CSUN’s Sunny Days Camp Offers a Virtual Alternative to Traditional Camps

A camp councilor sits behind a table with arts and crafts supplies on it, while another councilor sits closer to a computer screen.

Sunny Days Camp Councilors about to host a session over Zoom. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Hamlett

Summer traditionally means camp for many kids. But this year — with the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations to stay indoors and limit contact with others as much as possible — many traditional summer camps are closed, and many families are scrambling to find alternatives to keep their children entertained and busy while school is out.

Staff from California State University, Northridge’s Sunny Days Camp — a summer day camp for children ages 6-14, which has moved online this year — have some suggestions for families to help enrich the weeks their children and grandchildren must spend inside or closer to home.

“One thing that we have found that has helped is finding an online program like ours, which [involves] interaction through Zoom with their fellow campers,” said Danya Desantis, Sunny Days Camp’s assistant camp director and camp counselor.

A camp councilor stands in front of a computer screen, leading a movement session over Zoom

A camp councilor stands in front of a computer screen, leading a movement session over Zoom. Photo courtesy of Danya Desantis

Desantis and Sunny Days Camp Director Jeremy Hamlett encourage families to explore online activities to keep their children entertained during the summer, including using YouTube to take “virtual field trips” to museums, National Parks or other places of interest, and finding no-bake recipes that children can make on their own, without turning on the oven or stove.

As the father of a 13 year old, Hamlett said he appreciates that many kids already have experienced burnout after spent the last few months of school taking classes online. With school out for the summer, he said, he hopes children — and their parents — are feeling a bit less overwhelmed.

For all families, especially the ones experiencing Zoom and other online fatigue — or for those who don’t have regular access to the internet — Hamlett encouraged guardians to get their children active around the house or in their backyards.

Families interested in Sunny Days Camp can register their children to take part in activities from home, led by camp counselors via Zoom, at https://www.csun.edu/usu/sunnydays. Families can register their children on a week-by-week basis, for $75 a week per child. Sunny Days Camp runs through July 31.

Each week, registered families will receive the materials their kids will need for the coming week — such as arts and crafts supplies — via curbside pick-up at the CSUN campus. They also will have access to a resource library of pre-recorded videos on other activities that they can watch at any time.

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