Many students and families are relieved to be returning to in-person classes, but your child may be anxious about the upcoming school year. Atlanta Parent spoke to Dr. Stephanie Walsh, the Medical Director of Child Wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, about how you can help your child cope with back-to-school stress.
How can you talk to your kids about back-to-school anxiety?
Regardless of a child’s age, start by asking open-ended questions to find out what’s on their mind and actively listen. Remove any distractions, like your phone, give them your full attention, and be careful to avoid statements such as “Don’t worry about that!” or “It’s going to be fine.” Even though you mean well, these types of responses minimize your child’s feelings and may make them less likely to share their thoughts or feelings in the future. Instead, let your child know you understand by repeating back what you hear and letting them know it’s OK to feel however they’re feeling. Once you know how they are feeling, help them work through those emotions rather than avoiding them.
How can you help your child prepare for school if this is their first in-person experience?
If your child is going to be attending school for the first time in the fall, you can help ease their anxiety by using the summer to prepare them for what to expect. If possible, you may want to:
Visit the school before the first day.
Meet the teacher.
Drive or walk the bus or drop-off route.
Have playdates with other kids that will be at the school.
How can you help your kids deal with the anxiety about COVID-19 if they’re returning to in-person school?
It’s important to ask kids open-ended questions to get a sense of how they really feel, rather than making assumptions. Dismissing or minimizing their concerns doesn’t help them feel better. Instead, let them know it’s normal and OK to feel anxiety about in-person learning. Help your child learn to name, and work through, their feelings with healthy coping skills. If your child is feeling anxious about the unknown, help them focus on the facts and what we do know. If they are particularly overwhelmed thinking about the future and all the “what if” scenarios, try to shift their focus to what you know right now. Knowing what to expect can put their mind at ease.
How can you make the transition to back to school easier?
Create daily routines to help keep things predictable. Knowing what to expect can help create a sense of comfort and security. Although things can change from day to day, try to have some consistency with bed- and wake-times to help your child transition back to school more easily. Encourage your family to prioritize healthy habits, such as drinking water, eating balanced meals and snacks, being active, getting enough quality sleep and limiting screen time. Practicing healthy habits will help support your child’s mind and body as they transition back to school and can have a positive impact on their mood, focus and behavior.
How should you talk to your kids about COVID-19 safety precautions?
As much as possible:
Stick to the facts, and tell your kids only what they need to know.
Use language that is clear, simple and developmentally appropriate.
Help them understand that regardless of changing guidelines related to masking, they can continue helping to keep themselves and others safe by washing their hands, keeping their distance and staying home if they are sick.
If you are more nervous about the return to in-person school than your child is, how can you keep them from picking up on your own anxiety?
As a parent, you are human and have your own feelings, too. It’s normal and understandable to feel worried about your child returning to school, but keep in mind that kids look to adults to see how they should behave or react. If you are showing signs of anxiety, your kids will think they should feel anxious, too. Try to share your calm, instead of your anxiety. Consider talking to friends, family and other caregivers about how you feel. If any confusion or uncertainty is causing anxiety, talk with the school to get your questions or concerns answered.
How can you teach your child to deal with their anxiety?
Here are some simple coping skills you can teach and practice with your child:
Juneteenth, short for June Nineteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state to ensure all enslaved people were freed. Celebrate Juneteenth with these events and virtual activities.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, and the holiday has become a time to appreciate Mexican culture and heritage. Here are seven ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home.
Create the Mexican flag with red and green paint, cotton swabs, white card stock and a pencil. Separate paper into three sections. Paint red and green in the appropriate segments using the cotton swabs to dot, finger painting or a brush to fill in the whole section. Print an emblem to go into the center section. Color the emblem, then cut and glue it to the center of the flag.
Make tissue paper flowers with tissue paper, green paper, pipe cleaner, a ruler, glue and scissors. Stack three sheets on top of one another, line them up and cut into 12×6″ sheets. Line them up and fold them accordion-style. Trim the ends of the tissue paper into a rounded edge. Place the green pipe cleaner in the center of the tissue paper, looping the stem around the middle of the folded tissue paper strip. Twist onto itself to hold the tissue paper strip in place. Open up the tissue paper, pulling apart evenly from both ends. Cut leaves out of the green paper and glue onto the stem.
Be Brave, Keep Going
Create Ojo De Dios with colored yarn, craft sticks, scissors and super glue. Hold two sticks together with your thumb and forefinger, or glue the craft sticks together in the center. Wrap yarn around the sticks diagonally 2-3 times, and then 2-3 times in the opposite direction. Wrap the yarn around one side of the cross. Carry it over the previously yarn-covered section, following the line of what you’ve already done. Wrap the yarn over each side and across diagonally. Continue wrapping until you reach your desired number of rows. When you’re ready to change colors, tie the two pieces of yarn together and continue wrapping. Once you’ve reached the desired color and combo length, take the yarn and tie it off.
Make your own Paper Plate Piñata with paper plates, glue, stapler, tissue paper and candy. Make fringe with the tissue paper. Place both paper plates together and staple one end. Glue the tissue paper decorations onto the plate. Let the glue dry before stuffing with candy. Staple closed. Hang with string.
Spaceships & Laser Beams
Celebrate with a sombrero-shaped piñata using crepe paper, tissue paper, paper cup, paper plate and candy. Trace the bottom of the cup onto the paper plate and cut with a craft knife. Cover the hole with tissue paper. Cut the outer rim of the plate. Fill the cup with candy. Center cup onto the plate and tape down. Cut strips of crepe paper and fringe. Glue the fringe to the outer rim until you completely cover the plate and cup.
2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Cheddar cheese
Toppings: Salsa, sour cream or yogurt, scallions
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Combine beans, tomatoes, chilies, corn, scallions, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt in a large bowl.
Lightly oil a 2-3 quart casserole dish. Line the bottom with 6 tortillas, allowing them to overlap in the middle. You can cut off some of the round edges so the tortillas fit against the edge of your casserole dish. Scoop on half the bean mixture. Sprinkle half the cheese on top. Add another layer of tortillas; the rest of the bean mixture and the rest of the cheese.
Bake in the center of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.
Cut into squares and serve with your favorite salsa and sour cream or yogurt to spoon on top.
Salsa: Combine the tomato, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro in a bowl. Mix well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the chicken breast with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Put the chicken on a small sheet pan and roast until fully cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to cool before shredding.
In a medium shallow skillet heat enough vegetable oil to come half way up the sides of the pan. Shred the chicken into small pieces and put about 2 tbsp. down the center of each corn tortilla. Roll up each tortilla like a cigar and secure them with a toothpick. Fry the tacos until golden brown on all sides, turning once, about four minutes total. Remove the toothpicks and cut each taco in half.
To serve: Top with shredded lettuce and freshly made salsa. Drizzle with Mexican crema and sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco.
Feeling a little cooped up at home? A nature walk or hike can be a great way to get outdoors while still avoiding large crowds of people. Pack your water bottles and your hand sanitizer and enjoy one of Atlanta’s many beautiful trails. Be sure to check ahead to make sure the park is still open to the public; also keep in mind that some areas may be busier at certain times of the day, so plan your outing accordingly.
Maintain social distancing and safety measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Check websites for their precautions.
About 20 minutes east of downtown Atlanta, this park offers a wooded trail along a stream leading to ruins of the Manchester Textile Mill. Other trails wind through forests, ferns and wild azaleas. Try the red trail for the easiest route. Lithia Springs.
Hike around Wildcat Creek, the wetlands boardwalk or make your way through two miles of Piedmont forest. The awesome playground is an added treat with two climbing towers, a giant rope swing, tall slides and more. Dunwoody.
Three miles of hiking trails following the Chattahoochee River with terrain along the path that is perfect for climbing with cave-like overhangs, scenic views of the water and loads of wildlife and wildflowers. Sandy Springs.
An easy, less than 2-mile part paved, part dirt trail round trip takes you by the remnants of a stone springhouse (with moat) and Civil War-era trenches on this former battlefield site. Plus, there’s a small waterfall. Atlanta.
An easy round trip half-mile hike has a fascinating surprise. The highlight of the park’s trail system is the quirky Doll’s Head Trail, filled with folk art created by local Atlanta artists and park volunteers. Atlanta.
Go playground to playground, from Riverside Park to Azalea Park, and then on to boardwalks adjacent to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. This flat trail runs alongside the Chattahoochee River, giving up close views of the water and its wildlife. Roswell.
Mostly known for the Indian Seats natural rock formation at the peak of the mountain, Sawnee has an easy short hike best for younger children. The brief round trip leads to a tree house and a fairy houses trail. Another short, but steep, climb, leads to an observation deck. Cumming.
Explore 15 miles of walking and hiking trails including the one-mile trail to the top of the mountain. The Nature Garden trail is an easy walk around large oak trees. The hike to the top is more challenging, but includes great views of downtown Atlanta. Stone Mountain.
This urban forest has three hiking routes, including a one-mile loop trail beneath white oak trees. Be sure to grab the nature trail guide at the entrance of the forest and try to clasp hands around one of the giant oaks. Sandy Springs.
Take the paved trails headed east or west and check out ever-changing outdoor artwork, exciting playgrounds and even tiny doors. A fascinating blend of nature and art makes a BeltLine walk a must-do to see the city from a new perspective. Multiple access points.
The Mountain Trail is steep with some level terrain that leads to the peak, where a panoramic view of Atlanta is the reward. Rocky sections make this best for more advanced hikers. There are also many easier trails and activities at this historic battlefield site. Kennesaw.
Three choices of looped trails, all under two miles, make this a great spot for beginning hikers. There’s a wide variety of sights to see, too. Ponds, a butterfly garden, antique farm equipment and resident critters are all part of the landscape. Morrow.
This land in north Atlanta flourishes with nature and wildlife. Families can regularly spot a box turtle, a midland water snake or the carnivorous lady slipper orchid while walking on the easy two miles of trails. Kids especially love a replica of a teepee. Johns Creek.
Lesser known than other Atlanta nature centers, the passive nature trails of Lost Corner have a lot to offer! Go in search of a host of native trees, plants and animals including (regularly sighted) birds of prey, deer, turtles, wild turkey, rabbits, foxes and more. Sandy Springs.
More than 30 woodland acres in Atlanta’s Morningside neighborhood surrounds South Fork Peachtree Creek. A cool suspension bridge over the creek connects the trails. Wade in the shallow water under the bridge along with visitors who bring their furry friends to “dog beach.” Atlanta.
Walk through several different ecosystems on a 1.5 mile easy trail. This 28-acre sanctuary includes wetlands, upland forests and pine forests along a floodplain. This walk is ideal for kids learning about Georgia’s climate and native living things. Decatur.
In the mood for a day or overnight trip? These hikes are worth the drive!
Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon” is an amazing man-made geological formation, caused by water erosion in the 1800s. The stunning canyons, some as deep as 150 feet, can be viewed from the rim trail, or hike down for a closer view of the red, pink, orange, and purple formations. Lumpkin County.
A 270-foot swinging suspension bridge is a highlight of the Benton McKaye Trail near Blue Ridge. The kid-friendly one-mile hike offers great views of the wide-flowing Toccoa River; stop at the cascades area for a mid-hike picnic. Blue Ridge.
This prehistoric American Indian site is loaded with history. From the Visitor Center, trails lead to the Earth Lodge, Trading Post Site, and the Great and Lesser Temple Mounds. The River Trail is handicap accessible. Other highlights include Civil War earthworks and a wetlands trail. Macon.
It’s hard to beat the views from Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest point. A half-mile paved trail through the forest takes visitors to the 360-degree observation deck, with views that stretch to North and South Carolina and Tennessee. Explore the area’s other hiking trails, picnic areas, and visit the center’s museum. Hiawassee.
These eggs are easy and fun for kids to make. You’ll need craft string, water balloons, white glue and water. Blow up the balloons in various sizes. Dip lengths of string in a mixture of equal parts glue and water. Wrap it around the balloon and let it dry for 2-3 hours. Pop the balloon and pull the pieces out of the egg. Use another piece of string to make hanging decorations, or display them in a basket. Source: craftwhack.com
You’ll need an empty egg carton, yellow craft paint, glue and construction paper in yellow and orange to create these adorable chicks. Fill them with jelly beans, mini chocolate eggs or M&Ms. Cut 2 connected cups from the egg carton; paint them yellow. Cut wings, feet and beak from construction paper and glue them on. Use a marker to add eyes. Source: onelittleproject.com
A small jar becomes an adorable treat holder when filled with Starburst candies. Tape on yellow cupcake holders for wings and draw a face on the glass using a sharpie marker, or if you’re feeling crafty, cut a beak and feet from construction paper. Sure, you have to pick out all the yellow candies from the bag, but since they come in red and pink, too, use your imagination and make another cute critter. Source: masonjarcraftslove.com
Bake refrigerated cookie dough in mini-muffin cups and frost with purchased or homemade frosting. Create ears with cut marshmallows; add eyes and noses with candies, mini marshmallows and sprinkles. You could also make these cute bunnies using cupcakes. Source: pillsbury.com
Who could say no to these irresistible bunnies? With a little help cutting, they’re fun for kids to assemble. You’ll need purchased cheese rounds (such as BabyBel), carrots, celery and mini chocolate chips. Cut thin slices of celery for whiskers and slices of carrot for the ears and nose. Source: meaninfuleats.com
Atlanta Parent spoke to Monica DiCristina, a licensed professional counselor in Atlanta, about how moms can handle burnout during this time.
As a therapist, what issues are you seeing in parents?
Parents, who already struggle with time to care for themselves and meet their own needs, are struggling even more with that. I am also seeing the weight of decision fatigue. Decisions as a parent already feel big, because you are trying to make the best path forward for the people you love the most in the world. Now, you are trying to balance different opinions and boundaries about the pandemic, the ripple effects of potential exposure to loved ones and not knowing how long you will be making each decision for.
What are your tips for dealing with anxiety or decision fatigue?
We often function like machines, rather than human beings. We are not wired to, nor capable of, giving out constantly. Exhaustion is cumulative, and so is burnout. Consider medication if that’s needed. Wholeheartedly accept your limitations. As parents, we live and breathe as if we can control everything because we want the best for our kids, but we are limited as humans. There’s a peace that comes with embracing your limitations: the ramifications of what other people decide are out of my hands, so I need to decide what feels comfortable to me and let the rest go. With decision fatigue, why is it so hard for you to say no? Instead of getting critical, get curious. Are you afraid of not pleasing someone, rejection, being judged by what people will think?
As a parent, when can you be honest with your kids about what you’re feeling?
It is really positive for your kids to see you model vulnerability and taking care of yourself. For example: “I am feeling really stressed today, which is normal when things are hard. So, I am going to do what I know really helps me and go for a run.” We don’t ever want to lean on our kids for emotional support. Being honest and human with your kids is one thing, but relying on them for emotional support is not part of parenting.
“Staying positive” is advice that’s often given during difficult times. Are there actionable ways to stay positive with yourself and your family?
I don’t think kids need a positive mom. The pressure for moms to be “positive” can have a negative impact on their mental health and confidence as a parent. I would encourage moms to focus more on connecting with and being present to their kids. Paying attention to your kids, listening to them, staying curious about what they are telling you, being involved in their everyday lives – these are much more impactful than positivity.
How can moms handle the extra responsibilities this pandemic has created?
Moms tend to carry the “mental load” for the family – meaning they are thinking of everything and what is next, even when not executing on it. This mental load can be exhausting. Let your partner in on the mental load from the teacher emails to the volunteer requests, and delegate decisions to your partner to help.
A lot of moms have the tendency to over-function, leaving the people in their life with the easy load of under-functioning. Reevaluate where you might be over-functioning in your roles. Set realistic expectations for yourself. This could look like saying no more, serving frozen pizza for dinner more, delegating more and not volunteering yourself for things.
What’s your advice for single parents?
Single parents are the heroes of the parenting world, and even more so now. Remember your context. Comparing what you are alone to a two-parent or two-caregiver household is just unfair and not helpful. Ask for support. As humans, and women especially, we feel pressured to present as though we are needless, and this is not true for any of us. Ask for the help that you need from a colleague or boss for more flexibility in your schedule. Ask a friend to give you time to recharge your batteries for a couple of hours. Evaluate and reevaluate your boundaries as needed.
What’s your advice for couples? (Disclaimer: This advice is not relevant in an abusive marriage.)
The context of what you are living through will put a strain on relationships. Relationships need to have extra support added when there is more weight put on it. We make the relationship strong through increased connection time, which doesn’t have to be an elaborate date night or weekend away. Connection is actually built on small moments. Prioritize these small moments to remember who you are as individuals and as a couple. Building in small moments of daily connection – coffee in the morning before the kids are up, a walk around the block holding hands while the kids ride ahead on their bikes, takeout dinner date after the kids are in bed – can be small wins for maintaining this connection during a stressful time.
After a fight, separate to get emotionally regulated. Create a calm space together, where you can talk about the different buttons that got pushed for each of you during the fight and to connect to yourself and your spouse in a vulnerable way.
Throw out the traditional division of labor you had as a couple. Give each other a break on what you need a break from, which can create compassion and break up the monotony of your daily routines.
What is your advice for essential workers, who are having to deal with the added stress of being out and about?
Don’t forget your context. You are on the frontlines of a global trauma, which has ramifications for compassion fatigue and mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. We’re all relying on essential workers, and they’re likely not getting the support they deserve or need. Reach out wherever you can get any support: from a family member or spouse, find discounted therapy or therapy funds, find therapists with flexible hours. Prioritize your self-care.
What are your tips for dealing with the guilt of juggling childcare and working from home?
Throw the guilt out the window. The last thing a working mother needs during this pandemic is a false sense of guilt for not being able to fulfill an unrealistic version of herself. The myth of balancing it all is just that—a myth. What works more realistically is prioritization. Work and staying employed is an essential priority, but after that, any of the extras need to be addressed and removed. Write a short list of what things take priority in your life, and therefore your time, and measure each extra request by that list.
Since this pandemic has been hard on everyone, do you have any tips for getting over your guilt about reaching out to other people and “bothering” them with your own issues when you need support?
When we show other people our vulnerability, we give them permission to do the same. When we allow ourselves to be honest with our support network, not only will we get the support we need, but we will send the message that it is ok for others to do the same. Reframe it from “bothering” other people to giving them and yourself the permission to be human and be there for each other. Allow yourself to receive the same love you would give to others.
How can you handle the guilt when you’re feeling tired of your family?
We have to be honest with ourselves without shame, which makes us better at loving others. Love does not mean you’re never annoyed. You can be annoyed and still be wholly devoted. The more permission we give ourselves to be human, the less shame we feel. When you’re feeling tired of your family, you have nothing to feel guilty about; you just need time alone. You need time away from people to recharge and time away from your kids to miss your kids.
8 Ways Moms Can Refresh:
It can be hard to remember that you’re a person, not just a list of responsibilities. Start incorporating time for yourself by making these small changes.
“Prioritize recharging moments for yourself, like 10 minutes of meditation, a short walk around the block, listening to your favorite songs or calling a close friend,” DiCristina says.
Make sleep a priority. Create a bedtime routine, and as much as possible, stick to it.
Get active. Take a walk, watch a yoga or exercise video, have a dance party with your kids. Try to get some movement in every day.
Clean up your social media. Unfollow negative friends or accounts that make you feel worse. Try to limit your time online.
Do mindfulness exercises, either alone or as a family. To help you start, download an app, like Smiling Mind, that offers daily meditation programs.
“Pause on daily tasks for a few minutes to do absolutely nothing!” Battle says. “Put the baby in a safe and secure place, close the door to your office, indulge in your favorite snack, or even take a few quiet minutes in the bathroom to take some deep breaths. Take some time throughout the day to decompress.”
Make a list of things you’re proud of to give yourself credit for all the amazing things you do.
Help the family become less reliant on you. Have the kids fix their own lunch one day a week.
If your kids missed summer camp last year, now is the time to start researching camps and what they are doing to make the experience as safe as possible.
Since so many camps had to hit the pause button last summer, they are excited to welcome back campers. Atlanta Parent spoke to four camp owners and directors to learn more about how camps are approaching this summer.
What Plans are Camps Making for the Summer?
Camps are looking ahead to determine how they’ll handle summer this year, and organizations, like the American Camp Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are publishing tips and information for camps. CDC recommendations include guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting, ventilation, water systems and more. The ACA has shared tools to help camps prepare for 2021, and all accredited camps have access to their manuals. Camps are deciding how they’ll handle meals, social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, drop-off and pick-up and more to create a safe camp experience.
WinShape plans to hold overnight camps at several locations in Georgia. Their cross-functional safety team includes their on-staff healthcare manager, who is researching and consulting information from Christian Camps and Conferences Association, Association of Camp Nursing, ACA, CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health and local government officials.
“We truly believe kids were made for adventure and making friends and epic moments. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to make in-person camp a reality this year, even if that means camp looking a little different. We’re evaluating every aspect to figure out how it can be done in the safest possible way,” Malone says. “June is still quite some time away, but we’re preparing for the most detailed measures with the hopes of being able to safely loosen those up as summer gets closer. If not, we can be confident in the stringent plans we have in place.” WinShape plans to communicate about social distancing measures and changes on a monthly basis with families leading up to June.
“We are full steam ahead,” Waldman says of Camp Blue Ridge. “We are spending every minute now preparing, as things are going to change month-to-month. From the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep, we are thinking about what is happening and what we’re going to do about COVID.”
At Camp Blue Ridge’s family camp last spring, families were tested before they arrived, and they agreed to quarantine for 10 days beforehand. “Parents understood the need to quarantine before camp and that played a huge role in bringing everybody to camp healthy,” she says. This year, Camp Blue Ridge plans to ask for campers to be tested before camp, when they arrive, and 10 days into the camp.
This summer, Camp Ocoee plans to run at 80% capacity, in order to maintain social distancing, but they are waiting until April to make final decisions on the safety policies for this year. “It’s a moving target every single day,” B.J. Davis says. “We’re planning to run a more regular camp, but we’ll reevaluate in mid-April what changes we need to make to make sure kids and staff are safe. We have to be fluid and flexible.” The changes they incorporated at last year’s summer camp allow them to have a blueprint for 2021.
Glisson has been monitoring information and guidelines from the CDC, ACA, Governor Kemp and the Georgia DPH since March 2020. “With conditions constantly changing and new understanding continually emerging, tracking these sources has allowed us to keep our policies, protocols and procedures in-line with best practices and to ensure we abide by government directives,” says Russell Davis. “Since last March, we’ve been working to adapt our programs so that we’re ready to open camp as soon as safely possible.”
At Glisson, campers have moved in small “living groups” for decades to help them develop communication skills, empathy, teamwork, self-awareness and leadership. “One of our fundamental strategies for social distancing will be cohort-based camper activities, a mitigation requirement of the governor’s executive orders and which happens to be something we’re really experienced at,” Russell Davis says. Their large group gatherings will be done differently and outside as much as possible, and parents and family members will remain in their cars during drop-off and pick-up.
Camp Blue Ridge
What About Cancellations and Refunds?
One of parents’ biggest concerns about camp this summer is losing deposits or fees. If you’re concerned about losing the money you deposit for a camp session this summer, pay attention to the camp’s financial policy. Many camps have changed their refund policies to ensure you’ll get your money back if the camp is unable to proceed.
“We want to ensure in all areas that we never lose parents’ trust, all the way down to finances,” Waldman says. If camp is canceled this year, they will issue refunds.
WinShape has changed their cancellation policy for 2021 to allow for flexibility when it comes to situations involving COVID-19. “This means that parents can secure their spot at camp without having to weigh the risk of losing their deposit if COVID-19 creates issues either at camp or at home,” Malone says.
To reflect the changing environment with the pandemic, Camp Ocoee’s refund policy now includes a full refund through May 14. “This gives parents the confidence they can register now, and pay monthly so it’s not a big chunk at the end,” B.J. Davis says. “If things change, they can get their money back.”
Glisson’s policy is to issue a full refund if they’re unable to provide one or more of their camp programs. “It has long been our policy that we are unable to refund camp fees should a camper become ill during the camp session, and that will continue to be true this summer and will apply to COVID-related illnesses as well,” Russell Davis says.
If your family is facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19, and you believe you’ll have to sit out of the camp experience this year due to economic hardships, look at camps’ assistance programs. “Many camps offer scholarship programs that can help cover some of the costs,” Malone says. “At WinShape, all first-time overnight campers receive a 50% gift toward the cost of camp. We continue to offer scholarships based on financial need. Many camps also offer payment plans so that you don’t have to pay it all up front.”
Camp Ocoee also offers financial help. “We offer financial assistance, so every kid has the chance to attend camp,” B.J. Davis says. The needs-based scholarship is open to everyone.
YMCA Camp Ocoee
What Should I Look for in a Summer Camp?
Start by thinking about what your kid would enjoy. Breaking out of comfort zones is one of the benefits of summer camps, but if your kid loves the arts, find a camp offering more of those activities.
Research recommendations from the ACA, CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics to help you understand the safety precautions camps should be making, as well as what you should do to help prepare your child to be away from home. With capacity limits, expect waiting lists to develop earlier, so start researching and narrowing down options now.
“Summer camps have spent the entire year speaking to professionals, and the ACA prepares field guides and updates as situations change,” Waldman says. “Get as much information from the camp as possible about what’s going to be put in place. Ask questions, go back and ask more questions, so you know you’re comfortable sending your child there.”
Malone also recommends asking questions, as well as learning about new safety precautions. “Camp has always been a place for kids to escape ‘the real world,’ even if for just a week. Not only will overnight camp be a place for your kids to reset and refocus, but it’s a chance for them to grow as a person,” he says.
B.J. Davis recommends looking at if they ran last summer and how it went. If they didn’t, ask them what their new protocols are. “Check websites to see what they’re planning to do to keep everybody safe and healthy while they’re at camp. Know what experience your kids are looking for,” he says.
“Parents should ‘follow their gut’ when it comes to the question of registering their children. If they aren’t comfortable with camp this year, don’t force it. Your camper will likely pick up on any anxiety you have, and it could affect their camp experience,” Russell Davis says. “Similarly, if the camp has a requirement, like wearing masks, like we do, with which you disagree, perhaps this isn’t the summer for your family to attend. This will be a different summer for all of us, and we’ll need to work together as families and camps to create safe experiences of growth for our campers.”
Reasons to Send Your Kids to Summer Camp
Summer camps, especially overnight camps, offer multiple opportunities for your child to grow. Not only will they experience new activities, such as archery, ziplining, kayaking and more, they will also gain independence, make new friends and craft confidence, all while having fun.
“Children have the experience of gaining independence, as they make their own decisions and realize they can stand on their own two feet. With COVID-19, parents have been nervous about children and family members, but sending them to summer camp tells them, ‘I trust you, and you can do this.’ It’s a great feeling for them to know that they’re trusted in these hard times to do the right thing,” Waldman says. “Camp is magical. No matter who you are at home – the dynamic with mom or dad or siblings or friends – you can always reinvent yourself at camp.”
According to Malone, parent surveys at the end of the summer focus on the four strengths of WinShape: new friends, being active and away from screens, growing in faith and fun. “We’ve often said that there are only three rules at camp: Have fun, have fun, and HAVE FUN. Fun is at the center of what we do,” he says. “While camp may look a little different for summer 2021, we promise that kids are going to have fun.”
“Summer camp is even more valuable now with kids in virtual school,” B.J. Davis says. “Screen time for kids is way up at home. We’re a no-screens facility, and we really believe in giving kids time away from screens, phones and social media. They’ll get to experience every single activity camp has to offer and be outside, be with peers, make friends that are different than them and are from different situations or cities. They get to create a new family with the group of kids in their cabin group. Kids are going to get the experience of a lifetime.”
Russell Davis believes deep connections and friendships are why campers return to Glisson. “The ziplines, climbing towers, waterfront, backpacking, kayaking and other activities may have precautions added but will still be fun, maybe even more so after a year stuck at home,” he says. “There is no more effective means of holistic growth for your child than the immersive experience of summer camp. Character, self-confidence, grit, empathy, teamwork and leadership are highly valued qualities that can be developed through quality experiences. Summer camps exist to help children and youth realize their potential individually and as a part of society.”
Whether your kids are attending school virtually or back in the classroom, these fun resources can enhance their education and keep them enthusiastic about learning. Many are free, and some may be offering free access for a limited time during the pandemic.
Play games and watch educational videos at PBS Kids. Sign up for their newsletter for daily activities and tips to help kids play and learn at home. Design Squad Global has items you can build at home with things you have on hand.
Explore hands-on activities you can do at home and check out free printables at We Are Teachers.
Highlights Kids has recipes, crafts, jokes, games, podcasts, science questions and facts to keep your child entertained.
Funbrain offers games, books, comics and videos developing skills in math, reading, problem-solving and literacy. Funbrain Jr. focuses on math and reading skills, while offering printables for keeping kids entertained.
Fuel the Brain has educational worksheets for preschool through 5th grade, math, reading and writing, and learning games like Bank It! and Math Match.
Mr. Nussbaum’s subjects include math, language arts, history, geography, science, people, holidays and the U.S.A. Learn about each state, famous people, animals and more.
If you’re looking for fun things to do with your kids, heading outside is a great way to entertain in a safe manner.
Secret Doors of Decatur
Discover this series of more than 30 miniature secret doors, each created a local artist and inspired by the idea of fairy doors. The doors are tucked in unexpected locations around Decatur.
Tiny Doors ATL
Whimsical doors, created by local artist Karen Andersen Singer, are located throughout the city – everywhere from the Swan House to the Atlanta BeltLine.
Clue Town Books This series of walkable hunts leads your family searching around Atlanta with clues. Use landmarks to solve puzzles and the solutions reveal how to get to the next checkpoint.
Scavenger Hunt Atlanta Sign up for one of these adventures, which are custom designed for each family or group. Explore new neighborhoods, visit local landmarks and learn about Atlanta with the City Scavenger Hunt; solve puzzles and riddles with the Escape Adventure; or try survival challenges, geocaching and wildlife watching with the Wilderness Adventure.
The Urban Adventure Quest This website offers another option to hunt around downtown Atlanta starting at Centennial Olympic Park. Follow clues from your phone, complete challenges and earn points, and since the challenge is guided by your phone, you can complete at your own pace.
The Rock Garden
Enjoy Sleepy Hollow’s Whimsical Fairy Garden, which is filled with fairy cottages and gnome houses. Visitors can also purchase fairy houses, doors and other creations built by former Disney Imagineer Art Millican. Blairsville.
The Rock Garden
Located behind the Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Calhoun, this garden has miniature stone castles, bridges and buildings. Walk through this peaceful garden, and in spring, spot beautiful blooms. Calhoun.
Travel to Summerville to visit this unique attraction. Created by Howard Finster, this delightful display shows odd objects, tools, antiques and curios as artworks and sculptures. Summerville.
Enchanted Woodland Trail
PRISM: Winter Lights This exhibit at Woodruff Park features light-based, water-inspired works by artists from around the country. Atlanta. Through Jan. 31.
Murmuration This exhibition reflects Atlanta’s skyline and greenspaces inspired to help the viewer connect with nature. “Perch and nest” alongside the birds in this outdoor mesh canopy at Sifly Piazza. Atlanta. Through Feb. 7.
Enchanted Woodland Trail View more than 30 miniature homes built by fairies and gnomes at Chattahoochee Nature Center. With 127 acres, this outdoor space has plenty of room to spread around, hike and explore. Roswell. Through Feb. 28.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park / Georgia Department of Natural Resources
The Great Outdoors
Sweetwater Creek State Park This park offers a wooded trail along a stream leading to ruins of the Manchester Textile Mill. Other trails wind through forests, ferns and wild azaleas. Try the red trail for the easiest route. Lithia Springs.
Dunwoody Nature Center Hike around Wildcat Creek, the wetlands boardwalk or make your way through two miles of Piedmont forest. Stop by the awesome playground, practice music at the Play Me Again Piano named “Bennett,” enjoy the tree swings, spot all the colorful bee hive murals and more. Dunwoody.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Walk along three miles of hiking trails with cave-like overhangs, scenic views of the water and tons of wildlife and wildflowers. In warmer months, paddle a raft, canoe or kayak. Sandy Springs.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve Hiking the easy, less than two miles, part-paved, part-dirt trail round trip takes you by the remnants of a stone springhouse (with moat) and Civil War-era trenches on this former battlefield site. Plus, there’s a small waterfall. Atlanta.
Constitution Lake This weird spot shows off quirky Doll’s Head Trail, filled with folk art created by local Atlanta artists and park volunteers. All of the art is made from natural items. Atlanta.
Roswell River Walk This seven-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River offers trails, water access and multiple playgrounds. You can go on to boardwalks adjacent to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Roswell.
Big Trees Forest Preserve This 30-acre plant, tree and wildlife sanctuary has has three hiking routes, including a one-mile loop trail beneath white oak trees. Be sure to grab the nature trail guide at the entrance of the forest and try to clasp hands around one of the giant oaks. Sandy Springs.
Big Creek Greenway Stroll your choice of flat, easy trails in Alpharetta or Forsyth with paved and boardwalk areas. Observe wildlife in the wooded and wetland settings. Alpharetta and Forsyth.
Cochran Shoals More than three miles of gravel trails runs beside the Chattahoochee River. Check out both woodlands and marshes, and all the animals that inhabit them. Marietta.
Reynolds Nature Preserve Try the looped trails, all under two miles, and spot ponds, antique farm equipment and resident critters. In spring and summer, check out the Pollinator Garden and the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail to see the areas buzzing with activity. Morrow.
Murphey Candler Trail A pond is at the center of this moderate two-mile flat loop. Adjacent to a playground, this tranquil spot is a great place to see ducks, turtles, geese and other water fowl. Brookhaven.
Autrey Mill Nature Preserve Enjoy nature, historical artifacts and wildlife. The outdoor animal exhibits include ducks, a rabbit, an African Spurred Tortoise, chickens and three Dwarf Nigerian Goats. Johns Creek.
Lost Corner Nature Preserve Lesser known than other Atlanta nature centers, the passive nature trails of Lost Corner have a lot to offer! Go in search of a host of native trees, plants and animals, including birds of prey, deer, turtles, wild turkey, rabbits, foxes and more. Sandy Springs.
Morningside Nature Preserve More than 30 woodland acres in Atlanta’s Morningside neighborhood surrounds South Fork Peachtree Creek, and walk along a cool suspension bridge over the creek to try both of the trails. Bring your furry friends to try out the “dog beach.” Atlanta.
Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve This 28-acre sanctuary includes wetlands, upland forests and pine forests along a floodplain, and a 1.5-mile trail perfect for kids learning about Georgia’s climate and native living things. Decatur.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
With 2,910 acres, Chattahoochee Bend is one of Georgia’s largest state parks with 12 miles of trails and an observation platform for nice views of the river and forest. In the warmer months, enjoy boating, fishing, paddling and kayak and canoe rentals. Newnan.
Don Carter State Park Don Carter is on 38,000-acre Lake Lanier and features paved hiking trails, such as the 0.5-mile Parallel Trail, the Overlook Trail and the 1.5-mile Woodland Loop. You can also hike longer trails, go on a paddling trail, or go on a horseback riding trail. Gainesville.
Take in the View
Red Top Mountain State Park This park boasts more than 15 miles of wooded trails, and you can even explore a reconstructed 1860s homestead. For seasonal fun in the hot months, swim, water ski or fish at Lake Allatoona. Acworth.
Stone Mountain Park Explore 15 miles of walking and hiking trails, including the one-mile trail to the top of the mountain. The Nature Garden trail is an easy walk around large oak trees. The hike to the top is more challenging, but includes great views of downtown Atlanta. Stone Mountain.
Arabia Mountain PATH Amazing views await at the summit of the crater-filled Arabia Mountain. The trail is short, but along the way, plenty of unique land forms and plants entertain. Lithonia.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park This 2,965-acre battlefield preserves a Civil War battleground. The Mountain Trail is steep with some level terrain that leads to the peak, where a panoramic view of Atlanta is the reward. There are also many easier trails and activities at this historic battlefield site. Kennesaw.
Panola Mountain State Park
Part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Panola Mountain is a 100-acre granite outcrop. The park has 25 miles of trails, including the .75-mile Outcrop Trail and 1.25 mile Watershed Trail. Stockbridge.
Sawnee Mountain Preserve Mostly known for the Indian Seats natural rock formation at the peak of the mountain, Sawnee has an easy short hike best for younger children. The brief round trip leads to a tree house and a fairy houses trail. Another short–but steep–climb leads to an observation deck. Cumming.
Catch a Movie
The StarLight Drive-In
This drive-in theater shows the latest films and special features and boasts multiple screens. Shop the flea market to find fun goodies. Atlanta.
Watch a variety of films from the safety of your vehicle. Atlanta.