The sun is shining, the air is warm, and the kids are itching to get outside for some of the summer fun they wait for all year round. However, it’s no secret that summer isn’t going to be the same as we’re used to. With social distancing remaining a priority, camps, amusement parks, and public pools are closed, beaches have new guidelines and restrictions, and we even have to be extra careful in our own backyard pools. But, that doesn’t mean that your family has to miss out on summer fun altogether. Here are 25 ways you can recreate some of the fun summer activities New York has to offer in your backyard.
Turn your backyard into a pool, beach, or water park.
For littlest ones you might want to scope out an inflatable pool or play center—bonus points for one with a sun canopy! Bigger kids (and sun-scorched parents!) will appreciate the ability to get fully submerged in a larger above-ground pool. Just be sure to always have a responsible adult in charge of water safety and making sure that the pool remains clean throughout the summer.
Get beachy vibes going at your house with the addition of a sandbox or sensory play bin full of Kinetic sand. Add a bunch of shovels, pails, and other building tools so kids can get to work on sandcastles.
Channel the fun of a water park with other aquatic features like a water table, a kid-friendly sprinkler, water balloons, or a DIY water slide out of any swing set slide or plastic sheeting placed on a slight decline with a running hose. If you’re willing to make a small investment, there are plenty of blow-up backyard splash parks to choose from.
Go camping in the backyard.
You may not live in the woods but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like you’re spending some time at a classic campout. Pack a picnic with plenty of finger foods, unbreakable plates and kiddie utensils, and the biggest blanket you can find. Some easy, picnic-ready bites? Kids will flip for watermelon slices, corn on the cob, bowls of berries, turkey and cheese pinwheels, and veggies with ranch dip.
Reuse the massive blanket to make a backyard fort out of any patio furniture. Or pitch a true tent, toss some sleeping bags, books, board games, and other toys inside, and then leave the kids to their own devices. You’ll be amazed at how much time they can spend playing inside! If you’re crafty then you can try making your own canopy tent with the help of your mini at-home artists.
As they start to wander outside, have some binoculars and bug catching devices at the ready. Kids can spy birds and other backyard wildlife while trying to catch caterpillars, butterflies, and all sorts of insects.
If your brood is less the wandering around nature type and has more of a competitive side then consider planning for some traditional camp fun like a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course, or a game of capture the flag or kickball. Depending upon the age of your children and size of your family, you may even organize a summer-long color war!
When it starts to get dark, put the little ones on firefly spotting duty and think about how you can create a cozy atmosphere with twinkle lights or a small bonfire with s’mores using these amazing vegan marshmallows. Just add some sparklers, glow sticks, or anything that illuminates in the dark and it’ll feel like a special summer gathering.
Read Next | Our Staten Island Summer Camp Program Guide
Create an at-home carnival.
Since amusements parks and local fairs won’t be an option for a fun activity this summer, why not bring the games and attractions to your house? Places like Disney parks, Universal Studios, Six Flags, and Coney Island have made virtual roller coaster rides a reality for thrill-seeking fams.
Smaller children will be challenged and entertained by simple diversions and activities like a ring toss, a water balloon catch, swatting at air-filled balloons with racquets, or setting up a homemade bowling game with empty bottles and your favorite ball.
You can also do some eye-opening live streaming of zoos and aquariums from across the country. Or embark upon a kid-friendly museum tour at some cultural hotspots throughout the world.
Enjoy summer sweet treats.
Nothing says summer quite like a warm weather sweet treat. Up the fun factor of ice cream by making a sundae bar (with homemade ice cream!) in your backyard. Assemble frozen banana pops and have kids top them with hot fudge, sprinkles, nuts, and mini marshmallows. Get creative with homemade popsicles as healthy or as decadent as you like. Or wow your family with a cotton candy or snow cone machine. And don’t let the summer pass you by without helping the kids host a family lemonade stand. You can dress up in costume and visit the stand time after time as a new person!
Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer and NYMetroParents’ Manhattan and Westchester calendar editor. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, NY, with her husband, a toddler, and a dog.