The Camp Quarantine Guide to Getting By:
Part II -Outdoor Activities
By Alycia Hinrichsen
Beautiful days are best spent outside, and a healthy dose of sunshine is important to help your children thrive. Alongside the crafts, games, and learning opportunities in store for your kids this summer, time outside is a major component to the day. The summer weather is just begging that you take advantage of it, so you should aim to get outside at least two or three separate times daily. This week in Camp Quarantine, we’re talking about all the exciting outdoor activities your kids can enjoy this summer. If you missed our first article on building a schedule, it may be helpful to take a look so that you can start working these ideas into your own at-home summer camp.
It’s easy for kids to become couch potatoes during the summer months. With fewer demands and the comfort of air conditioning, why would anyone pass up the chance to lounge inside? It’s certainly tempting, and we’ve all fallen victim to that lackadaisical mindset (probably on more occasions than we care to admit). But while lazing about may feel rewarding in the moment, it lends itself to feelings of sluggishness in the long run. Your kids will feel better if they continue to stay active in the absence of school gym classes, and it doesn’t hurt to let them burn some energy before bedtime.
The easiest way to get moving is by going for walks around town, or taking a hike along local trails. Bike riding, scootering, and roller skating are also tried-and-true physical activities that can be fun for the whole family. But if you’re looking to stay close to home, stockpile toys and games for a “backyard recess.” Jump ropes, hula hoops, soccer balls, and other sports supplies are the key to an afternoon of outdoor fun, and these go-to activities make for great staples in your daily schedule.
With regard to the working parent, staying inside and on screens is often a fact of life, and it may be challenging to get active outdoors. But if you are able to have some flexibility, see if you can take your work outside, and reserve the time indoors for mandatory meetings and calls.
Give Them A Challenge
To make for a truly memorable summer, include some outdoor games in addition to your basic activities. A backyard obstacle course for your kids to jump, duck, and tumble their way through can be enjoyed for weeks to come, and may be more achievable than you think. A course can be created using materials you probably already have at home and can take on a number of forms. It could be as minimal as some chalk drawings, or as elaborate as a custom built course, if you’re willing to put in the handiwork. The best way to bring your plans to life is to enlist the help of your kids, making the construction and assembly process an activity of its own.
Backyard games, like cornhole, croquet, and ring toss are also great to add into the mix. If you really want to go all out, you might even consider having a “carnival week” as part of your summer camp, complete with snacks and prizes. This puts physical activity at the forefront of the day, but keeps the kids entertained for hours on end.
Summer is all about fun in the sun, but it’s important to stay refreshed and avoid heat fatigue. The peak time for sunburn is said to be between 10am and 2pm, with some sources cautioning as late as 4pm, and temperatures only continue to rise as the day progresses. However, this is prime activity time, and it may be hard to create a schedule that avoids outdoor activities during this time frame. With plenty of sunscreen and some cool-down activities, the fun doesn’t have to stop.
Water play is an outdoor activity unique to summer, and can take on many forms that encourage kids to stay active. Set your kids up with a sprinkler, some water balloons, and maybe even a couple of water guns to get the fun started. If you have access to a pool, even better; you can challenge your kids to swim laps and maybe even have a race. Parents may also find enjoyment in “tagging” their kids with the hose as they run around the yard, which is as practical as it is hysterical!
Connect with Nature
As important as it is to stay active throughout the day, outdoor activities can also be about relaxation and fostering an appreciation for the natural environment. Start exploring by taking a nature walk through your local park, and make it a scavenger hunt by seeing how many different birds, insects, and plants you and your child can find. You can create a catalog of the plants you find by pressing leaves and flowers, and more adventurous children (who have adventurous parents!) may enjoy starting an insect collection. There are also kits available to let your children witness the transformation of caterpillars, which leads up to a butterfly release in your own backyard.
Gardening is also a great way to spend the time outside, and gives your children a chance to grow their own green thumbs. Taking care of plants fosters a respect for the natural environment, and your kids will be proud to see their hard work pay off. A starter kit like this is great for kids and beginners alike, and you can visit your local gardening store to curate a selection of fruit and vegetable seeds. Herbs are another option that are easy to grow, quick to harvest, and low maintenance; growing kits similar to this one include the seeds, and can be kept by the kitchen window. If you have the backyard space, you can go the extra mile and work with your kids to construct a garden bed and transfer your plants there as they grow. Of course, if you want to reap the benefits without the work (and no, it’s not cheating) plan for a day to go berry picking at a local farm. Think of all the pies, tarts, and other treats you can make together with your harvest! See what’s in season in NJ, and be sure to call ahead to find out the social distance guidelines of the location you’re considering.
Go on Adventures
There’s a lot of fun to be had in your own backyard, but venturing beyond the homefront isn’t entirely out of the question during Camp Quarantine. Setting aside one day a week for a “field trip” is a great way to add variety into your schedule, and they can still be enjoyed at a comfortable distance from others. We have the Six Flags Safari on our itinerary, along with a hike at the South Mountain Conservancy to look forward to.
The beach is another viable option, but if you’re concerned about crowds you can still enjoy the experience from the comfort of your own backyard. Encourage your kids to set up beach towels and umbrellas on a sunny day, and pack a cooler full of snacks. Set up a speaker to play some ocean wave sounds to complete the experience. Once they close their eyes, they’ll hardly know the difference!
Camping is another trip that can be enjoyed at home or in the great outdoors. No matter where you decide to set up camp, a sleeping bag and a tent are the key to creating this getaway. Even though a nighttime camping trip is outside of the normal summer camp schedule, it does afford the opportunity to go stargazing. Keep your eyes peeled for the Perseids meteor shower in mid-August, which is a memorable experience you won’t want to miss.
Bring the Fun Inside
Some of the best summer camp plans can be foiled by less-than-ideal weather conditions, so if you need to take a rain check on activity, it’s a good idea to have some contingency plans in place. Staying active indoors is still a possibility, and a great rainy day activity is Cosmic Kids, which offers guided yoga lessons fueled by imagination. You can also challenge your kids to complete a set number of jumping jacks, sit-ups, squats, or other exercises that can be done in repetition.
While the outdoors allows for more expansive obstacle courses, there are still courses that can be completed indoors. There are traditional courses that you can make your own variations of, or more innovative courses, like a laser maze, which require more initial setup but can keep the kids entertained for the entire day. And if there’s ever a time to indulge in a little screen time, a rainy day is the perfect excuse. But that time can still be productive, and going on a virtual field trip lets you have an adventure right from the comfort of your own home.
Outdoor activities are an essential component to the at-home summer camp schedule, but there’s even more in store! Join us again next week for the third article in the Camp Quarantine series, where we’ll be covering Creative Moments to enrich your summer with crafts of all kinds.