As spring moved towards summer, we were unsure how we could put together summer programs that would engage, entertain and enhance the lives of the children we support. Every day the news was filled with COVID-19 statistics and countless discussions on how best to proceed through the next phase or stage.
At Community Living Mississauga, we heard from families who expressed their own concerns as well as their hopes for their children as the weeks of social isolation passed. Through our conversations with families we discovered that families had differing needs, concerns and fears but we heard families express one common and uniting goal; they wanted their children to be happy.
In these difficult times, we knew that one program for all would not work. This year, more than any other year, children and their parents needed program options and we were thrilled to offer three support options to families.
Traditional Children’s Summer Support Program
Building on our strong partnership with the City of Mississauga, we offered individualized support to children attending summer camps at various community centers throughout Mississauga. Despite the new social distancing requirements in place, our inclusion facilitators have supported children in City of Mississauga’s Summer Fun camps so far this summer while they played games, reconnected with staff and fellow campers from previous years and rediscovered favourite camp activities.
Play in the Park
In an effort to offer children who were not eligible for summer camp with the City this year, due to the change in age requirements, Community Living Mississauga’s Play in the Park was introduced. Children were offered the opportunity to meet at a local park in small groups and receive support from our inclusion facilitators as they perfected their sports skills, expressed their more artistic side and beat the summer heat in the splash pad.
Virtual Children’s Programming
Many parents told us that they were not comfortable sending their child to a community centre with so many other children for a variety of reasons so we decided to focus on one of the positive effects of physical distancing; the increase in opportunities and platforms for people to connect on line. We embraced the idea of connecting with children over technology and created our Virtual Children’s Summer Support Program. Our virtual program was developed to provide children the opportunity to connect with a staff over the internet. The staff lead games, acted as tour guides through virtual tours of zoos, the Olympic games and even space walks! The children challenged the staff to dance competitions and sat and created artistic masterpieces while the staff encouraged and created art work along with the child in a shared virtual world.
We know that 2020 will be remembered for years to come because of the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, but at Community Living Mississauga, we will remember 2020 as the summer where children showed amazing resilience, enthusiasm and flexibility.