When the pandemic reached Connecticut, most outdoor activities and summer camps were immediately canceled over fears that gatherings of people, even in small groups, would increase the spread of the virus.
For many parents and guardians of young children, camp-less summers meant that they needed to get creative in finding things for local youngsters to do.
That’s where the Cheshire’s Parks and Recreation team came in, offering what might be the perfect solution for those summer blues.
Parks and Rec program coordinator Tim Weed and Therapeutic Coordinator Barbara Costello, along with her intern Emily Letourneau, have been creating “take and make” bags, each one containing a variety of activities that children can enjoy while in the safety of their own homes.
“We all collectively knew that we needed to start providing things for the kids to be able to do while they were social distancing and in quarantine,” explained Costello. “We had the idea to make these bags in order for parents and kids to have something to do although their traditional summer programming was canceled.”
The bags all have themes and contain enough supplies and directions for 10-12 simple science projects, crafts and activities for one child, and are $15 each. They can be reserved through the Park and Rec website.
“At first, we only had a few bags to offer because we weren’t sure how the turnout would be,” said Costello. “But now we’re making almost 23 bags for each theme!”
“The feedback we have received from these bags is just awesome. People really like them,” added Weed.
The bags can be reserved online and then be picked up at the Harmon Leonard Jr. Youth Center parking lot at 559 South Main Street on Monday mornings each week, between 9 and 11 a.m.
The past themes have included “Nuts About Nature,” “Camp Life,” “Ahoy Matey,” and “Let’s Get Buggy.”
While the bags were originally part of the Parks Department’s attempt to create programming during the pandemic, the staff has come to believe in the potential benefits of creating the bags and providing them year round, even when the current crisis has waned.
“These are going to be great to have for school vacation days or even snow days when the traditional daily programs are not running,” said Costello. “These bags are not going anywhere.”
For Costello’s intern, making activity bags is not necessarily what she thought she would be doing with her summer, but she is taking it all in stride.
“It’s a really rewarding experience, being here and interacting with everyone,” Letourneau said. “I’ve learned a lot about programming and getting creative with various activities.”
The “take and make” bags can be reserved by visiting https://web1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/ctcheshirewt.wsc/splash.html.
The Parks and Recreation Department has been posting updates about the program on their Facebook page. See what they are up to by visiting https://www.facebook.com/cheshireparksandrec/.