What is a virtual camp? In a virtual camp, kids sign onto classes and workshops online with expert instructors and counselors on topics that interest them, often with other kids who share their interests. In these remote small-group learning experiences, kids still make new friends, learn new skills, and stay occupied, which can give parents a break (especially during the time of social distancing).

About the risk: There’s nothing wrong with staying home! Many parents will choose a virtual camp for their families. This option can be as enriching and fun for your little ones, all while experiencing summer camp fun from the comfort of your home. You might be wondering, what are the benefits of virtual camps? In these small-group learning experiences, children make new friends, learn new skills, stay occupied (...giving parents a break!). Additionally, virtual camps are usually less expensive than in-person camps.



What are the guidelines for gatherings, visitors, and field trips at youth camps during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In general, the CDC recommends avoiding group events, gatherings, or any meetings where social distancing of at least 6 feet cannot be maintained. While it may be tough to not visit your little ones during the day, it’s best to limit nonessential visits and activities.

When dropping off or picking up your child, your camp will most likely insist on a staggered schedule by group — while this may be a burden, it’s important to do so in order to limit contact between other campers’ guardians as much as possible!


Should youth sports players practice social distancing after returning from sports camp during COVID-19?

Youth sports bring great benefits to children. From exercise to teamwork, it’s incredibly beneficial to partake in sports. When players engage in play, it is recommended by the CDC that social distancing be practiced to the best of your abilities. While distancing can be difficult in actual matches, it’s important to limit exposure and wear a mask as much as you can. By maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene, your child and family can feel more comfortable about returning from sports. 


Will summer camps be open in 2021?

Yes! Many summer camps will be open in 2021. Educators will be taking proper precautions, as recommended by the CDC, to ensure their camp environment is following health and safety protocols.

Ready to find a camp near you? Sawyer connects parents with the best summer camps in your area. Whether you’re looking for in-person or virtual options, discover enriching camps for your family.