Schools and summer camps have officially been cancelled here in Toronto due to the 2020 global pandemic, and parents everywhere (myself included!) are scrambling. My daughter has been out of school since March 6th, and while I’m proud of the way we have adjusted to our new normal, there’s no denying that this has been hard. My husband and I are stretched way too thin, and our sweet girl misses her friends. We’re fortunate in that her school has regular class Zoom calls each day, and her teachers have been so good at ensuring we have a steady stream of assignments to keep her busy and challenged. But with only a few weeks left in the academic year and all of our summer plans up-ended, I’ve been frantically searching for things to do at home with kids so we don’t go completely stir crazy.
How to Create a Summer Routine for Kids
While I anticipated summer camps would be closed this year, I still felt unprepared when the official announcement was made. Like many other parents, we were hanging onto hope that we would have flattened the curve enough for health officials to deem summer camps safe for kids. I think the cancellation of summer camps sort of made the situation we’re in seem more real.
One of the things I find helpful when faced with uncertainty is to plan, so once the initial shock and panic wore off, I launched into full-on planning mode. In addition to collecting a list of things to do at home with kids, I started to strategize ways to make the next 4+ months easier on all of us. I know from experience that kids need consistency and routine, and thought I’d share some of the ideas that have helped us create structure with 2 work-at-home parents and a fiesta 9-year-old.
1. Create a Daily Routine
Each evening, my daughter and I spend ~5 minutes writing out a rough plan for the following day on a chalkboard to help us prioritize our most pressing tasks. I find it really helpful to have a visual representation of how our day will unfold so my daughter knows what to expect, and to ensure she has activities to look forward to. I’ve tried creating hour-by-hour schedules for her in the past, but find it creates way more stress than it’s worth. I’m a much bigger fan of time-blocking, which involves breaking our day into chunks of time (i.e. household chores, outdoor time, independent play, family activities, etc.), and then assigning ideas to each.
2. Get Outside
Surviving summer camp cancellations wouldn’t seem so difficult if we didn’t have to keep 6 feet away from others and the world wasn’t simultaneously shut down, but these things have been imposed for an important reason: to keep us safe and alive. It can feel really isolating not being able to come and go as you please, and if you or someone in your family is immunocompromised, social distancing is more important to you than ever before. It can be tempting to just shut ourselves off from the outside world altogether, but if you can manage it, try to squeeze in a little outdoor time every day. The fresh air and vitamin D will do wonders for your soul, and your kids need the opportunity to let off some steam.
3. Set Aside One-On-One Time Each Day
If you’re looking for things to do at home with kids this summer, one important but often overlooked parenting tip is to ensure you’re spending quality time with your child each day. Having an endless list of activities is helpful, but if you’re not taking the time to press pause, put your smartphone down, and connect with your child, he or she will find other (often negative) ways to get your attention.
I realize this may sound daunting to parents who are trying to work from home, and want to remind you that spending quality time together doesn’t need to be an all-day olympic event. It just needs to be deliberate and intentional. Play a game, read a book, enjoy a scoop of ice cream, or watch silly YouTube videos together for 15 minutes. It really can be that simple!
4. Let Your Child Connect with His or Her Peers
While we may not be able to organize playdates and have face-to-face get togethers with the people we love, try to remember that your children are missing their friends just as much (if not more) than you are. Schedule regular FaceTime sessions, set them up with an email account so they can send silly emails to one another, dig up an old cell phone and add pay-as-you go credits so they can text their BFFs, let them play video games together online, and when restrictions start to lift, you may even consider allowing your child to have a socially distanced chat with a friend outside.
5. Create a Summer Bucket List Jar
If you’re looking for a list of things to do at home with kids this summer, take a look at the ideas below, identify the ones that interest your little ones (and that you realistically have time for), write each idea on a popsicle stick, and stick them into a jar labeled ‘summer bucket list’. Then, when your kids complain they are bored, have them draw a popsicle stick to reveal an activity you know you have the time and capacity to setup and supervise!
16 Things to Do At Home with Kids This Summer
1. START THE DAY WITH AN ALPHABET WORKOUT
The first item on my list of things to do at home with kids was inspired by my daughter’s gym teacher. At the beginning of the 2020 pandemic when we were trying to get used to our new normal and our kids were climbing the walls, she created an ‘alphabet workout’ whereby she assigned different exercises to every letter of the alphabet. For example:
A: 5 leg lifts
B: 5-minute plank
C: 10 jumpking jacks
…you get the idea
Using her master list, we have been able to create different workouts using different words, like our names, the city we live in, the day of the week, etc. It’s a fun way to help your kids burn off some energy first thing in the morning, and you can make it as simple or challenging as you want!
2. MAKE AN OBSTACLE COURSE
Obstacle courses are one of my favorite things to do at home with kids because they are easy to setup, and you can create indoor and outdoor options to get kids moving. You can make fancy obstacle courses, or you can do what I do and just draw several large squares with sidewalk chalk on your driveway, and write an activity inside of each. I include things like jumping jacks, leg lifts, running on the spot for 60 seconds, hula hooping, and jump rope, and the idea is for my daughter to start at one end of the course and progress through it as quickly as possible. It so much fun, and you can easily recreate an indoor version using painters tape instead of chalk!
3. HAVE A WATER BALLOON FIGHT!
Water balloons are something we enjoy as a family every weekend in the summer months, and Amazon sells ‘Bunch O Balloons’, which allow you to fill and tie 105 water balloons in less than 60 seconds. I’m serious! This is a great activity to help kids practice their throwing and catching skills, and you can setup a target practice in your backyard as well.
4. MAKE WATER BALLOON PINATAS
If you have a clothesline and clothespins (this clothesline set from Amazon is fairly inexpensive), water balloon pinatas are another one of my favorite things to do at home with kids when the weather is hot! I first saw this idea on Paging Fun Mums, and I think you and your little ones will love it.
5. MAKE YOUR OWN JEWELRY
If you’re looking for things to do at home with kids on bad weather days (or when you need a reprieve from the heat), jewelry making is a great option to consider. It’s a great quiet activity you can enjoy with your little ones, and an awesome way for kids to practice their fine motor skills. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this collection of 31 jewelry crafts for kids.
6. HAVE FUN WITH BALLOONS
If you’re looking for indoor activities for kids, you will be amazed at how much fun balloons can be. Blow up a couple and let your younger kids hit them across the room, and if you have older children, grab a couple of fly swatters and challenge them to a game of balloon tennis!
7. PLAY HOPSCOTCH
There are so many ways you can switch up a good old game of hopscotch! Grab some painters tape and create a hopscotch on your living room or basement floor – or sketch one out in sidewalk chalk on your driveway or back deck – and then have your child only jump on odd or even numbers, ask him or her to switch from jumping with 2 legs to one leg, instruct him or her to jump backwards and then forwards at different intervals, and yell out random numbers to keep your little one guessing and engaged.
8. ORGANIZE A NATURE-INSPIRED SCAVENGER HUNT
If you’re looking for things to do at home with kids while you’re while relaxing in the backyard or walking around your neighborhood, another no-fuss idea is to create a scavenger hunt. We’ve written an entire post on indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts for kids, but if you’re looking for something quick and easy to organize when your little one is climbing the walls, write out a list of specific things for him or her to find while you’re outside. For example, your list could include the following:
- A tree
- A green leaf
- A brown leaf
- A bug
- A feather
- A rock
- A cloud
- An ant
- A bird
- A flower
Write your list on a piece of paper, attach it to a clip board, and give your little one a marker so he or she can cross the items off their list as they find them.
9. ENJOY SOME DOLLAR STORE CRAFTS TOGETHER
There are so many amazing crafts you can create with your kids when you’re stuck inside, and we’ve curated 26 ideas using items you can find at your local dollar store. CLICK HERE for our favorite ideas!
10. MAKE PLASTIC BAG ICE CREAM
Have you ever made plastic bag ice cream with your kids? If not, give this Plastic Bag Ice Cream by Teach Mama a try this summer! It’s really easy to make, gets your kids laughing and moving as they shake their plastic bags to freeze their ice cream, and you can add your own toppings for a little added flare!
11. CREATE YOUR OWN EGG CARTON SEED PLANTERS
Rescue an egg carton from your recycling bin and create your very own seed planters! All you need is potting soil and seeds, and you and your kids can create your very own indoor garden. Make sure to label the planters if you are trying to grow more than one thing, and I suggest putting your egg carton into a shallow dish to avoid making a mess when you water your plants!
12. CALM DOWN WITH STRAW PAINTING
If your little ones are climbing the walls and you need a calming activity to help them settle down, straw painting is a great activity to try as it forces kids to take deep, calming breaths. All you need to do is plop some watered down watercolor paints on a piece of paper, and then ask your child to spread the paint around by blowing air through a drinking straw. It’s simple, fun, and effective in getting kids to calm down and concentrate, and you can enjoy this activity inside or outside all year long.
13. COLLECT AND PAINT ROCKS
Rocking painting is another great idea for those who are looking for things to do at home with kids this summer. You can take your kids on a walk around the neighborhood to search for rocks, and then check out this collection of 24 rock crafts for a little inspiration! These ideas make great keepsakes you can display in your front yard, or you can give them as gifts to family, friends, and neighbors to help brighten their days!
14. TRY THE EXPLODING DIET COKE & MENTOS EXPERIMENT
If you haven’t tried to explode Mentos in diet coke, are you even a parent? LOL. This is such a fun experiment to do with kids, and it doesn’t require a lot of setup, which I love. Tinkerlab has all the details, which you can find HERE.
15. GET SENSORY WITH SCIENCE!
If your kids enjoy science, there are tons of great sensory-inspired ideas you can enjoy both inside and outside this summer. This post has 27 ideas your little ones will love!
16. ORGANIZE A FAMILY GAME NIGHT
My final idea for those who are looking for things to do at home with kids this summer is to play board games together. There are TONS of fabulous family-friendly ideas, and most games help children practice one or several important skills. Here are 5 of our favourites!
- Learning Resources Lil’ Lemonade Stand-Off. I’ve never met a Learning Resources game or toy that has disappointed me, and this game is no exception. It’s a memory building game designed for kids aged 5 and older, and while the premise of the game is simple enough for kids to grasp and play without adult supervision, the cards can be quite challenging, which is perfect if there’s a big age range between your children.
- Operation. This is a great game to help kids work on their fine motor skills! Players take turns removing wacky ailments from the game board using a set of tweezers, and have to be careful to remove each piece with precision so as not to set off the buzzer. This is an oldie but goodie your kids will love!
- Scrabble. Scrabble is a great game for kids who struggle with planning and organization. As the game progresses, they must strategize and anticipate how they can build their own words off of those already played by others. This is also a great game for kids who struggle with spelling and/or vocabulary!
- HedBanz. If your kids have never played HedBanz, they’re in for a REAL treat. This game is heaps of fun, and the question and answer premise behind this game will challenge their critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills.
- Stare! Junior. This game challenges kids’ memory, concentration, and imagination all at the same time. Players are given 30 seconds to stare at an image on a card, and then the card is flipped over and another player asks them a series of questions about the image to see how much they can remember. It’s heaps of fun!
I hope this collection of tips and things to do at home with your kids inspires you to find new and creative ways to keep your children entertained this summer and beyond! And if you’re looking for more kids activities you can enjoy with your little ones this summer, you might enjoy these ideas too!
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