Now that summer’s officially here, you’re probably itching to get outside and enjoy the sun after months of sheltering in place. Social distancing is still the name of the game right now, but that doesn’t mean that you need to cancel all your summer fun. Instead, focus your attention on safe and healthy outdoor play.
Need a few ideas to get you going? Here are some outdoor activities that your whole family can enjoy this season.
There’s a great big world out there, and this summer is a great time to explore it. Whether you’re interested in wooded trails or sandy beaches, a family hike can be a great opportunity to learn more about the natural features of your area.
If your household has been feeling stressed about events going on in the world, hiking offers a good antidote. Many people find time in nature relaxing. There’s even research that supports the idea that exposure to green plants can lower stress levels.
Kids resistant to the idea of hiking? Try adding some fun to the experience with nature games.
Make up a scavenger hunt list, and see how many of the items they can find. “I Spy” is a good game to play when you pause for a break. You can also keep kids engaged with books or apps for identifying flora and fauna.
During this season of social distancing, check out some of the less well-known parks and trails in your area. You’ll have more space to spread out and won’t have to worry about encountering as many people.
Wherever you decide to go, make sure that you’re prepared. Load up on sunscreen and bug spray ahead of time, wear supportive shoes and bring along plenty of water.
And if you’ll be out on a trail where you can’t avoid other people, pack (and wear) your face masks, too.
Put your family’s outdoor time to good use with a gardening project, assuming you have the space, of course. Growing your own vegetables may save you money at the store. Plus, kids are sometimes more likely to eat produce if they grow it themselves.
Spring and early summer are often considered the best times for planting a garden, but mid-summer isn’t too late to get started. Depending on your growing zone, you might be able to plant carrots, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts or other hardy veggies late in the season.
You don’t need an abundance of space to make a garden work, either. Many plants can be grown in flower pots or other small containers. A roomy window ledge or small apartment patio can also make a good spot if you’re resourceful.
Even if your efforts don’t produce much by way of edible results, your kids will still enjoy the time spent digging in the dirt with you. Bonus? Gardening also gives your kids better appreciation for where food comes from.
Whether you’re a family of two or 10, an old-fashioned game night is a great way to fill a summer evening with fresh air, exercise and plenty of laughter.
Many games require little to no equipment. Foot races and tag, for example, just need energetic players.
With a ball, you can play classics like catch and kickball. A glove and a bat can be nice additions, but they aren’t necessities.
Playing in your own yard is the best way to ensure physical distance. But a park with large grassy areas may work as long as you’ll have space to spread out from other groups. Just be sure not to share equipment with people outside of your household.
A Dip in the Pool
The novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, doesn’t appear to spread via properly treated pool water. That means you don’t necessarily have to scratch swimming off of your summer fun list, especially if you or someone you know has a pool that you can share without getting too close.
Crowded pools can be another story, though.
When the water is packed with swimmers and every deck chair has a sunbathing body, it can be tricky to maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
For public pools, your safest bet may be to look for a facility that requires advance sign-ups. By asking people to reserve a time slot, these pools encourage more effective social distancing.
Of course, backyard swimming is best for distancing, and even small inflatable pools can provide plenty of refreshment on a sweltering day.
If you don’t have space for your own pool — or every store is sold out — see if friends will let you hop in their pools when they’re not home. You might also try sprinklers, inflatable splash pads and other pool alternatives for little ones who just want to play in the water.
When the rain starts to fall, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to make a lasting memory with your family. As long as there’s no thunder or lightning, a summer rainstorm can turn your backyard into a wonderland.
Pull on your rain boots or your swimwear and run outside to soak up each and every drop. Splash in the puddles, dig in the mud and watch raindrops race down the side of the house.
Sure, it can be hard to plan ahead for playing in the rain. If your family can time it right, though, splashing in a summer downpour will be a bonding experience that you’ll remember fondly for years to come.
The middle of the night can be one of the best times to avoid crowds. Fortunately, that’s just the right time to catch breathtaking views of glittering stars.
To see the night sky in all its glory, you’ll need to get away from city lights. Head to an open field out in the country if you’ve got one handy nearby.
Moonlight can quell stars’ sparkle as well, so plan your outing for a clear night around the time of the new moon.
Standard white light will reduce your ability to take in the views. To avoid this and make the most of your stargazing adventure, cover flashlights with red cellophane. Then download a planetarium app with a red-light feature so you can identify stars without compromising your night vision.
Stars really start to pop after midnight. Because this is a late-night activity, it may not be one that you want to do with young kids. But it’s perfect for teenagers. And while contemplating the vastness of space, your teens may open up for heart-to-heart talks.
This summer may not be quite what you’re used to, but with a little creativity, you can make it a season that your family will never forget. Just remember to keep your distance from people you don’t live with, wear face masks if the park is crowded and think outside the box when it comes to summer outdoor fun.