October 24, 2021

Virus puts limits on summertime activities for kids

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

A group of kids enjoy the playground Wednesday during the Cortland County YMCA’s summer camp. The YMCA’s summer camp is one of the few offered in the area due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When summer rolls around, children are always finding ways to deal with boredom. An example of that is 7-year old Jazmin Austin, who has goals she’d like to achieve this summer.

“I’m going to be practicing cartwheels, splits and handstands,” she said Wednesday while at the YMCA summer camp. “I just want to have a good rest of my summer.”

Being a kid during the summer usually means there’s a lot of free time on your hands. Being a kid during the summer in the thick of a pandemic, however, limits what you can and can’t do.

Children in New York state saw their time in the classroom this year cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With much less socialization and activity time as they’re used to, most had to pass the time at home, and were not only forced to wait for warmer weather to go outside, but to also make sure they were given the green light to enjoy themselves outdoors in a safe and healthy manner.

Once the state loosened up on restrictions, kids were able to go to various playgrounds and parks.

“I love going to the park as much as I can. It’s a lot of fun,” said 5-year old Andrew Barry.

“I have been seeing a lot of kids walking and riding bikes,” said Margo Upson, camp administrator at the Cortland County YMCA. “Some kids go to parks and playgrounds, but not as much.”

Last week was considered the first full week of summer (had the original end of the school year still been intact). Despite summer camps being few and far between, the state in mid-June allowed organizations like the YMCA, the YWCA and the Lime Hollow Nature Center to start their camps last Monday.

The organizations had to scramble, but the camps went off without a hitch.

“I was worried we were going to run out of steam and ideas, but we’ve run things pretty well,” said Janice Meyer, school age program supervisor at the YWCA.

“I was nervous about camp at first, but I feel like we’re poised to be in a good position because we are a nature camp. We spend the majority of our time outside,” said Anthony Vicente, camp coordinator at Lime Hollow.

Each camp, of course, has its limits. The YMCA allows up to 30 kids a day, the YWCA tries to keep it under 60, and Lime Hollow can have 30 or more.

Camp workers are required to wear masks, while optional for the kids. YMCA and the YWCA separate the kids by groups into rooms. For Lime Hollow, the advantage is having the camp outdoors.

As of right now, each camp will run until the end of the summer.

The camp at the YMCA lets kids swim in the pool, do arts and crafts, and play in the gym and outdoors. Each week of the camp also has a special theme, said Upson, including space, pirates, sports, holidays and more.

“I love swimming in the pool and love going to this camp,” said 9-year old Johanna Tagliavento.

The YWCA provides a slew of activities, including cooking, sports, yoga meditation, and make-your-own -pizza and -popsicle stations. The organization has a virtual library reading time and also brings in local police officers and firefighters to talk to the kids.

“The kids seem to not notice what’s going on with this pandemic,” Meyer said. “It’s been a really great experience.”

The outdoor time at the Lime Hollow camp includes activities like hiking, learning to build fires, identifying various plants and animals and playing a wide variety of games.

“A lot of kids have come up to me and say that this is one of the best camps they’ve been to,” Vicente said. “We’ve just been having a good time. The kids have really bonded with the groups they’re in.”

Ten-year old Frankie Krypel has enjoyed hiking and building fires at camp, among other interests.

“Sitting down and being able to enjoy going outside is something I like to do during the summer,” he said. “I also love climbing trees.”

“I have a lot of fun hiking and playing a ton of games, especially water games,” Twelve-year old Haylie Meskauskas added.

Playing outside and participating in these camps is giving kids the opportunity to socialize with others once again after being refrained from the outside world the past few months.

“I have always believed that we have to get kids out in nature,” Vicente said. “It helps them to socialize with others and gets them to hang out in areas other than inside their homes. Having the opportunity to socialize again is doing wonders for these kids.”

“It’s a lot better than just sitting home and doing nothing,” Krypel said. “I used to get bored very easily.”

Playing with other kids becomes one thing, Vicente said, but talking to people in general helps to keep them content when it comes to interaction with others.

“It feels good to socialize with other kids (and adults),” Meskauskas said.

“Having new friends to talk to

(at this camp) is great,” Tagliavento said. “I love meeting new people.”

Above all else, kids can take advantage of making new friends.

“I enjoy hanging out with other kids,” Austin said.”It’s fun.”

Even with the limits on social interaction in the past few months, Upson said children will continue to take part in activities and build fun memories.

“If people take the guidelines and protocols seriously, it’s important for kids to get out there and enjoy themselves,” Meyer said.