Pandemic or not, summer is coming, and that means your kids are going to be restless and bored now that school is over. Summer camps have traditionally been a parent’s saving grace every year since they help kids occupy their time and provide both educational and social opportunities that help them grow.
This year, of course, summer camp may be off the table entirely (or seriously in doubt) — but your kids still need some kind of summer activity and enrichment in their lives. Well, raise the window and throw open the doors on the next sunny day and try on one of these ideas for size:
Go Camping in the Backyard
You don’t have to go to the campground to go camping. Pitch a tent in the backyard and camp out where you are! A portable fire pit can let you grill hotdogs and burgers and make s’mores, just like you’re really at camp. You can spend the evening telling ghost stories and picking out the constellations until everyone falls asleep.
Don’t know the constellations? Make this a learning activity for the whole family with the use of your cellphone. SkyView is an augmented reality app that acts as your personal astronomer and Sky Map is available for Androids.
Mess up the Sidewalk
Sidewalks serve as the perfect canvas for kid art everywhere, so let your kids go wild. Whether you use an ordinary bucket of colored chalk or spring for the street pastels, your kids can tap into their creative sides and decorate the walks outside of your home with anything they can imagine.
The best part? The next rain (or a good dousing from the hose) will wash everything away and provide a whole new blank canvas for their use. You can let your little Rembrandts and Picassos develop their skills all summer long.
Paint Some Rocks
All over the country, painted rocks are becoming a way for people to express their kindest thoughts and warmest wishes toward others. Joining the movement can put your kids in touch with a whole secret community of people in your area via Facebook, where the whole “painted rock treasure hunt” idea took off.
The idea is that you join a local “happy rock” group, find a nice rock that inspires the artist-within, paint it and seal it with a message directing others to the Facebook group you joined. Then, you leave your creation along a local path or in some other place where it can be found by another person. It’s a clever, joyful way to fill the world with surprises and install a little whimsy into someone’s everyday existence.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
If you have several young children who are close in age, this is the perfect activity to keep them occupied for an entire day (or longer), especially if they love adventure. Scavenger hunts are easy, inexpensive and fun. It just requires a little set-up on your part to work.
For very small children, you can give them color-coded sheets that encourage them to find a small object outside that matches each of the colors on their sheet of paper. If your children are school-aged already, you can go with more elaborate scavenger hunts and even hide “treasures” (prizes from the local dollar store) for them to find when they follow your clues.
Plant a Family Garden
A family garden can simultaneously occupy your kids and teach them some important lessons about science and botany. Dig up a small patch of the yard and let the kids pick the vegetables and herbs you’re going to plant. Then, teach the kids how to cultivate new growth and keep the garden free of weeds all summer. When they’re able to harvest, they’ll take an endless amount of pride at seeing their very own produce on the table — and they’ll have learned a whole new skill.
Create a Miniature Golf Course
Do your kids look forward to playing mini-golf every summer? (Who doesn’t, right?) Well, you can create your own miniature course right in the backyard. Buy a set of toy golf clubs and use red solo cups, cardboard tubes, boxes and other things you can find around the household as obstacles and challenges at each tee. When you have it all set up, challenge the kids to see who can make a “hole-in-one” or get the best score on the set.
Send Them to Virtual Camp
Finally, if your kids are really missing the structure and focus of summer camp and you’re simply out of ideas, consider a “virtual” camp in lieu of the real thing. While your kids have to attend online, they can still experience some of the best things camp has to offer in the way of entertainment and education.
Camp Wonderopolis is offering a free summer program for kids of all ages that focuses on STEM skills and literacy programs, but other virtual offerings center around reading, art, computers and more at various price points.
You can even rotate through these ideas a few times by combining them with themes, like “a rainbow scavenger hunt” or a “silly faces chalk art contest” to keep the kids more engaged. Just remember: Summer without camp doesn’t have to be boring — or frustrating — and you don’t have to let the summer pass your kids by simply because they’re social distancing for safety. Once the kids start letting their imaginations shine, there’s no telling what kind of fun summer games you can create right at home.