A Guide To Surviving Your Kids’ Summer Vacation…Pandemic Style

Published on: 27 Jun 2020
Clinically Reviewed by Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
mother going crazy with small children at home

Most parents would agree that this was the most bonkers, upside down spring ever. We were contending with the fear and upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. On top of that, we were adjusting to having our kids home 24/7, quarantined inside. Many of us were also suddenly homeschooling our children. As if that wasn’t enough, we were also working from home, trying to reimagine childcare, and basically hanging by a thread — just trying to get through each day in one piece.

My motto throughout this chaotic time was, “Good enough will have to be good enough.” If my kids attempted to do their schoolwork, if everyone was fed and healthy, and if my work got done to the best of my ability — that meant that everything was going just fine. Yes, my house was a bit of a wreck, we ate frozen dinners most nights, and the kids spent way too much time on screens. But this wasn’t normal life, so I cut us all a whole lot of slack.

The Challenges of Surviving Summer with Kids During Covid-19

Just as soon as we got into a routine, summer vacation was upon us. As much as I hoped at the beginning of the pandemic that things would be back to normal by summer, they are far from it. Like many parents out there, I have had to reimagine summer for my kids in much the same way I had to reimagine — and totally revamp — their school years.

Where I live, summer camps are mostly not open. Even if they were, I would not feel comfortable sending my kids. We live in New York, in the epicenter of the pandemic, and even though our infection numbers are going down, I am still being extremely cautious. I am not ready for my kids to congregate in large groups, and even small groups seem risky to me unless smart measures are taken, such as the use of masks and social distancing.

So where does that leave us for summer? Well, I don’t think it means that summer is cancelled. Yes, it would be nice if my kids could do the usual things they love to do in summer, like vacationing at their grandparent’s cabin upstate, going to the community pool, spending a few weeks at day camp, and hanging out with friends.

But I think there actually are a lot of fun things kids can do this summer, while staying safe. In a way, this might be one of the most memorable summers for our family — and maybe yours too.

Pandemic-Style Summer Ideas

As summer approaches, I’ve been making a list of things we can do with our kids. When I first considered compiling this list, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to think of much to do. But the truth is, there are a lot of things you can do with kids without sending them to camp or sending them out to congregate in large groups.

Here are my top recommendations:

Backyard fun

Not everyone has a backyard — we actually only have a yard we share with others in our apartment building. If you have no outside area to call your own, you can go to a park during “off hours” and find an unpopulated area to call your own. Most kids are just happy to play freely outside, but if you need a little more structure, try organizing a simple treasure hunt or make an obstacle course for your kids.


Hiking is great because there are usually ways to stay safely distanced from others. Also, plan ahead if you are taking kids because, depending on their age, they can tire quickly. Choose a simple hike with ample places to rest.


Camping is an excellent way to vacation during a pandemic — namely due to the open air and the ability to socially distance appropriately. Preparing to camp can be a lot of work for parents, but camping can be a fun and memorable adventure for the little ones.

Virtual summer camp

Many camps are going online this summer, and while you and your kids may be burnt out from online learning, summer camps are about fun and creative activities. Many are offering virtual art, sports, and dance activities.

Virtual and socially distanced playdates

If your child is old enough to follow social distancing rules and mask wearing, having a playdate with a family who is on the same page about safety rules can be a fun break. Meeting outside in an area that allows for proper distancing, not sharing things like snacks and drinks, and making sure to keep those masks on, are your safest bets.

Water fun

If you have a backyard, now’s the time to get an old-fashioned inflatable pool. If you don’t have your own space, you can whip out some water balloons, or water squirters. So fun! Beaches and lakes may be open in your area, too. Find out when the “off-hours” are to avoid crowds and take normal precautions.

Drive-in movies

Many towns are gearing up with this retro throwback and setting up drive-in movies. Bring pillows and snacks, and enjoy. I can’t wait to try this out with my family. I haven’t been to a drive-in since I was a little kid. While we may not be able to go back to movie theaters for awhile, summer is the perfect time to enjoy outdoor movies with your family.

If All Else Fails, Let Them Be Bored

Here’s perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give you (and I need to hear it too). You do not have to entertain your kid every second of the summer break. Many of us will still be working while our kids are home. There will be many hours where they whine about how bored they are. But boredom is actually a good thing. If you let your kid sit with their boredom for a while, that’s often when the most fun, creative play emerges.

So, let them be bored. Most of our kids are overscheduled and overstimulated as it is. A summer of nothing may, in the long run, be good for their souls. And if all else fails, you can let them zone out for a few hours in front of the TV or a video game. After all, it’s all about balance.

Happy summer!

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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