Family activities

Develop new fun activities to spend quality time together as a family this summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much about the way we live and relate to others. Social distancing is necessary. A lot of conventional summer family activities, like visiting the local pool or attending summer camp, are out of the question this year.

But that doesn’t mean you and your kids have to sit home feeling bored! Here are some fun, relaxing and educational activities the whole family can enjoy without putting anyone at risk.

Create a Scavenger Hunt

This is a fun way to structure playtime, teach kids independence and incorporate new knowledge. Hide between five to 10 objects in your backyard. For smaller children, tell them which objects to look for. Older kids who can read can have a specific list of items to find or a list of clues.

Then send them outside to search. If you wish to go the “clues” route, use hints that test their knowledge in certain areas. For example, if they recently learned how four-leaf clovers often symbolize good luck, your clue could be “a green, good-luck symbol.” If you recently discussed the nutritional benefits of carrots, a clue could be “a veggie that’s good for your eyes.”

If your kids differ significantly in ages and/or abilities, make modifications that will level the playing field. You could tell your younger child exactly what objects to find, but give the older child clues to interpret.

Choose a fun reward for the winner of the scavenger hunt. Maybe the winner can pick that night’s movie. Perhaps they can choose the dinner menu for that night. You can hold a new scavenger hunt each week using objects related to learning, family discussions or previous explorations.

Make Ice Cream

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat. You may not be able to eat it at an ice cream stand with friends and neighbors, but you can certainly make it together in your own kitchen. This is a great way to teach kids about measuring and the concept of freezing … and the results are delicious.

The easiest way to make ice cream is by following the instructions with an ice cream maker — but if an ice cream maker is not handy, you can do without. Here’s an easy recipe to follow:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions:

  • Fill a big bowl with crushed ice and set aside. Have your kids help crack the eggs into the top bowl of a double boiler. Add milk, sugar and salt; stir well.
  • Place this mixture over simmering water in the double boiler and whisk constantly for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. Immediately remove the bowl from the double boiler and place it in the bowl of ice.
  • Meanwhile, instruct your kids to pour the heavy cream into a second bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat the whipped cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Kids can stir the whipped cream into the now-cooled egg mixture. If you want to add mix-ins, like sprinkles or chocolate chips, now is the time!
  • Pour the mixture into a loaf pan, freeze four hours and enjoy.

Plant a Garden Together

If you are like many parents, you have been meaning to plant a garden for years, but have never quite gotten around to it. Make 2020 the year you plant your own veggies! The easiest way to begin is usually with a small, 4-by-4 foot, raised-bed garden. You can buy a kit at a local home improvement store or have one delivered.

Assemble the raised garden bed, then have your kids help you fill it with equal parts potting mix and peat moss. (Your kids can use their hands to mix the two substances together but wash hands thoroughly afterwards.) Peat moss is not necessarily essential, but it helps keep the soil loose so veggies like carrots are easy to harvest and weeds are easy to pull.

Once your bed is full of dirt, it’s time to plant. The kids can poke holes in the soil with their fingers while you drop in the seeds. Cover the seeds, pat the soil gently and then let your kids water the seeds.

Every day, you can watch and water the garden together. As the seeds begin sprouting, talk about the germination process and how plants need sun and water to grow. As your veggies become ready to harvest, you can guide the kids in picking them.

Easy veggies to grow with kids include bush beans, carrots and lettuce. Tomatoes are also fun, but they have a long growing season, so plant pre-started plants from a nursery rather than starting from seed.

Take Nature Walks

Spending time outdoors is perfectly safe as long as you practice social distancing. Try to visit nature trails at times they are less likely to be busy, such as late morning or mid-afternoon. Bring your masks so that if you do encounter others on the trail, you can all mask-up before passing.

Nature walks can be more than just a fun way to get some exercise. They’re a great opportunity for your kids to learn about nature. Here are three fun and educational games you can play as you nature walk:

  1. Find a Plant That … This game is a modified version of “I spy.” As the group leader, say something like, “Find a plant that has blue flowers” or “Find a plant that is less than six inches tall.” The first person to find a plant that meets the criteria wins. Get creative and if your kids are older, you can let them take turns being the one to name the searches.
  2. Identify That Tree. If you are walking in a forested area, carry a tree guide that shows pictures and facts about various types of trees. Point out trees along the way and see if your kids can identify them. If they are not able to name a specific tree, look it up in the guide. Ask them to read the tree’s description aloud. This game teaches nature facts, research skills and speaking skills (you can help or read the descriptions to younger kids who are not advanced readers).
  3. Spot Five Species. Have each member of your group keep look out for different species of animals. The first person to see and name five species wins.

Summer should be fun! The pandemic does not have to change that. Feel free to get creative. You will create great memories and enjoyable experiences for all.


Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.

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