March 2020 marked many changes, particularly for youth as schools began to operate virtually and extracurricular activities came to a halt. However, things appear to slowly be returning to “normal” in the Falls Church area and camps will be back in full swing this spring and summer.
Camps are more important now than ever after months of isolation. Camps can offer a variety of benefits from fostering friendships and promoting independence to providing time outdoors and away from screens.
Falls Church and the surrounding areas offer a wide variety of camps for any interest and any age. From arts and theater to science and technology or outdoor recreation, there is something for every child.
“Camps have been a big part of children’s summer experiences for generations,” said Alex Harris, President and Founder of Evolution Basketball Training. “With their lives getting turned upside down over the past two years, attending camp and having life be normal again is critical for us to turn the corner and allowing kids to again be kids. Whether it’s basketball or any other camp, I think every child should have the chance for social interaction again like we all knew growing up.”
“Our students have told us over and over that returning to in person camps and educational programs is a ‘lifeline’ for them,” said Laura Connors Hull, Founder and Producing Director of Creative Cauldron. “Theater and the arts provide critical opportunities for young people to build self-confidence, and test new skills. For many who participate in the arts, they find a home…an accepting and welcoming place where they are free to express ideas and opinions, and create. Creative Cauldron has provided arts enrichment experiences after school and in the summer months for 20 years, but the past two years, we have realized just how important our work is, and how great an impact we can have on a young person’s life.”
Some camps were able to stay open and operate virtually during the pandemic, but going back in person has proved helpful.
“We were fortunate enough to run peak pandemic, we did a virtual session of our camp,” said Megan Zinn, Camp Director for Summer Cove. “We were able to still provide some sort of activity for campers and I know that parents really enjoyed that. Even just being able to give kids the opportunity to have something different to do was a nice change of pace for them. Last year, we were able to run in person again. The kids had so much energy and they were just excited to be out of the house, be somewhere else and get to be around other people their age doing things that they don’t normally get to do at home. Camps are such a wonderful place for kids.”
Emily Minter, Camp Director at Terrapin Adventures, agrees with Zinn.
“Children have missed out on a lot of social emotional learning due to isolation. During a time when children couldn’t attend school or regular activities in person, summer camps were able to step in to provide safe spaces for kids to do that. The most important work that camp professionals have done over the last three years has been building a space for kids to interact and learn how to empathize with each other. We are an Adventure Camp that’s entirely outdoors based. We’ve been providing a safe space for kids to try new things, get a little out of their comfort zone, and really build confidence in themselves—things that isolation has made harder. We get to teach kids how to be brave and resilient during a time when things have been so uncertain and worrying for them. Whether a child has spent their first night away from home in a tent for the first time or has finally conquered their fear of heights by jumping off of the zip line, we have been incredibly grateful to watch campers find their strength and resilience at camp,” she said.
According to Laurence Smallman, owner of Scramble, it is also important to focus on both physical and cognitive play— one of the main focuses of his European-style play center. He also expressed the importance of providing a way for children not to be affected by the drama of the world around them.
“Scramble offers play all year. We also have amazing camps that combine thoughtful activities and the all-important play in our amazing play areas,” explained Smallman. “As a quick reminder, physical play is gross motor, or large movements, and fine motor, or small movements. This type of play is important for physical health, including bone density, muscle strength and functioning, and our flexibility. Cognitive play provides a workout for our brains. It allows us to create, imagine, and socialize. At the higher levels of play, all these are brought together in what is called narrative play. The play systems at Scramble excel at providing children of all ages and all abilities the time, space, and opportunity to ‘do’ these types of play in an incredibly clean and safe environment. This is one of many reasons why our high quality camps are so popular with children and parents alike.”
STEM camps are also a great way to help kids nurture their problem solving skills, foster creativity and teach them new skills, as well as developing new ones. Camps like Code Ninjas offer a variety of activities for kids to improve their technology skills.
“We understand that kids have the advantage of technology in today’s environment, in which we strive to utilize that knowledge in a fun and educational way,” said Cassidy Olimpo, the Director of Marketing and Events for Code Ninjas. “Roblox is a very popular platform for kids to play on. In our Roblox camps, kids go behind the scenes of the Roblox games they love and learn how to make their own 3D animated games through the Roblox Studio. Not only are they learning about Roblox, but they are also creating long-lasting friendships with other campers who enjoy the same things they do.”
After months of isolation, now is the time to get back out and enjoy camps again.