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What’s a kid to do? Entertaining children when a lot of the fun stuff is closed

No pool? No problem! Washing the car is a great way to cool off. - Photo 123rf.
No pool? No problem! Washing the car is a great way to cool off. - Photo 123rf.

With limited options for summer camps and get-out-of-the-house activities, it’s no wonder that many parents are finding it tough to keep their children entertained these days.

Most of the popular spots for taking kids — indoor play places, movie theatres, play groups, story hours, sports, classes, private lessons — are still closed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

But there are still fun things to do, if you dig a little deeper. Before heading out to a business, remember to call ahead (introverts can just check the business’s Facebook page to see if there’s an up-to-date post) to make sure they’re open and double-check any special rules.

Ready? Here are a few suggestions for filling the long, empty days before school starts again ...

GO BOWLING: Bowling alleys were practically designed for social distancing! By leaving every second lane empty, it’s no trouble to stay at a safe distance from other bowlers. Plus, it’s nice and air-conditioned in there. Ahhh.

BAKE SOMETHING: Sure, it’s messier than just baking it yourself, but it’s also basically a free math class and useful life lesson rolled into one — plus, there are delicious baked goods at the end of it. Double or triple the batch and bring some goodies to your neighbours.

RIDE BIKES: Been cycling this whole time? Well, what about finding a new place to ride? A nice flat path for junior riders? A wooded trail that isn’t too steep? A bike park with moguls? Or maybe just a new route in a different neighbourhood?

GO TO A MUSEUM: Plenty of museums are open for business, but may require masks and/or have limited capacity. Remind your kids what it’s like to learn something new! Their attention span might need the practice before school starts again.

PAINT ROCKS: It seems like just about every neighbourhood or town has its own painted rock Facebook group, designed for showing off what’s been hidden and what’s been found. Grab some plain old rocks and paint them with acrylics (Dollar Store paint is just fine) so you can hide them for someone to discover.

GO TO THE BEACH: Sure, this one is obvious. But maybe try a beach you’ve never been to before? Different types of sand, different water temperatures, different wave heights, different sea critters.

MAKE NEXT-LEVEL CHALK ART: Just doodling on the driveway or sidewalk with chalk probably became boring back in April, so bring out a roll of masking tape or painter’s tape. Tape off random patterns of triangles, fill them in with different colours of chalk and then remove the tape to reveal a work of art.

FIND A COOL POOL ALTERNATIVE: With most pools still closed — and it being tricky to find small inflatable pools in stores — the hot days can seem especially rough. If you don’t have a sprinkler, try creative ways to cool down, like having a water balloon fight, spraying each other with the hose while you wash the car or creating a slip’n’slide out of garbage bags and dish soap.

GO MINI-GOLFING: Call ahead, but you might find your local outdoor mini-golf place is open again! Social distancing is easy if every group stays on their own hole, and the clubs are easily sanitized afterwards, so go play a round of golf “fore” the fun of it.

DIG OUT THEIR OLD TOYS: Want to know the fastest way to get a child interested in a toy? Put it in a donation pile. Round up a bunch of stuff you’re thinking of donating and watch the magic happen. They’ll be entertained for ages.

HAVE A PICNIC: Many of us are sick of staying at home, so eating a meal outdoors is much more appealing. You don’t even have to leave your own yard, but you could always venture to a nearby park, field or beach if you felt like it? Everything tastes better outside — even if it’s just cheese and crackers.


Leaving the house 101

Ready to get out of the house? Before hitting up any public spot with your kiddos, make sure to do the following things ...

  1. Check before leaving. Call or check their Facebook page to confirm they’re open. Many businesses are operating with different hours this summer, or even different days of the week. Some have a reduced capacity, so it’s best to check to make sure they can accommodate you.
  2. Bring masks with you. Masks are mandatory in many spots now, so it’s better to always have them with you just in case. Pretty soon, they’ll be like your wallet and phone — you won’t leave the house without one.
  3. Pause before entry. Most places have signs on their doors announcing their new rules, so take a second and read them before walking right in. Yes, many of the signs are just about not entering if you have flu-like symptoms, but others have important info specific to that business.
  4. Follow the rules. If the rule is to wear a mask, wear one. If the rule is only five people at a time, do that. Social distancing is always the rule, so definitely do that. Lead by example and show your children the proper way to respect rules. Oh, and don’t forget to use sanitizer and wash your hands — let’s make that the new golden rule.
  5. Be kind. The world feels different now, and your kids know that more than anyone. They don’t need to see you overreacting, complaining, questioning the rules or being rude. Be patient and flexible when things don’t go as planned. Be kind to the people working hard to provide you with a good experience. Show your kids how to be a good person, even in strange and difficult times.
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