After their family trip to Washington, D.C., was canceled due to the pandemic, mom Julie Huber wanted to make it up to her daughters, Morgan, 10, and Madalyn, 7. She let the girls turn their basement into a vacation destination, complete with a tent, fire and outdoor sounds courtesy of Alexa.
“We wanted to make summer extra special for our kids,” says Huber, who says her family has “loosened up the rules” over the past few months. “We’ve gotten creative to make the most of our time.”
Huber is just one of a growing number of parents who have let the rules slide here and there to let their kids savor what’s left of summer, especially after a particularly tough year. So, if you’re giving your kids extra screen time, a later bedtime and more sugary treats, you’re in good company with these parents, who want their kids to remember the fun despite the circumstances of summer 2020.
Tess Barber was tired of the drippy mess after her kids ate Popsicles. After reading about ‘Popsicle baths’ on a blog, her family implemented the activity. At first, monthly, and then, daily.
“Since we are not able to do our usual fun activities like the pool and playground, I figured Popsicle baths would break up the day. I’m lucky enough that my kids are little enough that ‘Popsicle baths’ make their whole day, so I figure, ‘why not do it every day?’”
Carly Dorogi loves a clean kitchen. But this summer, she’s traded in a sparkly counter for the joy of seeing her 8- and 10-year-old daughters bake together.
“Previously, all the flour all over the floors and counter, and constant supply of sugary treats would have driven me crazy. But seeing how independent and confident my girls have become as a result of their kitchen experiments has helped me to loosen the reins and encourage them to bake or cook whatever they want, whenever they want. Goodbye clean kitchen, hello hands-on learning (and delicious treats!).”
Family video game competitions
Lina Garmo is the mom of three boys with a lot of energy. While she typically limits video game time, this summer she found herself encouraging her kids to turn to video games to compete against each other in games like Mario Kart and Mario Run.
“They love to play together as a team to clear levels. While they’re still limited in what they can play, we’re allowing them to play more than they ever have in the past. It has definitely brought them closer as brothers, and for that, I’m very glad.”
Baths in the blow-up pool
Katrina Barge and her husband were both exhausted from teaching their students and homeschooling their kids so when summer rolled around, the couple had to get creative to entertain their kids. One day, she handed them soap and shampoo and let them clean themselves in the blow-up pool.
“We figured we would make some fun out of something normal. Kids get clean – parent win! – and they get to have something fun with something ordinary. We all make a summer memory that they will hopefully remember fondly during this stressful time in life.”
Indoor bounce house
If you walk into the Herrera house, you can’t help but notice the giant bounce house in the living room. Stephanie Herrera says she brought it inside to keep her girls entertained during the cold and hot days.
“While it does take up our entire living room, it has been super fun for our girls and has given us something to smile about during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
If you’re a parent, there’s one phrase that makes your skin crawl. Every time. “I’m hungry.” After hearing it nonstop for the first part of the summer, Dijana Ibric seemed to solve the problem for her two kids when she implemented ‘linner time’ – a cross between lunch and dinner, served before dinner.
“My kids eat like a bottomless pit – mac and cheese, spaghetti, chips, chocolate, pizza, sandwiches, you name it. So, between 2 and 4 p.m. every day, they basically get their own buffet.”
The Rubenstein boys usually go to day camp over the summer, where water play is their favorite activity. But this year, their parents didn’t feel comfortable sending them to camp, so they brought camp to them, setting up a full-fledged waterpark in their backyard, complete with an inflatable dinosaur that spits water, a foam bubble pit and a 50-foot slip ‘n slide.
“We purchased every water toy under the sun so they could enjoy their favorite part of summer all day, every day. We know it won’t replace camp, but it has given our family constant entertainment and smiles,” mom Amy Rubenstein says.
Muddy puddle jumping
Getting dirty is every parent’s worst nightmare, but Christine Sturm lets her daughters run out their energy and embrace it by jumping in muddy puddles, so much so that they look forward to rainy days.
“With the parks closed, it takes their mind away from that. It’s messy, but it just means a nice bubble bath later.”
Late night Fridays
Alyssa Tangey, mom to five kids under age 6, decided she and her kids needed a bedtime break. So, every week, the family marks the calendar for “Late night Fridays” and counts down the days until the weekly event.
“We blow up the air mattress in the living room, pile it with blankets and let the kids stay up late. We eat candy and popcorn together and will sometimes throw on a movie or get a pile of books together.”
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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s August 2020 magazine.