Summer Camp – CDC Changes Guidelines & Helping to Get Ready

Two days ago the CDC, amidst growing pressure about mask mandates for children in athletic programs, after school programs, and upcoming summer camp programs, released revised guidelines. We review them here. We also feature a program designed to help children – and parents – get ready for camp from a psychologist’s point of view – after nearly a year of overwhelming concern about spreading germs, wearing masks, etc.

First, the CDC’s Guidance for Operating Youth Camps

Youth camps can play an important role in the lives of children, including supporting their social, emotional, and physical development. Camps provide opportunities for children to try new activities, develop relationships, develop social and emotional skills, and be physically active. In addition to allowing for free play and unstructured learning, many camps also incorporate educational content. This interim guidance is intended to help camp administrators operate camps while slowing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 thereby protecting campers, their families, staff, and communities.

Key Points

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and widely accessible in the United States.
  • Everyone aged 12 years and older is recommended to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to keep from getting and spreading COVID-19.
  • This guidance is intended for all types of youth day and overnight camps. The guidance outlines strategies that camp programs can use to help maintain healthy environments and operations, lower the risk of COVID-19 spread in their programs, prepare for when someone is sick with COVID-19, and support coping and resilience.
  • For camps where everyone is fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp, it is safe to  return to full capacity, without masking, and without physical distancing in accordance with CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People; except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Although people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks, camp programs should be supportive of campers or staff who choose to wear a mask.
  • Consistent and layered use of multiple prevention strategies can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect people who are not fully vaccinated including campers, staff, and their families.
  • This guidance describes physical distancing recommendations for youth camps. These recommendations align with current evidence for physical distancing in K-12 schools.
  • Campers should be assigned to cohorts that will remain together for the entire camp session without mixing, to the largest extent possible.
  • This CDC guidance is meant to supplement—not replace—any federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which camps must comply

Very detailed guidelines are here:

Psychologist Helps Kids and Parents Get Ready for Camp

“A few weeks in a well-organized summer camp may be of more value educationally than a whole year of school,” – said in 1922 by Charles W. Elliott, the longest serving president of Harvard University

Psychologist and summer camp expert Dr. Chris Thurber has produced a new 25-minute video for families that lowers the intensity of first-year campers’ homesickness by 50 percent, on average. The video is the centerpiece of Thurber’s new Prep4Camp program, which also includes a 20-minute podcast for parents and a downloadable, printable sheet of homesickness prevention tips for kids.

“About 20 percent of kids at overnight camp rate their homesickness intensity as moderate-to-severe,” says Thurber, citing his published research from the past two decades. “By teaching first-year campers and their parents the most powerful prevention and treatment strategies, the Prep4Camp program dramatically reduces homesickness intensity. And that translates to happy counselors, even happier parents, and the happiest campers ever.”

Directors of overnight camps have championed Thurber’s homesickness prevention programs since the late 1990s when his research uncovered the risk and protective factors for adjustment to separation from home. “For many years, we have been giving Dr. Thurber’s camp preparation program to each of our new camp families,” says Paul Bryant, Executive Director/CEO of Camp Sloane YMCA in Lakeville, Conn. “We noticed a precipitous drop in camper homesickness. Now, with a fresh new video that streams off the Internet, it’s quick and easy to give families instant access to this valuable content.”

Fellow psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Michael Thompson describes Thurber as “the world’s leading expert on the subject of homesickness.” Thurber says he developed the Prep4Camp program in an effort to empower young people, soothe parental anxiety, and help camps deliver the developmental benefits—such as social skills and a sense of adventure—that camps were originally designed for. “The ubiquity of smartphones,” cautions Thurber, “makes it harder than ever for parents and kids to spend a week or more apart without electronic technology. That’s why part of Prep4Camp is advice for parents on how to wean their children off phones and get them excited about letter-writing.”

Prep4Camp is available for instant access on

Editor’s Note: There is a charge for this information on the site.

Scott Smiledge – Prep4Camp
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