7 Tips On Keeping The Kids Busy This Summer Break
Summertime is the time for fun, but this year traditional activities like sleepovers, visiting the zoo or library, swimming at the local pool and participating in park programs may not be options for many Canadians due to pandemic restrictions.
So, what’s a parent to do? Here are some tips to keep the kids busy and happy even if you are working from home and kids’ programs are limited.
Tips for Working From Home with Kids this Summer
1. First, it’s important to maintain some structure.
Even though kids are out of school, keep routines going. That means mealtimes, bedtimes and naptimes are adhered to, perhaps with special treat nights on Friday or Saturday. You can even create a schedule for kids that include chores, special outings, mealtimes, etc., and post it on the fridge so they can refer to it.
Depending on the situation with restrictions, you may be working at home with little access to extra help, like babysitters, grandparents, sports programs or daycare. If there are two working adults in the household it’s good to divide up the time—either days or mornings, lunches or afternoons—to be the “point” parent for that time period. It’s a way to share the load, get focused work time and stick to a plan—or at least try to! (If things don’t always go according to plan, that’s expected and it’s OK!)
To help with mealtimes, check out these quick and easy kid lunch ideas. They include recipes for picky eaters, ways to get the kids to eat more fruit and vegetables and make-ahead options—all economical, and without having to spend hardly any time in the kitchen!
Once your routines and plans are in place, it’s time for a bit of fun!
2. Create game boxes
One way to keep kids busy is to have prepared activities ready to go. Fill several boxes or bags with things your child can play with alone. You can include new toys or old favourites. It’s good to pop in some surprises. Opt for a few compatible items in each box/bag—items like colouring books and crayons, modelling clay and cookie cutters (and a garbage bag to model on), paper and stickers, blocks, playing cards, a kaleidoscope, marbles, easy puzzles, beads and string, macaroni, popsicle sticks, glue and construction paper, or other items for crafts. When you need to keep your child busy, give them a box or let them choose one. They may resist at first depending on their age, but soon “game box time" will become part of their routine.
Other box/bag ideas are: Old containers or a colander and pompoms to play a tossing game; toy cars and coloured duct tape to create roads on the carpet; paper plates, popsicle sticks and balloons to play balloon ping pong; detergent and a pipe cleaner to blow bubbles, or a purchased bubble kit while you watch them play outside of course!
3. Nip boredom in the bud
While sometimes boredom is not a bad thing for children (it can promote creativity and problem-solving), it’s good to have a backup plan for when kids inevitably say, “I’m bored!” Make a list of activities (depending on ages) that kids can do any time when they feel bored. You can get the kids involved in creating the list, and create more than one list for kids of different ages.
Post the list on the fridge and if anyone is bored they can refer to the list. Some ideas: colour, sculpt with clay, practice somersaults, read their brother/sister a story, dance, do jumping jacks, do a puzzle, play Twister, make someone a handmade card, play fetch with the dog, water the plants, tidy their room.
Alternatively, you can take popsicle sticks, have kids decorate them using markers or stars/stickers, and then write boredom-busting activities on each of them and put them in a jar to be chosen from when boredom strikes.
4. Plan breaks with the kids
Even on workdays, plan breaks with the kids in the morning, over lunch hour or after work, or when your schedule allows. Even if time is short, doing something fun together will leave kids satisfied and more willing to play on their own later. Simply go outside for some fresh air or go to the park to fly a kite. Get some chalk and play hopscotch. Do an impromptu scavenger hunt. Collect summer wildflowers and put them in a vase or press them in a book. Watch a short video together. Bring out an old blanket and read books outside on the grass. Write a letter to a relative or do a video call. Play a card or board game. Get some ice cream from the ice cream truck. It will do you some good too!
Over lunch time, let kids help alongside in the kitchen as much as they can, and keep it simple so you have time for an activity, too. Try fast and easy Apricot, Cheddar and Chicken Sandwich for the whole family, or try these easy lunch sandwich ideas.
If kids are small and aren’t able to help out too much, while you are getting meals ready, let friends or siblings “babysit,” via video call.
5. Nature: indoors
Sometimes the weather outside doesn’t cooperate, or you need to be at your desk. How about letting the children go on a virtual safari? Or how would they like to keep tabs on an eagle’s’ nest? See a baby robin hatch? Watch pandas play? Go underwater to see tropical fish? There are fantastic live nature cams set up by zoos, universities and conservatories from all over the world. They are a easy and fun way for kids to get engrossed in the fascinating world of animals and nature.
Explore.org has live cams focused on a who’s who of the animal world. Kids can choose from such categories as Africa, Bears, Birds, Oceans, Dogs, Cat sanctuaries and from there get even more specific. Does your child love giraffes, foxes or polar bears? You will be able to find a live cam to match.
Africam.com has several cameras set up all over Africa.
WildEarth Kids take kids ages 4-18 on free, live and interactive safari experiences, transporting them from wherever they are onto the back of a virtual safari vehicle.
The Toronto Zoo’s Zoo to You Virtual Experiences has live cams, videos and free virtual programs for kids. Other Canadian zoos, aquariums, children’s museums also have live cams and/or children’s programming.
6. Nature outdoors
Whether you have a backyard, a balcony or a nearby park, summer is the time to get in touch with nature.
First, plant some flowers and vegetables in the backyard or on the balcony. Little ones will love digging in the dirt, getting messy in the fresh soil and being on watering can duty.
Kids will also enjoy watching seeds grow. To make it more fun, a few days after planting seeds outside or in a sunny window, take three or four pieces of paper, divide each into four square and let your child check on the seeds, and each day draw and colour what they see to capture the transformation. They will have a fascinating record of how fast their seedling grows!
You can also give your child a small plant to care for. They can grow some flowers in a pot or some herbs on a windowsill. When you need a few minutes, have them check on their plant to see if it needs water.
Next, invite some wildlife into your backyard or patio by creating a bird feeder. You can make an easy DIY bird feeder by taking a stale crust of bread, cutting in out in the shape you want, and covering it in peanut butter. Press birdseed onto the peanut butter and put a hook through the top of the bread and hang it on a branch!
Or purchase an unpainted bird feeder and some paint. Let the kids choose the paint colours and make painting a family project. Keep some kid-size binoculars handy and a child’s bird book (or make one from online listings of local birds). Get kids to keep track of the different kinds of birds they see at the feeder and decide which is their favourite.
As a special treat, when nighttime falls, let the kids stay up late and make a special trip to the park to go stargazing.
7. Creative dance party
If there’s one thing that’s almost universal, it’s that kids have energy to burn!
Even if it’s too rainy out or you need to keep an eye on the kids indoors, there are plenty of ways kids can burn off energy and have fun.
If the kids have a bit of cabin fever or need to get the sillies out, a spontaneous dance party is a cure. Set them up with music and let them do their thing. Or, tell them to create a dance routine they can surprise you with later!
There are also kid-themed online dance classes, such as ballet with a Frozen theme or Disney-inspired hip-hop classes.
Want to join in? Have a dance party after lunch or after work.
When they’ve burnt off some energy and are proud of their artistic accomplishment, serve up Wonder® Candied Bread and a big glass of milk as a treat.