ARNPRIOR -- Summer day camps throughout Ottawa and the Valley have opened again. 

Camps do have new COVID-19 protocols in place, made fun for campers.

“We are making sure our campers are always social distancing. We always talk about doing helicopters to show people the two metres”, says YMCA Camp Otonabee Director Jacqueline Taylor, referring to campers holding their arms out and spinning like helicopters to ensure they have distance in all directions.

Campers are put into cohorts for the week, with counsellors ensuring there is no cross-interaction between groups. Children are asked to wear masks at times as well while when indoors or when social distancing is not possible, like when passing each other on hiking trails.

Taylor says they are balancing safety and fun by adapting favourite games like camouflage.

“Normally you come in and tag the hand of a counsellor. Well, now if you identify a cone or a stick that each camper can come in and high-five that’s their own, we can watch to make sure that they are tagging in but not necessarily touching another person’s hand.”

At the Ma-Te-Way Activity Centre in the Town of Renfrew, municipal run camps are on as well, but in smaller groups.

“We’re going with 8 children maximum at each camp with two staff," says Kevin Hill, director of parks and recreation. "So that is one of the largest differences that we’ve seen from the past. Normally we do one larger camp with anywhere from 24 to 32 children at it."

Hygiene breaks are scheduled into the day, but with such low numbers, Hill says more extreme measures are not needed. “We’re not wearing masks at this point. We are doing all the distancing and directives that we received from the health unit.”

Setting the stage for school

Making health and safety protocols fun and understandable for kids as young as six years old at Camp Otonabee is an important step, according to the YMCA National Capital Region’s Manager of Camps Vanessa Spratt.

“What’s so good about it is that I think we’ll be giving parents and campers confidence to be able to re-emerge into the school system and have a bit more knowledge about what to expect when they go there.”

After so much time spend in isolation, Spratt says summer camp also creates a more relaxed environment for kids to start rebuilding their social skills.

“Kids are incredibly social and they want to be able to let loose, and they are making friends for the first time in a long time. They’ve lost out on their friendships they would normally be maintaining at the schools. Parents are understanding I think of how important it is for their children to start re-engaging.”