A combination of old fashioned games and today’s technology will get you, and your kids, through the summer.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that this summer will be unlike any we’ve had in previous years. All of us moms and dads have already had months and months of trying to entertain our children, long before summer began. Since many of us are probably suffering “creativity fatigue,” we asked Julia Carney of Mountainside Montessori School in Marshall for her suggestions on fun stuff to do this summer.
For starters, says Carney, it’s important to understand your child’s stages of development when planning activities. “Younger children live in the present and don’t realize what is missing. They play and learn through movement. Older kids need the feeling of being part of a community.”
Try to maintain social interaction for middle schoolers as much as you can, says Carney, even if it’s by video chat. This is also a great time for them to deepen connections with family and connecting with adults in their lives.
It can be very hard to get older kids involved in activities, but enlisting them to help teach younger siblings things like how to jump rope or hopscotch can draw the teens in and they’ll even have a good time.
She urges parents to sometimes take a step back and let kids figure out things themselves. “It gives them a sense of accomplishment,” she explains. “Kids are used to being busy with structure, and some kids will be bored because they aren’t used to it. But sometimes boredom is what fuels creativity,” says Carney. But for some things, it might be necessary to show them how to enjoy offline activities. For instance, they’ll probably be thrilled to spray their brother with the hose once they see you do it.
Here are a few more thoughts for summer fun in case you are completely out of ideas.
Consider volunteer work in a way that is safe. Volunteer at a food pantry or bring an elderly neighbor dinner. Express appreciation for grocery store employees, the mailman, etc. Older kids can give parents of younger children a break by video chatting with the little ones for a while; they will be delighted to have someone besides their parents to talk to. These kinds of activities will make kids feel more connected to their community.
Make use of technology to give new life to old fashioned, fun, offline experiences. Remember lemonade stands? Replace it with an Etsy shop selling crafts. Order crafts and supplies for friendship bracelets and origami, then learn to make them through Youtube videos. Remember putting on plays as a child? Older children can make their own videos of their own parts and digitally compile them with their friends’ for a complete performance. Kids desperately need this kind of social, collaborative experience right now.
Running through the sprinkler in the yard and experimenting with all the settings. With parental supervision, fill a plastic pool with water and have boat races. Maybe they can even make the boats themselves by learning origami.
Fishing and Nature Walks
With state and local parks opening up, there are a host of opportunities for families to take day trips. Silver Lake in Gainesville is a great place to fish or let kids play in the little beach section where they can see tiny fish and search for turtles. There is a huge, very old turtle who mysteriously appears near the pier when and if he feels like sticking his head out of the water. In Fauquier County, try the Riverside Preserve.
Growing things in the garden is appropriate for all age groups. Herbs are great — younger children will be thrilled to see the seed sprout and grow, and older children can smell and taste them and decide how to use them in cooking.
Make homemade lemonade and popsicles with younger kids. Older ones can help plan and make dinner. This makes them feel like a valuable member of the family and increases confidence, says Carney.
Indoor pillow forts are great for younger kids, and more complicated and creative outdoor ones are fun as they get older. Parents should resist helping, other than making sure no dangerous materials are involved. Let them figure it out themselves with their imagination. Don’t go buy your kid a playhouse from Walmart…the building and creating of the fort is the fun part, and it’s beneficial to their development. A playhouse plunked in the yard will grow old very quickly.
Socially Distance Games with Neighbors
Flashlight tag can be played from afar, as well as hopscotch when each kid draws in their own driveway. “Mother May I” and “Simon Says” can be played together from across the street. Jump roping, hula hoops, and scooter races can be competitions from afar.
Rock painting is a craft families have enjoyed for years. Now, some are taking it a step further by painting words of kindness on the rocks and leaving them around the neighborhood for others to discover.
One year we found a Ninja Warrior Course kit on sale and set it up for my son’s birthday party; they had so much fun. But you don’t need a kit to create an obstacle course. Cones, ropes or yarn, hoola hoops, and whatever you can find in the garage can be used to create a course to let kids get their energy out.
Bonding with Pets
The benefits of children owning pets — of any size — cannot be overstated. Pets awaken them to a whole new world of living beings that are so different from humans. Caring for something that is totally dependent on them teaches kids responsibility, empathy, and how to show affection. They have been shown to relieve stress and have a positive correlation with academic success. We’re not suggesting going out and getting a first time pet (unless you want one!), but if you have a pet already, kids can spend more time with them by grooming, walking, reading to them, and playing ball. Older kids can dive into the world of animal training by learning how to teach the dog new tricks. And don’t forget your big pets — horses and other farm animals can always use the extra attention too. Big or small, your pet will relish the extra time with their humans!