We usually spend our summers here in Ann Arbor enjoying the city, celebrating at community events and festivals, visiting family and friends, or traveling across the globe on vacation. However, the summer of 2020 is looking a bit different than usual, with a pandemic and social distancing rules in effect.
But while this summer might not be exactly like the rest, there are still plenty of ways to maximize your family’s time spent at home this summer! We rounded up a list of some of the best at-home activities you can do with kids, from reading a book together to attending a virtual summer camp. Plus, some of these ideas include ways you can support your community during this difficult time without having to leave the comfort of your home!
Chalk art is one of the easiest—and most affordable—ways to entertain your kids during a warm day! All you really need is some chalk from the store and a little inspiration on what to draw. If you’re looking for some local inspiration, look no further than Ann Arbor artist, David Zinn, who’s been leaving his adorable chalk art all around the city for locals to find. If you feel like venturing out of the house for a walk, head to David’s Instagram and try to track down his latest creation!
Sign Them Up for a Virtual Summer Camp
As time goes on, it’s looking more and more like 2020 summer camps in the Ann Arbor area will be canceled. Luckily, many of these camps are planning on continuing the fun this year online! Michigan Virtual is offering a Minecraft Edition of their annual online summer camp because if your kids are going to play video games all summer anyway, they might as well learn along the way!
And The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills has also recently decided to only offer virtual camps this summer. Their programs will run 2-6 week programs in math, language arts, theater, forensic science, art, cooking and more along with some free camp fun like scavenger hunts all summer long. You can learn more and register your child here.
Learn Something New with an Easy Science Experiment
Science experiments are a great way to fill up a few hours with some fun AND learning during the summer! Plus, there are hundreds of easy experiments that you can do with items you probably have lying around your house already. Good Housekeeping has a fantastic and thorough list of experiments you can do with kids—from apple oxidation to walking water and magic milk. You can find the entire list here!
Create Your Own “Drive-In” Movie Theater
One thing we desperately miss from #beforeCOVID is going to the movies! There’s just something about heading up to the ticket counter, buying some buttery popcorn and settling in for a magical night of movie watching with strangers. While we can’t do that again just yet, we can bring some of that movie theater magic home with a DIY drive-in movie theater using just a sheet and a cheap movie projector! Check out this HGTV guide on making a screen using an old bedsheet, some two-by-fours, cement and planters and start working on your own. Then fill your backyard space with comfy pillows, a few outdoor chairs, blankets and, of course, plenty of popcorn for a perfect movie night under the stars!
Try Out a New Kid-Friendly Recipe
Many people are using this social distancing time to learn a new skill—and we can’t think of a better one to hone than cooking! Teaching your kids how to cook simple recipes can be a fun activity that everyone can do together. Check out this list from Taste of Home that outlines 30 easy recipes to try with your family, from peanut butter and banana sandwiches to cheesy quesadillas and ice cream in a bag.
When kids are in school, teachers know that the best way to keep them well-behaved and focused is to get them outside for recess or to the gym for P.E. at regular intervals. When school is out, we sometimes forget that they need some activity to expel some energy. There are several ways to get them up and moving, from spontaneous dance parties to following an online yoga tutorial! Check out this guide from She Knows, which lists some of the best virtual resources for getting your kids moving and grooving (including Cosmic Kids Yoga that even you will want to take part in!).
Break Out a Boardgame or a New Puzzle
It may not be the most original idea in the book, but board games are a classic family indoor activity that we just couldn’t leave off the list. You can’t go wrong with Hungry Hungry Hippos for little ones or Monopoly for the older kids. If you want to keep your board game shopping local, Vault of Midnight is offering curbside pickup and $5 flat rate shipping! Or, for a new puzzle, head to Rock Paper Scissors to check out their ever-changing collection.
Plant a Butterfly Garden
It’s a simple fact: kids love butterflies! And if your kiddo is a fan as well, why not plant your very own butterfly garden to help attract them to your yard? Not only will it give your kids the chance to watch something grow, but it will also give you the chance to teach them all about plant life and butterfly life cycles. If you’re interested in trying your hand at butterfly gardening this summer, head to The Native Plant Nursery, one of A2’s favorite garden centers, and pick up one of their special “Butterfly Garden Kits,” which includes 32 plug-sized, native Michigan perennial plants chosen to provide nectar and/or host plants for local butterflies. Click here to learn more!
Go Camping in the Backyard… or Your Living Room
Campfires, tents, s’ mores, chirping crickets—all of our favorite parts of camping can be done right in your backyard! Set up your tent, get a fire going (a candle works perfectly if you don’t want to start an actual fire in your yard), snuggle up in your sleeping bags and enjoy a night outside. If you’d rather enjoy a fun camping night inside, there’s no better spot than your living room! Create a blanket fort, pile up a lot of pillows, make s’ mores over the stove, and watch your favorite movie from the comfort of your cozy pile.
Do a DIY From a Local Business
One of our favorite things that has come out of this time of social distancing is all of the amazing innovation coming from our local businesses! From DIY pizza kits to DIY cake making kits and pottery kits, Ann Arbor businesses have gone above and beyond to create take-and-make experiences just for us. Jolly Pumpkin has a special DIY pizza box that comes with pizza dough and all your favorite toppings so you can make a delicious JP pizza from the comfort of your own home. AR Workshop is constantly coming up with new DIY-To-Go kits that come with all the materials and instructions you need to make a fun and exciting craft like pillow covers, signs, coasters, wood decor and more.
Read a Book Together
When you can’t venture outside, why not pick up a book and escape into a story for a while? Reading out loud can be a fun activity for the whole family—no matter how old your kids are! Whether it’s Harry Potter or Clifford the Big Red Dog, you can snuggle up on the couch together for an all-day reading marathon.
Even if you can’t leave your house, the library is still a great option for those looking to support the community. Just download the Libby app, input your library card information and voila—you can download free ebooks and audiobooks directly from your local library. And if you want to support a local business, many local bookstores in the Ann Arbor area have online stores where you can order new physical books or ebooks that you can download to your digital device.
While we can’t actually go to Disneyland or Disney World right now, fans young and old can experience their favorite rides virtually, thanks to these handy first-person YouTube videos! Whether you’re a Space Mountain person or a princess lover, you can experience the Disney magic through your computer screen no matter where you are in the world.
Create Your Own Rube Goldberg Machine
When all else fails—get creative! One surefire way to keep kids entertained for hours on end is to start your very own Rube Goldberg machine, a complex contraption that is designed to achieve a simple task. First, choose that simple task, whether it’s turning on a light, popping a balloon, watering a plant or just shutting a door. Then, craft a funky “machine” that does that job through a series of events like dominos falling, cups falling, toy cars running and more! If you want some step-by-step instructions along with a few examples, check out this helpful guide from Connections Academy.
Have a Water Balloon Fight
It’s hot outside and you’re stuck at home so why not have a water balloon fight? Fill up a few bins with water balloons—we recommend these water balloons that tie themselves to help streamline the process—and go to town! For even more fun, try making up another game for your water balloons, like water balloon volleyball, a back-to-back race, a squat relay and more.
Have a Great Summer!
While we know this summer looks very different than any other one we’ve experienced, we hope you still have a blast! Did you create any of the fun DIYs mentioned in this article? Tag us on Instagram using the hashtag #LoveAnnArbor so we can see them!