2020 will definitely be one for the history books. But regardless of whatever else is going on in the world, this is still summer vacation and many of us are still trying to make the most of these long sunny days. Especially for parents and families with small children, these days are precious, and it is important to make the most of them.
Admittedly, that is a little harder than usual with most things still closed, social distancing a priority, and family incomes disrupted across the board. So we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fun family activities for summer that are easy to do, kind on the budget, and keep safety and health a priority for everyone.
Camp Beneath the Stars
If the weather is nice where you are, take advantage of that while you can. Sleeping beneath the stars or backyard camping is a great option for keeping kids entertained, encouraging family time, and are easy to organize. You don’t even need a tent! An impromptu roof of tarp or garbage bags strung between two trees and a bed of old blankets (or pool floats if you have them) makes for your own rugged adventure not ten feet from your backdoor.
Camp out over a grill to toast marshmallows and hot dogs or other tasty treats. You can even use a tin can and some bricks to create a small DIY stove that is safer than an open fire.
*Always keep in mind the condition of your immediate surroundings and risk of wildfire as well as how ‘handsy’ your kids might be when considering lighting a fire.
If your climate or weather is less than ideal for outdoor camping, why not move the party inside? Erect a pop-up tent if you have one but, if your kids have any say in the matter, building your own is half the fun. Use chairs, the dining room table, or whatever else you want as a frame and drape with old sheets. *Pro Tip – try not to focus too much on creating the perfect tent, the most important part is that the kids have fun building it themselves. Camping indoors also doubles as a great excuse for movie nights, easy dinners or card games.
Make Fruity Rainbow Popsicles
Not a summer has gone by without my mother squirreling away fruit as it was about to go bad and popping it into the freezer. Rainbow popsicles or homemade ice cream are a great way to use up that soon to be ex-fruit.
You can use Popsicle molds or any smaller plastic cups you have on hand with a spoon as your stick. Fill with crushed fruit mixed with juice or yogurt and freeze in layers. Yogurt layers make for creamier consistency and juice makes for sweeter and icier layers. We like to do the first one juice, the middle yogurt, and the last one juice. One of my favorite flavor combos to use as a layer is actually diced apples and apple juice mixed with a little bit of yogurt to make it creamy.
Build a Bird Feeder
Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a sprawling ranch, in the deep south or the far north, there is still something magical about having a collection of tiny birds buzzing around your window. Bird feeders are a great easy DIY because there are so many options that can be made from materials that are already in your recycling bins.
The are also a lot of fun to customize for younger crafters and depending on where you live and the type of seeds you use can attract a broad variety of birds to enjoy all day long.
DIY Slip n’ Slide
While I have fond memories of visiting water parks during the peak of summer, I was even more in love with making them myself. If you have room to run, two garbage bags, a little dish soap, and some duct tape you are ready to Slip and Slide my friend. Access to a hose makes things easier, but dousing with buckets also works.
Cut the two garbage bags open along the sides to create long sheets of plastic and tape the two together at one end to double in length. Lay down your slide in a grassy unobstructed area. Make sure you check for litter or other debris before you lay down your slide if you are not in your own yard. Give a good squirt of dish soap, about one tablespoon every two feet to start, and splash with water. You can give things a little swirl if they look like they aren’t mixing or if you have some dry spots.
Then it’s all down to you. Get a good run up, dive smoothly onto the new surface, and slide just as far as those bubbles will carry you!
Sidewalk Splatter Art
I was one of those weird kids who hated, and I mean absolutely HATED, the feeling of chalk on my hands. So, not wanting to be left out, I would put plastic bags on my hands and hold my chalk through those. Unsurprisingly this resulted in more than a little bit of teasing. Sidewalk Splatter Art would have been the welcome release I needed back then.
Just grind up chalk with a little bit of water until you get a runny consistency and pour into a squirt bottle. You can find both the squirt bottles and the chalk at most dollar stores. Then just aim and squirt!
Depending on the thickness of your chalk mixture you will get more or less color payoff. At the right consistency though, the mixture is easy enough to control that you can even use it to write your name!
Fairy Jars and Aquariums
Like bird feeders, fairy jars are one of those DIY crafts that will never really go away because you can make them with just about anything you have on hand. Aquariums are much the same way. Any clear container can be filled with a little bit of sand, some ‘coral’ or other interesting things for the fish to swim around, and then either stick on fish or dangling fish to complete the look. You can do the same thing with terrariums and plastic lizards, or even dinosaurs.
While in some parts of the country gardening in summer may seem like a ludicrous idea, window box gardens are just as much fun, way less work, and are able to grow in most climates.
Whether you plant a massive vegetable plot in a massive backyard, a tiny little row of flowers by your front door, or in an old plastic container in your window sill, gardening is one of those simple pleasures that can serve as healing, meditation, and time spent together all at once.
Water Balloon Sports
Water balloon fights are a staple for summer. I always preferred playing different variations of the game rather than the basic battles. Water Balloon baseball, water balloon volleyball, water balloon tennis, make up the rules as you go along but essentially the goal is either to burst the balloon or not burst the balloon in order to get a point.
Water balloon volleyball was a favorite as we tossed the balls over a “net” (a pool noodle tied in place with string) between opposing teams. If the other side failed to catch the balloon and it hit the ground, not only did you score a point but also a big splash as well.
Visit a Nature Preserve
While many parks and beaches face intermittent closures over the summer as restrictions are lifted only to be met with new cases, many nature preserves remain largely unaffected. This is because, in many cases, natural preserve areas which may have bike paths, hiking trails or even water access, may or may not be directly supervised. There are two smaller preserves within five miles of where I live, one with water access and one without, that have both remained open the entire time.
Mini Golf or Disc Golf
This is one of those activities that, if things are open and you absolutely need to get out of the house for a bit, is still possible to do with relative safety. Wide-open spaces, lots of sunlight and fresh air, and limited contact with other people make this a safe option for a great many families.
And, if things are shut down and you are stuck at home, building a DIY mini golf course in your living room from old amazon boxes and rolled up sheets is a great way to kill a couple of days. Disc golf can also be a lot of fun to create your own course for at home, though I would definitely recommend this one as an outdoor activity. Frisbee’s and lamps have a contemptuous relationship at best.
Have a Read – a – thon
Sometimes, there is nothing better than just curling up with a great book. Make it an outdoor affair – wear plenty of sunscreen and bring a basket full of snacks to a picnic blanket in the grass. Stay indoors curled up on the couch or repurpose your indoor camping set up to create your own mini-library.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started, but there are more available HERE. These are just meant to give you a starting point. Summer is short and, pandemic or no pandemic, soon enough their days will be filled with reading assignments and algebra homework.
Make some memories while you can.
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