Since March, parents have needed to conjure up activities for their kids since so many normal things became off-limits as the pandemic spread across the country. Even though summer’s winding down, parents still have weekends and after-school hours to manage during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re looking for new ideas or a little inspiration – we’ve got you covered! Garden & Health has compiled a list of ideas to help you keep your children engaged and interested as this new, and unique, school year begins.
Go Gardening: Whether you have a green thumb or ten messy fingers, a gardening project can be fun, and beneficial – and can come in a variety of outdoor and indoor options. With little ones, you could start by simply planting flower seeds, while more ambitious young farmers might enjoy a veggie garden. Research to see what grows best and when in your area. A good rule of thumb for planting is to work backward from the first frost. The Spruce has a useful guide.
Have An Arty Garden Party: If you think you’ll simply soil any gardening project, just use actual paint to get your green thumb. One such project would be an “egg carton flower planter” using playdough as the earth, toothpicks or bamboo loop picks for the stems, and stickers or drawings for the flowers. Tinkergarten.com, an excellent site for age-appropriate activities, has a “recipe” – recommended for ages 3-8+ – where eggshells are transformed into decorative seed planters.
Seek And Ye Shall Find: Scavenger hunt season can last all year round – with a little imagination. Keys for a successful hunt, be it indoors or outdoors, include picking an interesting theme, having fun items to hide, and finding good hiding places. Adding in clues and time limits will help develop kids’ problem-solving skills, and prizes are always exciting. One parent-friendly variation for an indoor hunt that involves seeing how many toys or pieces of laundry children can pick up.
Playing The Field: The Olympics were canceled this year – but you can create your own version with family-friendly Field Day games, complete with medals! You can include traditional games, like sack races, hula-hoop shake-off, an obstacle course, or the egg & spoon dash (although the 3-legged race might not be feasible if social distancing is involved). Or try lawn bowling with plastic bottles, a sponge-into-a-water bucket toss, or a homemade water slide (using a tarp and dish soap) to increase the excitement. Add to the Olympic spirit by having everyone pick countries to represent and perhaps find a lawn game from their nation.
Food Fiesta: Another international-themed endeavor would be a festive meal focusing on a specific ethnic or cultural cuisine. It’s another fun way for kids to explore different foods and different countries. Older children can participate by choosing the cuisines or menu items as well as having them learn more about different cultures (did they know Marco Polo apparently brought pasta from China to Italy?). Further, enhance your (outdoor or indoor) global picnic with some art-project decorations.
Camping or Glamping?: Those restless for a camping adventure don’t need to look further than their own backyard or even the living room. Youngsters can learn to set up a tent in the yard just as well as at Bryce Canyon or use their engineering and architectural talents to build one indoors with bed-sheets and furniture. Don’t forget the spooky stories and the s’mores (you can make them by toasting marshmallows or just with marshmallow fluff and a toasted s’mores Pop Tart). If your family isn’t into camping, make a spa or salon day of it. Relax with a homemade oatmeal mask and soak your hands and feet in a dishwater soap mixture.
Get Crafty: Art projects are great because they can cover a whole range of ages and interests. Little ones (and not so little ones) love finger-painting. There are many recipes to make your own, including Martha Stewart’s (https://www.marthastewart.com/271805/finger-paints) simple version using sugar, cornstarch, cold water, and food coloring. This year, making – and exchanging – a friendship lanyard or bracelet would be an especially sweet thing to do. Older children can create their own cool clothes through tie-dying or up-cycling old clothes with alterations or accessories. 5-Minute Crafts’ YouTube videos (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC57XAjJ04TY8gNxOWf-Sy0Q) are a popular source for projects – like creating drip art using a hairdryer to melt crayons. For the science-minded, there is the always-popular baking soda/vinegar volcano, while crystals can be made quickly and easily using Epsom salt, hot water and (if you wish) food coloring. With all of these projects, adult supervision is advised, along with some type of drop-cloth covering.
That’s Entertainment: Family entertainment doesn’t mean everyone glued to their own screens. Get creative with family movie nights. Hang a sheet in the backyard for an alfresco film screening. Have your kids put together a themed film-festival. Bring together friends and other family members with a Netflix Party or a movie night via Zoom. For those who like to perform, you can stage a theater night: find a good play or write your own and then act (or sing) it out. A dance party lets everyone get silly (who is the worst dancer in the house?) as well as a little exercise. Charades and improv games also provide playful amusements along with exercising your imagination and mental dexterity.
Get Your Games On: Families can have an entertaining time together through a little (hopefully) friendly competition. Shake up Game Night by skipping over the same old boring board games and try something new. Among BuzzFeed’s recent top 20 new games list (https://www.buzzfeed.com/colingorenstein/best-board-games-of-2020) were: Telestrations (ages 8 months and up); Exploding Kittens (ages 7 and older); Watch Your Mouth (ages 8 and up), Catan (ages 10 and up) and (all-to-appropriate for staying at home), Trekking The National Parks (ages 10 and older). Or create your own game. Maybe a family cooking contest or a competition to see if a parent can finish their work before kids can clean their room.
Do Good: This year, we’ve all been thinking more about helping people, and there are many positive family activities that have local and global benefits. They can be little things like picking up litter while out on a walk or improving your home’s recycling efforts (make this a competition if you like). You can declutter your house and then donate the items to Goodwill or other charities. Perhaps, brainstorm a charity project that the whole family can participate in. The website www.kidsforpeaceglobal.org contains a number of thoughtful, socially-minded ideas, from writing nice notes to residents in local senior citizen homes and a note of gratitude to delivery drivers, to putting out a “take what you need; leave what you can” container outside your house.