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12 Safe, Low-Cost Summer Family Activities for Remote Working Parents

Creativity can help you invent some fun summer family activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The kids have been home for months. By now, many harried parents working remotely are out of ideas, out of money, and out of patience. If this sounds like you, here are some budget-friendly summer family activities to keep your children healthy and happy (and yourself sane) this summer.

Learning to cope with home-schooling was a challenge, but what happens when the lessons are over? Many traditional options for keeping the kids entertained are not an option this summer due to COVID-19. Day and overnight camps are being canceled and even playing outside with friends may be off-limits for the foreseeable future. If you’re a remote working parent out of ideas, here are some safe, low-cost summer family activities for your school-age children to do while you’re working—and some fun family activities you can do together when you’re not.

Individual Pursuits for When You’re Working

Now that the lessons are over, what can your kids do while you’re trying to work? In the COVID-19 world of no playdates, how do you keep them occupied and happy until you can spend more time with them? The trick is to have a variety of summer family activities for them to do so you can switch things up throughout the day. Unless it’s their favorite Disney video (in which case they can watch it non-stop for the rest of eternity), they are going to need something new to do every hour or so. Below are some easy to implement ideas guaranteed to keep them busy…for a while anyway.

1. Drawing & Coloring

Tried and true, a brand new box of crayons and a coloring book can keep children engaged for hours. When the novelty wears thin, make the old new again with these ideas:

  • Play pretend office: Use an old briefcase or pick one up at a thrift store to hold their coloring and drawing materials. Encourage them to bring it out and start their coloring when you start working so they feel part of your workday.
  • Create a challenge: Create a 30-day drawing challenge to keep them engaged and interested and provide gallery space where they can create a rotating display of their accomplishments.
  • Create outdoors: Get them outside if you can and let them loose with some sidewalk chalk. Projects and challenges can include anything from self-portraits to games of hop-scotch.

2. Scavenger/Treasure Hunts

Keep your kids engaged for hours while solving clues and finding things around the house or yard. Scavenger hunts are one such idea. Once they get the hang of it, the kids can even make them up themselves. If you’re envisioning hours spent coming up with clues and items to find, these needn’t be a lot of work to develop. In addition, you can get your kids to draw or take pictures of the items if you don’t want them to move the items themselves. Below are a few easy ideas to choose from.

  • Color hunt: Take a piece of paper and create colored circles. Then, have the kids hunt for items that match the colors.
  • One-item hunt: Think of items that come in different varieties. For example, challenge your kids to find 20 different kinds of leaves in the yard or 10 different purple things around the house.
  • Shape hunt: Make a list of different shapes, and ask your children to collect things that match those shapes.

3. Online Museums

You may not be able to completely avoid screen time because you’re not a superhero, but you can make computer time educational and creative too. Many world-renowned museums now provide some type of online exhibit experience—a dream for history and art lovers. Below are just a few opportunities available to discover and explore.

  • Art museums: From the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to the British Museum in London to the Metropolitan Museum (#metkids) in New York City, the world’s art treasures are at your children’s fingertips.
  • Cultural exploration: Google has kindly put together a comprehensive selection of 2000 online exhibits to explore as well as fun and interesting activities part of their Arts and Culture.
  • Zoos and aquariums: Yep, even these are getting into the online act. The best zoos in the world have put together live cameras, educational programs, and fun activities so we can get to know our animal friends. Check out the Bronx Virtual Zoo, the Melbourne Zoo, or the Shedd Aquarium.

4. Online Summer Camps

Virtual summer camps are becoming a top summer family activity as a replacement for the real deal. Costs will vary for most online summer camps, and even though they are delivered online, most provide support for real-world experiences (yay!). Get started by exploring the perfect options for your kids with the resources listed below.

  • Take a class: Explore a wide variety of moderately priced online classes and camps on the Activity Hero. Selections range from chess lessons to guitar playing.
  • Free resources: For a list of entertaining and educational options, including several available for free or low cost, check out this list from Common Sense Media.

5. Books & Reading

As we all know, summer is the time of brain drain for our school-aged kids. Teachers have been telling us for years to get our kids to read over the summer, and many cool programs are available to encourage them. Most provide reading lists and activities with prizes for achieving reading goals at the end. A few popular examples are listed here.

  • Scholastic Summer Read-a-palooza: Scholastic has a wonderfully creative approach using their Home Base where kids can build avatars and meet their favorite book characters.
  • AudioFile Sync: Tempt your teens with audiobooks! This program offers two free downloads per week throughout the summer with no strings attached.
  • TD Bank Summer Reading Program: Appeal to their bottom line and sign them up for the TD Bank’s challenge to read ten books for $10 deposited into their account. Teach money skills and get them to read—two birds with one stone!

Break Time!

Everyone needs to take breaks during the day to recharge. This is true for you as well as your kids. Set up a fun routine for break times to have your kids looking forward to them every day—and maybe you too! Turn your break times into summer family activities and relive some of your fun childhood memories by implementing some of the simple ideas below.

6. Let’s Pretend

Take a few minutes out of your busy day to enter the world of your child. Play their favorite game of pretend while you enjoy your coffee. Whether you are glamming it up with Barbie, eating pizza with Ninja Turtles, or lip-syncing to the latest pop song, it will take your mind off any work problems and transport you to more innocent times.

7. Make a Snack

Get your kids involved in cooking by planning and making a daily snack. This is a great opportunity to teach healthy eating habits and cooking skills in bite-sized pieces. Pick a healthy and tasty ingredient (like peanut butter or raspberries) and experiment with eating it in different ways.

8. Create an Exercise Routine

Get some exercise and burn off the kids’ excess energy by creating a series of activities to work through. You can set these up in a variety of creative ways, which is half the fun. Try writing instructions on the sidewalk with chalk, such as “do 10 jumping jacks, then 5 sit-ups, etc.” and so on. Or, try creating an obstacle course in the backyard or even in the house (carefully!) using furniture and stairs. Take turns making the course with the kids so they can get in on the fun. You can race to see who can get the best time and award prizes for the best courses!

Fun for the Whole Family

After work hours are over, it’s time to get everyone involved in summer family activities. While visiting theme parks, staying overnight in campgrounds, and attending sporting events aren’t possible, you can still find fun activities to enjoy together.

9. Backyard Blowout

Both big and small backyards are on the frontlines of family fun. With a little planning and creativity, they can become a picnic spot, campground, t-ball field, or slip ‘n slide. You can also set aside planting beds to help your kids learn how things grow by showing them how to plant and maintain flowers, herbs, or maybe a few vegetables. The opportunities for backyard adventures are endless!

10. Geocaching

Billed as the world’s largest treasure hunt, the game consists of finding caches (or containers) hidden by other game players. To find them, use an app and GPS to navigate throughout your area. You’ll find millions of caches everywhere, and chances are there are some near you. Once you discover them, the protocol is to sign the logbook. However, you can skip this step if you feel uncomfortable. Geocaching is a great way for the family to share in the spirit of exploration and discovery while maintaining distance from others.

11. It’s a Parade!

Make an ordinary day a celebration! Plan a celebration or mark a special occasion by dressing up and decorating everyone’s bikes. Come up with a theme and dress up to match. Decorate the bikes with bows, ribbons, and wrapping paper. Get the kids to make creative signs. When everyone is ready, make a procession of it, honking and waving as you go past the neighborhood houses and taking a video to send to the grandparents.

12. Gone Fishing

Another way to get free of the house without violating social-distancing rules is to go fishing. While many parks are still closed, state or county wildlife management areas or national wildlife areas often allow family fishing time. Make sure to check ahead of time regarding any COVID-19 guidance, permits required, and also any scheduled hunting days (you may want to avoid those days).

Families have faced an almost overwhelming challenge adapting to the restrictions and responsibilities of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, by incorporating these summer family activities into your routine, you can make this a fun and relaxing time with your loved ones. With a little patience and a dash of creativity, this extended time at home will be one that your kids will remember fondly.


Do you have any summer family activities or ideas during COVID-19Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you! 

iStock image: RichVintage


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