We parents have already made it through an unusual and difficult spring amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Now we face managing our children’s summer months without the aid vacations and activities that usually help us whittle the hours away.
It can be easy to panic at the thought of a free-range summer, especially if you and your partner work full-time. Having to come up with new ways to entertain already bored children is taxing mentally and emotionally.
As with the school year, your children may also need time to grieve a summer gone awry. Offer comfort and advice when you can. Empathy can also go a long way toward helping them deal with their emotions.
However, just because this summer may not look like those in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and educational. Here are some ideas to help you salvage your children’s summer.
Kick it old school: Remember summers when you were a kid? Mom and dad would shut off the television and force you to go outside and play and use your imagination. Now’s a good time to give your children a taste of that life. Spend a day, or a weekend, unplugged. Make mud pies in the back yard. Go for bike rides all over the neighborhood and cool off with an ice pop afterward. Chase lightning bugs at dusk. You can even just let your children be bored and see what comes of it.
Camp in the backyard: Just because you can’t or don’t want to go on vacation right now doesn’t mean you can’t create your own little getaway. Buy or borrow a tent from a friend if you don’t have one and go camping in your backyard. Don’t have a backyard? Create a fort inside using furniture and some sheets or blankets. Make s’mores. Teach your children to create shadow puppets and tell spooky stories by firelight or flashlight.
Go fishing: Another classic summer activity! If you’re not an avid fisher, you probably should do a little Googling before setting off to the ol’ fishing hole. Anyone 16 and older must also have a fishing license in the state of Virginia, but it’s simple to obtain and costs $16 for a city/county license or $23 for a 1-year state license. See here for details. Once you’ve got the legal bit out of the way, find yourself a nice little spot and teach your child the finer points of casting, reeling, and patience.
Rock out: Spread a little love around your community with painted rocks. Gather a few smooth rocks, some paint pens or weather-proof paint, and get creative. Once you’ve got a few ready, head out around your neighborhood and hide them for others to find. There are countless Facebook groups you can join for inspiration.
Parade the neighborhood: Let your children decorate their bicycles, tricycles and wagons and let them parade through the neighborhood. If you have an active online neighborhood group, you can probably even organize a small socially distanced event with your neighbors.
Bird watching: DIY a bird feeder and see what little creatures stop by your house. There are numerous styles you and your child can make together, from simple birdseed-coated sticks to recycled soda bottle feeders. Here’s a list of different styles. You can simply enjoy all your new visitors or turn it into an even more educational moment and help your child identify the different kinds of birds that drop by. Get a small notebook and let them jot down their observations about the birds and even draw the ones they like best.
Cooking: As fun as it is practical, learning to cook can be a great way to teach your children independence and creativity. For little kids, give them healthy options and let them create their own snack plate every day. This teaches them independence and how to make healthy choices. If your children are a bit older, let them peruse your cookbooks or search online for a new dinner to make each week. Have them help you create it by measuring ingredients and mixing things together. Being a part of the cooking process can help foster healthy eating habits and will give your child a sense of pride in the finished product.
Community work: Now more than ever is a great time to show your children what it means to be a part of a loving community. Collect old toys and clothes for a local drive or church. Drop food off at a food pantry. Write notes or draw pictures for your neighbors and leave them in their mailbox. Grab a trash bag and some gloves and pick up the neighborhood on your evening walk.
This may not be the summer you had planned, but it can be one they’ll remember their whole lives.