The group of children crosses the beach towards the sea, still low at the start of the afternoon. In swimsuits, sneakers on their feet, they scramble over the rocks, unearth crabs in the puddles and periwinkles under the algae. This teeming little world is a passion for the group of children, who arrived a few days earlier from Issy-les-Moulineaux (Hauts-de-Seine) for a stay in Île-Grande (Côtes-d’Armor).
Here, the time is reckless and the Covid seems far away. “I would like it to last a very long time”, sums up Emma, a student at the end of CP. Her girlfriends approve. From their young age, they are aware that the past year has been painful and have bad memories of it.
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“I couldn’t have any activity, begins 11-year-old Lahlya. Usually I dance, but it was not possible with the mask. After three lessons, it stopped. ” Above all, the girl tells about social distancing at child level: “At school, in the courtyard, we could only talk between students of the same level and in the canteen, we always had to put ourselves in the same place. Suddenly, there are friends that I have never seen. “
“The year has been very long”, also sighs Diane, 9 years old. The little girl explains that she even counted the days until the holidays. Margot, she recalls all the canceled outings: “When I was in first grade, we had to go to discovery class but we couldn’t because of the Covid. In CE1, we couldn’t leave either. Maybe it will last like that until fifth grade? “
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A little further, in the heart of the holiday village of Baly, the group of pre-teens awaits the departure for the Optimist course around a ping-pong table. They too savor this bubble of newfound freedom. “At first I didn’t want to come, says Steven, 14, racket in hand. My mom signed me up because I played video games all day. ” Now he does not even regret his cell phone, banned during the stay.
“To legitimize the idea that the child needs a vacation”
In these times of Covid, would summer camps be the remedy for months of isolation and worry? This is what historian André Rauch thinks. “This year, the holiday camps are in fact recovering their primary function: when they were born after the war, they legitimized the idea that the child needs a holiday. What used to be considered a luxury has become more democratic. ” However, after a golden age, from the 1980s, they were gradually shunned.
The families had taken back control of their children’s leisure activities, determined to spend time together during the summer. “But with the health crisis, parents have discovered that the home cannot do everything, continues the historian. While families were a place of considerable resources during the lockdown, they understood that children also need their friends. In recent months, child psychiatrists have sounded the alarm bells on the health of young people. Suddenly, the parents allowed themselves to leave the hand for the leisures and the colos appeared again like a recourse. “
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While departure figures are not yet known for this year, they should be better than last year. Especially since some associations have even found that summer camps also meet a need for increased respite for parents. “Some families seemed to us clearly overwhelmed, testifies Vincent Feldman of the Vitacolo association, which sent 700 young people away this summer. For the first time, we welcomed children who had almost nothing in their suitcases and for whom everything had to be bought. “
“Some parents begged us to send their children away, abounds Bruno Jarry, responsible for children at Clavim, the municipal association which organizes the stay for young people in Issy-les-Moulineaux. Moms were sorry to see their children very closed in on themselves, who never left their sofa. ” To meet demand, the team has redesigned shorter stays, in order to get more people to leave, and with a revised pedagogy with the help of a child psychiatrist. It was decided, for example, to focus on the collective.
Focus on the collective
The same goes for the Les Fauvettes association. “When they arrived, the younger children had a little more trouble than usual cutting the cord with their parents, notes Aleksandra Stamenkovic, program director of the association, in charge of the educational farm of Neauphle-le-Vieux, in the Yvelines. Then, quickly, they merged into the collective, delighted to be in contact with their comrades and animals. “
Citizenship education is at the heart of the association’s values and community life plays an important role. “We have succeeded in providing a carefree summer for the children by allowing them to experience together something that they cannot experience on their own at home,” she explains. This is how the summer camp helps to grow. “
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Fresh air, friends, the discovery of new activities … The recipe for the success of summer camps, unchanged for decades, works particularly in times of crisis, confirms researcher Pauline Clech (Sciences Po-CNRS), in a report submitted in 2020 for the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education.
The sociologist explains the alchemy that occurs there. By “The sharing of standards, rituals, stories lived together, as well as through the implementation of an active pedagogy, each camp acts on each of its members”, she wrote. These stays also provide resources to grow well: “Autonomy, adaptability, interpersonal skills and a sense of responsibility”, she listed.
“The environment does a lot”
In Brittany, Kamel Aimeur, who supervises the stay in Île-Grande, confirms the effect ” Magic ” summer camps. He walks, a broad smile on his lips, a large field facing the sea, where young people play thèque, a team sport close to baseball. “I think that the environment, the fact of discovering a new, beautiful place, does a lot after a year when travel was limited”, he remarks.
This year, the program of the days has been revised: “The idea quickly emerged to organize as many outdoor activities as possible, to have everyone running. We quickly realized that the first need of children was to get together, and to play, play, play. “
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On the Breton beach, Lisa, 11, is getting ready to put on her wetsuit to go surfing with her friends. The young girl tells of the feeling of freedom she experiences while sliding on the wave. Enough to make him forget the “Confinements, deconfinements, reconfinements” and a bit of her disappointment at not being able to go to Algeria for two years, whereas she has been going there every summer for a month since she was little. “I like going there to see my grandparents. I have my bearings there ”, blows the young girl, who must be satisfied with “Visio” with them. But at this precise moment, with her surfboard under her arm, she suddenly feels a little taller.
A drop in attendance
While 4 million children went to summer camp each summer in the 1960s, this figure fell to 1.6 million in 1995, then to 900,000 in 2019. Some organizations have sold their premises or gone out of business.
In 2019, the drop in attendance came to a halt. However, a year later, in the midst of a health crisis, only 450,000 young people left, in particular as part of the “learning holidays” system set up for the most vulnerable groups.
In 2021, attendance should be better, without reaching the 900,000 departures recorded in 2019, estimates the National Union of Tourism and Outdoor Associations (Unat).