After a year of virtual and hybrid school, canceled activities, and limited social interaction, Pullman-area youth have something to look forward to this summer: the in-person Cougar Kids Camp.

The camp begins June 14 and is open to all area youth in kindergarten through sixth grade. It includes a variety of indoor and outdoor activities—games, fitness classes, crafts, outdoor adventure programs, and more—that are designed to be both educational and fun.

“It’s a high‑activity camp,” said DJ Mackie, coordinator of competitive sports and youth programs for University Recreation. “We get the kids engaged and playing with each other and having fun all day long.”

Based at the Student Recreation Center, the camp gives kids a recreation-based experience centered around a theme—this year, Exploration and Expedition. Weekly themes include Race Around the World, Animal Planet, Exploring Your World, and, in week six, Future Cougar Week, during which campers get to explore different areas of campus.

Although the camp’s activities are varied, its focus is not: Mackie said the goal is to provide kids with autonomy, mastery, and relationships.

The pandemic has inhibited many kids’ ability to develop socially, master new skills, or spend time away from their parents. At Cougar Kids Camp, Mackie said, they get to “come into a space that is just for them and … develop confidence in something they might be missing.”

“Camp is a safe space for kids to re‑engage in what it’s like to be a kid and play and have fun,” he said.

Keeping camp COVID‑19 safe

A camper takes on WSU's Challenge Course
A 2019 camper takes on the Challenge Course. Photo by Melanie Rosetti

Cougar Kids Camp will operate fully in person and will adhere to all public health guidelines. Capacity is capped at 80 kids this year, and campers will spend most of their time with the same small group of campers. Camp staff will limit shared equipment and game pieces, and those items that are shared will be thoroughly sanitized.

All campers and staff will follow state and federal mask guidelines. Because masks can increase wearers’ heart rates during high‑intensity activities, Mackie said camp staff will provide more breaks and alternate between high- and low‑intensity games to give campers a chance to rest.

Creating a positive experience

Mackie said Cougar Kids Camp not only provides the in‑person fun many kids have been missing—it also offers a respite for parents.

“Last summer, parents were so thankful to have camp and have something for their kids to do when so many things were shut down,” he said. “That was really impactful for our staff.”

Mackie said he and the rest of the camp staff are eager to give kids an engaging, educational experience again this summer.

“We’re excited to get back out with the kids,” he said. “We hope to create a really positive experience for them.”

Registration for the seven-week camp is now open, and interested parents are encouraged to sign up early, as capacity is limited. Kids can sign up for as many weeks as they want “if they’re up for the adventure,” Mackie said. The camp is held Monday–Friday from 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.