This is most definitely unlike any other summer I’ve ever experienced! COVID19 restrictions have completely transformed our typical summer plans. Having three rowdy kids meant that in the past, I would get the schedule pretty well organized, and jam-pack it with fun stuff! Several weeks of summer camp, trips to the beach, visiting with cousins, and at least a few days away traveling (Banff, last summer – those were the days…). It was the time to reconnect and explore together. Summer is a season that we all looked forward to!
I’ll be honest, this summer has been rough. I realize that is a bit of an understatement for many of us. Gone is even the option to travel (and with good reason!). Camp was cancelled for the first time in 50 years, and my kids miss their summer friends desperately. We have been able to visit a beach once or twice, but the level of preparation and precaution almost outweighs the fun of a little time at the ocean.
Keeping the kids (and myself!) from going stir-crazy has required me to regroup and get creative. What can we do to make this summer safe, but still fun? Here are a few suggestions for kids and the kid at heart!!
- Take a trip to Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts
My kids are huge history buffs, especially my 8 year old son. We have read up on ancient Pompeii, studied the greatness of President Abraham Lincoln, and even went on a trip to Washington D.C. last Fall, based around his interest in American history. Right now, he is in full George Washington/Alexander Hamilton mode (see above!), and besides having watched ‘Hamilton’ at least a dozen times, this little boy even put together his own period costume to join in!
We decided to continue fostering the kids’ history interests with a deep dive into old fashioned New England life from the 19th Century. Old Sturbridge Village is an amazing trip back in time to the 1800s. The whole campus is set up in period style, with costumed actors that are well versed in how people lived in times very different than what we have today. Since COVID19 is a fact of life at the moment, we followed appropriate precautions and restrictions. But, my kids still had a ball and we didn’t feel like we lost anything. Bonus: the ice cream and gift shops were open, so everybody left happy and a little more knowledgable about our history!
Search for your State’s immersive history sites and see what’s available. You won’t regret it!
2. Go Out and Pick Your Own Produce!
I am always a big fan of supporting local farmers, and farm stands in general, and there’s no better time than now to take advantage of PYO (‘Pick Your Own’) offerings! We have been out strawberry & blueberry picking, as well as hitting the local farm stands for fresh peaches & homegrown veggies. Besides getting some sunshine and yummy fruit to eat, the wide open spaces let you enjoy a traditional summer activity without worrying too much about social distancing. Each farm has their own COVID19 rules (masks are always a must).
You can find your local PYO opportunities at LocalHarvest.com.
3. Explore Nature!
We are lucky and live close to several State Parks and open areas. With a little Googling, you can find kid-friendly nature hikes in your own neck of the woods! Reservoirs, State Parks, and local lakes & ponds often offer picturesque views and loads of wildlife to check out. We will scout out waterfalls or small streams (for wading & frog catching!) before hitting the trails. Remember to wear comfortable footwear, pack lots of water & snacks, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
Another fun activity to compliment a nature hike is a round of “Nature Bingo”. This is super handy to have when your little hiker’s legs start to get tired, and when that pleasant hike threatens to become a long slog back to the car. Just print out a bingo template and fill in with creatures & sights you might encounter on your adventure. My kids love this activity and it helps motivate them to finish a hike!
4. Old Fashioned Play!
I know, I know. You think I’m talking about checkers and jumprope – Nope. I am emphasizing the importance of non iPad/Xbox/Computer/Minecraft play. Get outside! Bury small dinosaur toys or shells in the sandbox, and pretend to be famous paleontologists out in the desert! Bring out the bubbles and make a bubble blizzard! Grab some water cannons and help water the lawn, I mean… squirt those kids to cool off!
Playing outside with limited structure is not only healthy for everyone, but for children, an important part of their development. My boys had to ‘learn’ how to play without structure once school was closed and our organized sports were cancelled. Now, I can send them outside and walk out a little while later to find them pretending to be flying airplanes, or having a mock Roman Legion battle with forts made from our winter sleds (this is true)!
Need a little guidance for pretend play? Start with a treasure map! My kids love it when I recycle a large piece of cardboard and create a fantastic treasure map on the back. Draw some wild mountain lairs, fairy villages, and cursed forests. They can be as simple or as complicated as you like! Just make sure to put an “X” marks the spot for the hidden treasure at the end! These simple little maps have fueled hours of play, both indoors and outside!
5. Rainy Day Summer Fun!
We’ve had a super rainy summer, and it was a challenge to keep everyone entertained. Start thinking in and out of the box! Grab those boardgames! My kids love nothing better than a Monopoly game or an epic battle of Risk! Test their math skills with a game of “Adding Wars”; just like a normal game of War with a deck of cards, but have the kids add or subtract the numbers to “win”.
Try out simple science experiments or making homemade play dough. Call up a family member over Zoom and have an almost-in-person baking party or maybe a round of Go-Fish! A great idea for indoor fun is a virtual movie night! Call up a few friends and choose a movie on Netflix. Watch ‘together’ with the help of a Google Group Chat!
With a few ideas in your back pocket, this can be a summer that’s not only fun for your family, but maybe memorable for all the right reasons too!