This Pandemic Is Making Me Into A 1980s Mom

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Nine Easy Backyard Activities for Your Family During Social Isolation
Nicole De Khors/Burst

We’re on day 1467 (or something like that) of social isolation. I’m making like an 1980s mom and kicking my kids outside for hours on end, because they need to burn their energy, get some vitamin D3, and not be on top of their working mother all day. The biggest perk for us is that everyone is in a better mood once they’ve spent some time outdoors.

You’d think with bikes and balls, there’s no way they could get bored. However, it turns out that doing the same two activities on repeat for days and days can get dull. It’s time to make the most of social isolation while experiencing the fun of the great outdoors. Here are nine easy ways to enjoy your backyard, or outdoor space, with very little preparation:

Use boxes to build structures.

If you’re like us, we’re getting a lot more package deliveries lately. We’re trying to avoid going to the stores as much as possible. We have loads of differing size boxes stacked up in our garage. Use packing tape to secure the box seams and openings, and let your kids build structures like towers, pyramids, or buildings. My kids particularly enjoy this next part: Once they’re tired of building, they do some sort of unofficial karate moves and smash the boxes with their bodies.

Bonus: You can have them recycle the boxes when they are done.

Set up a tent—or create one.

Last year, my father-in-law gave us a huge tent he bought on mega-clearance. It sat in our garage for months until we were ordered to shelter-in-place. That’s when we remembered that we had the tent, and promptly got it set up. The kids call it their clubhouse and spend hours in it. Don’t have a tent laying around? No prob. Grab old sheets, a tarp, or whatever you have, and help the kids built their own. Let them have a snack inside of it, read a book, or play a game.

Paint with nature.

My kids absolutely loved this activity. Take a walk around the yard, grabbing various nature items that have a variety of textures such as the spiky “gumballs” from a sweet gum tree, acorns, or other types of seed pods, leaves, grasses, or weeds. Once you collect a good variety, place different colors of washable paint on a paper plate, dip the items in the paint, and then apply to paper. Your kids can drag their “paintbrush” or use it like a stamp.

Have a picnic.

I don’t know about you, but we rarely have gone on a picnic as a family because it’s so much work for me. However, when the food is only making its way from your kitchen to your backyard, it’s much easier. Don’t worry about making it fancy, either. My kids are perfectly content with having a snack in the grass, or we make an easy meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a piece of fruit. Voila. You can even have a FaceTime lunch with friends while you enjoy your outdoor picnic.

Create a game.

My kids are obsessed with four-square, but they’ve added in all kids of rules they’ve created on their own. We usually get in on the fun in order to keep the peace between siblings, serving as the referee. Use whatever gear you already have, like balls, sidewalk chalk, a jump rope, hula hoop, etc. If a single game doesn’t work for your crew due to ability or age, try an obstacle course instead.

Build a bouquet or make a nature bracelet.

Our yard is currently a menagerie of dandelions, violets, and various other “flowers.” Take a walk with your kiddos and have them create their very own bouquets. An alternative to this is to make each kiddo a bracelet out of tape, sticky side outward. As they go on their walk, they can create nature bracelets, sticking whatever they want to the tape around their wrist.

Have a water party.

I grew up in the 1980s. Our water fun came from a single sprinkler. If you have a sprinkler, set it up, but if you don’t, gather water-holding items from around the house, along with water-safe toys. Have your kids put on their swimsuits, and then fill a large container (or several) with water and let the kids have fun. They can fill, pour, “paint” surfaces (use sponges or washcloths). Or if you’re feeling brave, let them wash the car.

Host outdoor Olympics.

Collectively establish some Olympic games such as ring toss, running, and hoop-shooting. Be sure to let every child contribute ideas that they are good at and fit their ability. Get on some workout gear and then let the games begin! If you want to dress the part, grab a clipboard, a whistle, and your phone for timing and score keeping. After the games are over, have an award ceremony and pose for pics.

Go on a night walk.

Put on your pajamas, grab a flashlight, and enjoy an evening walk. You can explore variations such as taking a book and reading outside with a flashlight, enjoying an evening snack under the stars, or playing flashlight tag. Remember that tent I suggested you build? That can also be a fun evening activity.

During social isolation, I’ve been reminded that my kids actually need very little to entertain themselves. The simplest pleasures can occupy them for hours if I just give them the opportunity. Yes, there have been times I’ve had to firmly tell them to go outside, but once they’re out there, some parental-creativity can prompt some magical fun.

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