The days have dragged on and on and on…There are still 24 hours in a day. Still approximately 365 days in a year. Yet, 2020 will likely be remembered as the longest year ever by adults and children alike.

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

We could wallow, whine or complain, but the truth remains, we still have half the year to pack in as many forced family outings (FFO’s), vacations, and summer activities as possible. Your kids will either remember 2020 as the worst year of their lives, due to being stuck at home during COVID-19, or they will remember it as the best year of their lives! Your response to this crisis will likely tip the scales. Now is the time to start creating magical moments your kids will remember for a lifetime.

Transform FFO’s into PFF Time – Planned Family Fun!

There is always a silver lining to every cloud. If you have struggled to get your kids to embrace the great outdoors in the past, now is your chance to entice them outside. Here are some activities you can organize and participate in with your children.

  1. Sensory Picnic Lunches. Make some cucumber sandwiches and other foods kids have never tried. Blindfold the kids and feed them different foods. Giggles will surely result. Reward your kids for their valiant behavior with their favorite treat or a toy. We suggest you use a Messy Mat and Smocks for your sensory picnic lunch. Things may get messy!
  2. Family Walks and Bike Rides. Many urban and suburban neighborhoods have been designed to connect residents to nature by providing walking and biking trails. give young riders many options. The only question is, can you keep up?
  3. Organize Outdoor Scavenger Hunts or Bug Hunts. Have your kids collect items from nature, such as rocks, leaves, flowers, grass, bark, etc. Play this game in your back yard, a small local park, or a National Park. Option #2: Give kids a container to collect bugs. The best part about collecting bugs is teaching your kids the importance of setting bugs free at the end of the hunt. It also ensures bugs are not brought home to reside in your child’s closet!
  4. Go ‘Bouldering’. Most kids love climbing. Children’s Factory specializes in designing indoor soft play equipment for classrooms and homes, but during the summer months, we advocate for taking your tikes to climb on real rocks as a family. Then, when the weather cools down again, we will still be here with all the most durable, colorful, and inspirational indoor climbers on the market.  Elephant Rock State Park in Missouri is just one example of America’s treasure chest of ‘bouldering’ experiences. (Image from https://mostateparks.com/park/elephant-rocks-state-park.)
  5. This is a real outdoor treasure hunting game where GPS-enabled devices are used. You navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache hidden at that location.

Back Yard Memory-Making

  1. Help Kids Build a FortAll you and the kids need to get started is a rope and a few old sheets. The fort may become an impregnable stronghold they defend from enemy sieges. It could be the location for the next tea party for local socialites. Pretend play can go any direction at this point!
  2. Plant a Mini-Garden or Living WallPlace your kids in charge of tending this garden so they take ownership. It will get them outdoors a few times a week to water, weed and watch as their plants grow. On a budget? No problem. Use some simple plastic bins, cut holes in the bottom for water to escape, and make them into planters. A living wall can be created using the wire springs from an old mattress.
  3. Create an Obstacle Course in Your YardUse a few hula hoops, bamboo poles, cones, and other items from your garage or backyard to create fun obstacles. Children’s Factory also has the Edu-ring and play carpets your kids can use indoors or outdoors to help develop gross motor skills like balance and coordination. 
  4. Hold a Potato Sack Race. Your next BBQ will be extra fun if you have potato sack races. If you aren’t ready to invite the neighbor’s kids over for the races, then hold the races for family only and do it with the kids!
  5. Blow Gigantic Bubbles. Place bubble mixture into a large cookie sheet or pan. Dip an over-sized wand into the liquid to see who can blow the biggest bubbles.
  6. Play Time with Water. Jumping and splashing in the water is a favorite summer pastime for kids. There are lots of creative ways to get some work done while indulging your kids. You can wash the car and water the garden while your kids run through sprinklers, slide down a slip-n-slide, or jump in a blow-up pool. Our favorite pastime is watching kids play with sand and water tables.
  7. Try a New Indoor/Outdoor Sport. A basketball Stand with Storage Bag is a game your tikes can play solo or with a group of friends. It transitions nicely from outdoor to indoor use when the summer is over. Designed for children ages 3 years and older.
  8. Create Outdoor Challenges. Remember the outdoor TV show ‘Survivor’? Give kids an incentive to win by offering a prize to the winner. Maybe the prize could be spending some one on one time with Mom or Dad. Maybe kids get a Get Out of Jail Free Card and don’t have to eat all their veggies one night. Prizes can be as small or as big as you deem appropriate.
  9. Draw with Washable Sidewalk Chalk. Get the creative juices flowing! Kids love drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. The washable variety will be a game-changer when it comes time to clean it off.

Last-Ditch Efforts to Inspire

  1. Toy Rotation Strategy Keeps Toys Exciting. If a child hasn’t seen or had access to a toy for a while, when the toy is rotated back into the fray, it will almost be as exciting as the first time they received it. We suggest you divide your outdoor toys into 3 bins. Only bring out one big bucket of toys at a time. This might include bubbles, balls, kites, jump ropes, skateboards, sports equipment, and squirt guns. You can use the same tactic with indoor toys.
  2. Create an Outdoor Activity Jar. This helps kids who have a hard time thinking of things to do or making decisions. Write different activities on popsicle sticks. Let your kids choose an activity and then head outside with them to get started. Make the activities easy to act upon – wash the dog and color his hair purple with hair dye, go on a short outing at the park for 15 minutes, water the plants, pick a dandelion bouquet, draw something with sidewalk chalk. We suggest your kids engage in all these activities with an approved chaperone, caregiver or parent. There are so many fun ideas!

Kids treasure special moments when their parents play with them. COVID-19 forced our nation to scale back on different activities during the shutdown. There have been some upsides to this crisis, such as increased family bonding time. It’s good to ponder, as life begins to loosen up again, is rushing back into the old harried lifestyle the best thing for your family this summer? More than one option exists. Instead of going backward, you could try moving forwards, and start filling your family’s time with new activities. You might find fitting oodles of magical moments into your schedule is not so impossible after all.

(Not all activities are appropriate for children of all ages. Be sure to choose those you feel confident are safe and age-appropriate for your little ones. When engaging in these activities, we suggest you take precautions to ensure children are well-supervised at all times.)