Schools are canceled for the remainder of the school year. No graduations. No parties. No large group gatherings of any kind. How are parents going to survive the summer months without summer camps, community pools, and letting their kids play with the neighbor kids?

This will not be without difficulty, but here are a few ways to keep the kids occupied and keep your sanity (mainly the younger ones) in quarantine.

1. Inflatable Pools

If you do not already have an inflatable pool or some type of water activity, now is the time to get one. Also, don’t forget an electric air pump. If you have a medium-sized plastic slide, this will entertain your children for hours. Several years ago I had a home daycare, and we spent the summer months having pool parties every day. We had a slide inside the pool, popsicles, and stayed outside for hours.

2. Water Play Table/Sand Table

For little kids and toddlers, water play tables and sand tables are extremely important. For one, they are great sensory activities. Sensory activities stimulate and enhance brain development. Therefore, having these types of activities available not only allows you to keep your children occupied for an extensive amount of time, it also helps your children learn.

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3. Orbeez/Play-Doh/Kinetic Sand

If you do not have any of these items for your kids (or yourself . . . they are excellent stress relievers), you need to get them ASAP. Back to sensory learning . . . Orbeez, Play-Doh, and Kinetic Sand are amazing for imagination and brain development. Additionally, they focus on strengthening fine motor skills, which are imperative to writing and other important life skills.

4. Crafts of All Kinds

Crafts are great for keeping kids busy. They focus on fine motor development as well as imagination. Some of my favorite craft items to have on hand are paints, foam brushes, paper plates, colorful pipe cleaners, hot glue, tacky glue, crayons, markers, popsicle sticks, scissors, cardstock, felt, cardboard boxes, and masking tape. Sometimes I just give my 6-year-old supplies and tell him to use his imagination to create something. I’m never disappointed with the outcome. I also scour Pinterest for some ideas using the items we have on hand. Most craft items can be ordered and delivered to your door from various sites.

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5. Journals/Paper

On rainy days or just days when everyone needs a little extra downtime, journaling is so helpful. For school-aged children, a different topic can be focused on each day or week. Maybe you can help your child turn their words and pictures into a book by the end of the summer. The opportunities are endless with journaling. Middle and high school kids can journal their personal feelings. Writing is a great outlet for people of all ages. It’s a marvelous way to focus on a positive outlet for the very possible anxiety and grief many of us have been feeling during this isolated period.

6. Bike Riding/Skateboarding/Rollerskating

Obviously, please have your children use protective gear while doing these activities. It’s important to limit hospital trips. These activities are much needed during nice weather. They promote a healthy lifestyle as well as focusing on gross motor skills. If the body is healthy, the mind will be more at ease.

7. Science Experiments

If your kids are anything like my 6-year-old, then science experiments are a huge deal. He loves making volcanos, color mixing with food coloring, making fake snow, and so much more. Science experiments are fun and really help demonstrate a child’s imagination.

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8. Hikes/Walks/Scavenger Hunts

Being in nature is so . . . natural. Almost everyone gets this euphoric rush to their brains when they experience nature. There is just something so nostalgic about collecting rocks, leaves, flowers, and investigating insects. It brings us back to a time before technology and the internet. For kids, it’s like an entirely different world to them. Both my 13-month-old and 6-year-old’s eyes light up when they’re outside during our walks. We have several trails near our home and the one trail has a turtle pond. The boys absolutely love visiting there. There are several free nature scavenger hunts available on Pinterest.

9. Water Balloon Fight

Water Balloon Fights are always a good time (as long as no one goes for the face). I highly recommend getting Bunch O Balloons. They are so much easier and faster to fill than regular water balloons. In all the outdoor events I’ve ever been to or had, my older son always says his favorite part of the party was the water balloon fight.

10. Outdoor Movie Night

If you have a sheet and a projector, you’re more than halfway to having an outdoor movie night. This is number one on my summer bucket list with my family. Remember that inflatable pool I mentioned in the beginning? Get another one specifically for outdoor movie night. This pool will be kept dry. Grab some comfy pillows and blankets, your favorite movie snacks, set up the projector, and enjoy a lazy night out (in the backyard) with your family. With all of the streaming apps available, the movie choices are endless. However, if you want to bring back that nostalgic feeling, you can always try some of my favorites from the ’80s and ’90s: The Goonies, Harry and the Hendersons, E.T., The Dark Crystal, and so many more.

I hope these ideas serve as inspiration for what you can do with your children over the summer. I plan to do every single one of these with my boys. We’re used to going to museums, zoos, pools, etc. However, we will adjust. We will do our very best to make the most of this situation. Together, we will all get through this.

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Holly Dignen

Holly Dignen is a Stay-At-Home Mom of two boys. She is also one of three Kid's Event Chairpersons for her neighborhood community. She has her Master's degree in Elementary Education and several years of teaching under her belt. When she isn't spending time with her beautiful family, she is volunteering or writing.