Back in May, this Boca mom was counting down the days until the agony of the 2019-20 school year, otherwise known as distance learning, finally finished. Now, the summer vacation I so longed for is feeling like both the longest and shortest of all time.
Normally during this time of year, my family and I would be hitting the water parks and splash pads or traveling to cooler weather in the northeast. Time flies when you’re having fun, after all! Instead, we’re trying to create elaborate summer camp-like setups at home to entertain our kids. Parents are adding inflatable waterslides and trampolines to their backyards or praying for one cool afternoon at the beach where the sand won’t scorch everyone’s feet within seconds. Time does not fly on these particular days, trust me.
So, if you’re still looking for a few new ways to while away the last month or so of summer before school starts (in person or virtual, who knows???), yet still maintain your family’s sanity, we have some fun suggestions for you! Special thanks to Little Smiles for helping to compile this great list!
1. Maintain routine and community. You’ve heard this before, but encouraging routines around meals, naps and bedtimes, even during the summer, will help break up each day and provide structure for your kids, especially if you have little ones.
2. Make playdates, even if they’re virtual, special for summer. Think of ways to enhance them by:
- Hosting a movie review night. One week, your child chooses between two movies or cartoons to watch virtually with their friends and the next week their friend chooses and they watch together via Zoom.
- Group educational activities on Zoom. Even though classes have stopped, your child and their friends can continue to learn. Make homemade ice cream together to understand the reaction of salt and ice in freezing temperatures or a homemade volcano with baking soda and vinegar. The possibilities and resources are endless. Ideally, parents would trade off hosting an activity each week.
3. “Travel” somewhere with a virtual pen pal. There are many ways to help children of all ages learn about a new culture. Have your child pick a country and learn about its customs. Incorporate a family meal around the culture (couscous night for Morocco! Sushi night for Japan!) and sign up for a virtual pen pal in the country to continue socializing and learning. There are many safe websites that can match your child with a virtual pen pal who could turn into a real pal for life!
4. Take advantage of unique online learning by having your child attend a virtual summer camp, learn to play an instrument, take a yoga class, or go on a 360 degree virtual field trip to some of the world’s top children’s museums–all available online.
5. Add elements of wonder and surprise with a weekly scavenger hunt outdoors (ending with water balloons or a dip in the pool!). By now, your kids have probably built their 1,000th fort, but weekend family scavenger hunts can be a memorable part of your summer routine. If nature is hard to come by, even in-home/backyard scavenger hunts can be manageable positive adventures.
6. Arts and crafts. Resurrect old favorites like making homemade papier-mâché piñatas. We love websites like SimplyBessy.com with info on fun family crafts like making slime, candy necklaces, or even building a Christmas in July snowman with fake snow, complete with frozen hot chocolate and an early gift list for Santa.
7. Create summer meal theme parties. Let your kids pick the theme or turn dinner into “Hawaiian Night” where you eat outside or on a picnic blanket on the floor – and in costume. Stuffed animal guests are definitely allowed.
8. Maintain positivity. “Children take their cues from parents,” says Little Smiles Executive Director Nicole Grossmayer-Mercado. “They will feel safe if parents make them feel safe, happy and excited. While maintaining positivity is important, we know that’s not always possible. Take challenging times as opportunities to teach your children conflict resolution at a young age. Above all, parents should be kind to themselves and not put pressure on themselves to create a backyard Disney World this summer. Children will be happy if they see their parents are happy.”
9. Have fun! Easier said than done, but try to put down your phone during the activities above and aim to be immersed in each experience with your kids.
We only have them for 18 summers, after all.
ABOUT LITTLE SMILES
Little Smiles is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that helps caring professionals bring joy to children in tough situations. A wide range of caregivers help children of all ages who are facing devastating circumstances including terminal illness, abandonment and other trauma.