So far, my son’s summer camp for June has been canceled, and I expect July and August to follow suit eventually. We’ve canceled two long weekend trips. The public pools are closed for the summer, and our backyard is too small and too sloped for anything resembling a decent pool. I will continue to work from home as I have for years, even after my husband returns to his office. Which is why the words, “What the hell is this kid going to do all summer?” have been reverberating in my brain for weeks.
I’m still not sure I have much of an answer, but something Dave Baldwin once wrote for Fatherly keeps coming back to me: Create an “Inside Beach” to entertain kids on a rainy day. Well, everyday seems somewhat like a rainy day right now since I can’t head outside to explore with my son, I can’t take him anywhere fun and playdates aren’t much of an option yet. But for those of us looking ahead to a long summer home with the kids, maybe we can find ways to bring the usual outdoor fun indoors once in a while.
Let’s start with Baldwin’s “Inside Beach” activity. He gives us a list of what we’ll need, and it’s important to note that the set-up is really half the activity:Two big blankets or sheets. Ideally, one should be blue (the water) and one should be beige or brown (the sand) but it hardly matters. Remember, it’s pretend.An actual beach towel or two.Sand buckets and shovels. The ones you would bring to the beach, just wash them off.Yellow construction paper, scissors, and tape (or a paper plate and a yellow marker) to make a sun.Optional: Beach chairs, a beach ball, games, a portable cooler with snacks and drinks, swimsuits, Duplos to build a sand castle, etc. Depending on how much time/effort you want to invest in your ‘beach day,’ you can pull out all the stops.
With that as inspiration, there are other ways to bring the great outdoors inside when it’s raining or we’re working or the world is still shut down.
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Living room campouts
The backyard campout is a classic summertime activity; but there’s no reason you can’t bring this indoors, too. You simply need:A tent (if you don’t have a tent, build a fort instead; same difference.)Sleeping bags or blankets and pillowsMaterials to make a campfire (Let the kids be creative here with materials like construction paper for the flames and paper towel or toilet paper rolls for the logs.)Glow-in-the-dark star stickers to hang on the walls and ceilingA telescope or binoculars (You could also make “binoculars” with any extra paper towel or toilet paper rolls.)
Oh, and don’t forget the fixin’s for s’mores. Because—yes—you can make those indoors, too.
Bedroom floor picnics
This is one I used to do a lot with my son on rainy days when he was 3 or 4 years old—the floor picnic. They have to have lunch anyway, and it doesn’t take that much more time and effort to make it feel special by declaring it a “floor picnic.” You should gather:Your food and drinks (If you happen to have special foods or desserts you only take along on picnics or reserve for special occasions, include those.)Something to transport the food (I have an actual wicker picnic basket because I’m a little extra when it comes to shit like this, but you could use a tray or lunch boxes.)A tablecloth or blanket to spread out onThe crafty sun they made for inside beach day
Is the bathtub the same as a pool? If the kids are little enough and they put on their swim suits, then sure, why not? Plus, this is probably the easiest to pull off in a pinch. All you need is:Swim suitsSome bath toys or small pool toysGoggles Towels
Bonus points if you bust out the towels you’d actually take to the pool, versus the boring, everyday bath towels. Only have a shower stall with no tub? No problem; just shove your inflatable baby pool in there, and now they can swim.
Other traditionally outdoor activities you can bring indoors this summer: obstacle courses, hopscotch and scavenger hunts. It’s not the same as summer camp, but it’s a start.
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