Dear moms and dads: After months of homeschooling, social distancing and canceled activities, you deserve a medal. Seriously, bravo. But while napping for the rest of the year probably sounds like fun to you, your kids are just getting started. (And now, watching back-to-back episodes of their favorite show just doesn’t have the same novelty it did in April.) So we asked real parents to share their best hacks for keeping their whole family happy and entertained. Here, eight creative ideas to try with your crew this month.
Summer theater camp was canceled this year, and you had to postpone your family trip to New York City to see a show on Broadway. Luckily, all the world’s a stage—and that includes your back patio. Kids might have fun reading the books out loud and dressing up like the characters, an idea suggested to us by two different parents, Pam G. and Jessica B. (great moms think alike). If your family is extra creative, collaborate with them on their own original work. “We made a family musical,” Sarah G., mom of three, says. “It gave us something to work on every day!”
Mountains of laundry keeping you from enjoying weekends with the family? Keep things (somewhat) tame with this hack from Elise Gurock, founder of Chaos Concierge: Get a separate laundry bin for each member of the family (this is especially key if you have three or more people in your household). Then, set up a calendar system where you do loads by person and on specific days of the week. For example, Monday is laundry night for your spouse; Tuesday might be your night and Saturday/Sunday is for the kids. This is also helpful if anyone in your family has sensitive skin and needs a gentle detergent, like the new All Free Clear Clean & Care. The formula is free of dyes and perfumes and is gentle on skin so your kids will be ready for their next activity—and now you’ll have the time to do it with them.
If you think you’re too late to jump on the gardening trend this year, think again. There’s still tons of great stuff to plant as summer turns into fall. Think: peonies, pansies, blueberries, spinach, radishes, kale, garlic and lettuce, which all thrive in September. A few moms told us their kids were more likely to eat the fruits and veggies if they grew them all by themselves. (Well, with a teeny bit of help from you.) Plus, tending to the garden will become a fun and educational activity to incorporate into your daily routine. “We did a daily seed journal with photos when we were growing seedlings,” says mom Jessica P. “Then we did planting, and now we’re harvesting! It’s helped us kill lots of time,” she jokes.
Jessie B. set up a station for her three-year-old with inexpensive art supplies like stickers, glitter glue and poster paint, and lets her go wild. When her kiddo has crafted to her heart’s content, she introduces another fun activity: splashing in the tub to clean off all the glitter. “I’ve drastically lowered my standards for keeping up with messes,” she adds. (If you don’t have craft supplies at home, don’t sweat it—a lot can be done with a simple cardboard or tissue box.)
Ballet and tap aren’t in the cards for your kids right now (well, not in person, anyway) and you can’t remember the last time you actually went to a workout class. Mom Mary L. has found a hack for that: “I’ve been including my two-and-a-half year old twins on my virtual Zumba workouts,” she says. “I set up an iPad to videotape it and they love looking at themselves dancing. It helps keep my mood positive and they like to feel included. They’ve actually learned how to follow directions by following along to some of the moves!”
A family walk? Boring. A family rock hunt? Endlessly thrilling. “We’ve been painting rocks and putting them back in different parts of the neighborhood,” Cody L. explains. First, the whole family takes a walk to search for flat, round rocks that are great for painting. Then, they spend the afternoon turning the rocks into art. Later on, they take another trip outside to leave the rocks all over the neighborhood. It’s a great way to brighten your neighbor’s day.
You can’t remember the last time you and your family ate together at a restaurant—luckily, eating in the car (yep, really) is equally exciting to your kids. “Car picnics are currently my two-year-old son’s favorite activity,” Jamia P. says. She packs a lunch, they drive to the park and then pop open the hatchback for the most fascinating place to eat PB&J.
You’ve been eyeing it online all summer. Sure, it’s a little pricier than the average kid’s toy, but several parents we talked to promise you won’t regret it. “It provides hours of entertainment, it fit in our tiny shared Brooklyn backyard and can then be deflated and stashed indoors,” Anna H., a mom of two, tells us. They’ll get their energy out safely—and most importantly, away from the Dale Chihuly vase in your living room. (Don’t have outdoor space? Jen M., also a mom of two, says that an indoor trampoline works in a pinch.)