In some areas of the country, families have been isolating at home for over 3 months. As we enter the summer months, many parents are wondering how to maximize summer fun while staying home and staying safe. As a central tenant of the begin to ECSEL program, educators are instructed to establish a consistent routine with children in the classroom as routine is often comforting and helps create a controlled environment for both fun and learning.
With routines thrown out the window as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraging parents to instead establish a new normal and embrace changes in routine as opportunities to explore new ways of learning with your kids. Offering your child choices of activities throughout the weeks will empower them with a sense of control that they might be missing. Furthermore, founder and CEO of Housman Institute, Dr. Donna Housman, Ed.D., reminds us that play is a child's "work" and is essential in developing the foundation for social, emotional, and cognitive skills. A wealth of research shows that unstructured play is a fundamental necessity for children to thrive physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.
In her most recent blog, Housman also says, “When parents at home can promote playful interactions, they are also not only helping to build their children’s developing brains but also are helping to reduce tension and stress while building resilience, strength and positive coping capacities.” Just what we are all needing right now.
Below, you will find some of our favorite summer-fun-at-home ideas:
Nature Hunt: Grab a notebook, pen, and binoculars or a magnifying glass. Go for a walk and have your child try to identify any animals, bugs, birds or plants that catch their attention. Have them either write down the name of the object or have them try to sketch it. Bark rubbings and insect collecting are also great options!
Emotions Journaling: During this time of uncertainty, shifting emotions and upheaval is completely normal. Encourage your children to investigate their emotionality by having them track their emotions in any way they feel comfortable. Perhaps one day they decide to illustrate their frustration in a drawing and the next they express joy in a poem. Open discussion around emotions is always encouraged, but giving your child the autonomy to explore it on their own is also a healthy and valuable lesson.
Ice Cream “Social”: If you are cautiously opening your family circle to other families, having an outdoor ice cream sundae party is a great way to enjoy time with others. Have each family set up their own sundae bar in the yard or on the patio and enjoy some laughter and sweet treats.
Tie Dye: Set up a tie-dye station in your house or outdoors! All you need is a cotton item (or several), colored dye, a large bucket or pot, and something to tie up the item with, such as rubber bands or string. There are many different designs you can create just be applying the ties in different ways. Remember to line the ground with plastic bags or newspapers, protect your hands with gloves and protect your clothes with an apron before getting started.
Water Play: Set up a sprinkler, water table or inflatable pools so your kids can enjoy the warm weather without getting overheated.
Backyard Olympics/Field Day: Gather your family or quarantine bubble to participate in some fun outdoor games like kickball, wife ball, capture the flag, egg and spoon race, sack races, tug o’ war or obstacle courses. Getting active keeps your body healthy and your mental health in check.
Arts & Crafts: There are endless lists of creative projects you can enjoy with your family. Art is a wonderful outlet for emotional expression, mindfulness and creativity.
Book Club: Begin a family or neighborhood bookclub during which a family selects a book to read each week before gathering either virtually or socially distanced to discuss. You can even serve snacks that go with the theme of the book!
Backyard Camping: If your family is catching cabin fever, it may be time to pitch some tents and set up a camp site in the backyard. Complete the experience with a campfire, s’mores and fun stories.