The school year isn't even over yet but parents are already having to plan out summer camps, daycare and activities for their kids because programs are filling up fast.
“I think last summer everybody kind of felt like summer was canceled. Everyone was staying in their homes and not really traveling – nobody was really sending their kids to camp because we didn’t know whole lot about COVID-19 at that point,” said Heather Vance Devers, creative and content director for DFW Child magazine.
Last year, many parents were also working from home and were able to provide supervision while many camps and daycares shut their doors.
However this year, more parents are being asked to go back to work and child care options are limited and harder to get into. Summer camps and learning classes still have reduced capacities, so it will be more difficult to land a spot if you wait.
That’s why parents need to start planning now. To make it an easier process, DFW Child’s annual Best Summer Ever virtual camp fair is ongoing right now until April 23.
"I think really we’re seeing an uptick in all sorts of activities that we had seen kind of fall out last year,” said Vance Devers. "I think parents really have to plan early because I don't think this summer is going to be the summer that you can be like, ‘Oh I am going to send my kid to camp this week.’ It's going to be much more restricted as far as sizing of classes and things like that.”
Nearly 30 virtual booths are set up to allow parents to chat with program organizers and register for different camps, classes and programs across North Texas. The fair is free.
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“Summer is just such a magical time for kids, so the camp fair is a really great way for kids to build that summer that they missed last year,” said Vance Devers. “They can’t wait to go play in the mud and go do arts and crafts and theater. We have all sorts of camp options for the kiddos.”
Even if parents are not looking for a summer camp and instead for a daycare, the restrictions and limited capacity protocols are still the same. Now is the time to start making calls and start registering your spot for the summer.
Safety protocols for masks, screening, cleaning and testing are also still stringent. In fact, Gov. Greg Abbott recently pledged that the state will provide licensed summer camps with COVID-19 tests.
Many programs are also keeping registration and tours totally virtual.
You might also want to check on costs. Some places are adding a 'COVID fee' to help cover safety expenses.
Still, programs like Tutor Time in Colleyville stress that as difficult as the planning process can be, the effort to get in is worth it.
"In years past, for other summers, we've often talked about summer learning loss in children. I think this year is absolutely something to consider,” said director Jessica Reynolds.
Tutor Time is a part of Learning Care Group, which has summer programs happening across North Texas at locations like La Petite Academy, Montessori Unlimited, Children’s Courtyard and ChildTime schools.
“We’re absolutely committed to combating that learning loss by really focusing on ensuring that all activities integrate concepts of math and literacy practice for students during the summer,” Reynolds said.
At their schools, she said cleaning protocols, masks and health screenings will still be enforced.
Registration and school tours are also still being held virtually. They still have a few spots left in their programs.
“This year has shown so much how resilient children are and how optimistic children are,” Reynolds said. “I think that we need to take that enthusiasm they have as children, as natural scientists and natural learners, and help entice that enthusiasm by giving them an environment where they tend to thrive academically while having fun.”