Skip to main content

Originally Published on Money Crashers

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents wonder what this summer will look like for their kids.

According to USA Today, many summer camps have canceled their 2020 season due to safety concerns. Traditional summertime activities such as sleepovers, visiting the library, setting up a lemonade stand, visiting a children’s museum, swimming at the community pool, and signing up for extracurricular activities are also in question due to the virus.

In light of all this uncertainty, some parents feel anxious about how they’re going to occupy their kids for the next few months. And for those who are working from home, the situation is even more complicated. Parents are scrambling to find ways to keep their kids busy while they do their jobs.

The good news is COVID-19 can’t cancel summer fun and the lasting memories summer provides. As parents, we simply have to reimagine what summer means, what we can do to keep our kids from regressing over summer break, and keep having fun.

The Gift of Boredom

Stop and think about the summers you spent as a kid. Chances are your days weren’t full of scheduled activities and structured play dates. For most of us, summer meant freedom — freedom from school, freedom from schedules, and freedom from routine.

We had the freedom to lie in bed late into the night reading books. We had the freedom to build forts, ride our bikes aimlessly through the neighborhood, and explore the woods at our leisure. We also had the freedom to be bored.

Today, parents often treat boredom like a problem they need to fix immediately. However, boredom has invaluable lessons to teach if it’s given enough time and space to do so. Boredom encourages creativity because kids have to learn to entertain themselves instead of being passively entertained by something or someone else. It builds self-awareness because kids must be alone with their thoughts and feelings.

As a mother of two, I realize summer is a challenging time for parents. We want to give our kids that same feeling of freedom we had growing up. Freedom and boredom are invaluable for kids, and most kids today don’t get enough of either. On the other hand, we also need to have some fun, budget-friendly ideas in our arsenal for when our little darlings ramp up the whining and claim that there’s never anything fun to do.

So here’s what I propose we not do. Let’s not try to have “the best summer ever.” Let’s not try to create three months of perfect, idyllic, Instagram-worthy afternoons our kids will never forget (at least until they’re bored again tomorrow).

Instead, let’s let our kids be kids. And when the fighting becomes incessant and there’s glitter all over the house, we can pull out one of these activities and redirect the troops long enough for some cleanup time (or a glass of wine on the back patio, which is sometimes the smarter choice).

Some of these ideas require your supervision and some don’t. But all can help you limit your kids’ screen time and practice safe social distancing while helping them have some fun. They might even learn a thing or two.