It’s week 23 here for me. No, I have not lost count. Like many working parents, I am tracking and living day to day, and then counting week after week. We have now passed the 5-month mark and are enjoying the last two weeks of August. With all of our summer activities canceled, I had been in denial during that last week of remote schooling, wishing the next season away.
I wasn’t prepared for my role as a camp counselor for a 5-year-old and 7-year-old. It’s not a role I chose; it’s a role that chose me. If I had been a mediocre teacher this school year, I had discovered that I was a terrible camp counselor.
For those of us living in an urban environment, options for hosting a backyard camp are limited. I can’t install a pool. Or a trampoline. Or a swing set. Or even a sandbox. No obstacle courses. I can’t let the kids ride around on their bikes, or chase fireflies as the evening settles in.
And so for us city dwellers, we have to get creative—while still trying to work from home and parent. Here are 10 of my hacks for surviving a pandemic city summer. I know these hacks will serve me well as summer winds down and we head into the fall months:
1. Go on an early morning run outside with the kids.
My children are up most days by 5:45 a.m. Doesn’t matter what time they get to bed; they are early risers. So I stopped fighting the early wake-up, and embraced it. We are now out the door by 6:30 a.m., and outside to the boardwalk where we live in Jersey City, New Jersey. Not only is it cooler in the wee hours of the morning, but also the only people out that early are dog walkers and runners. I find a bench to work on while I watch my son and daughter run, chasing each other around while counting boats. This buys me a solid 75 minutes on most days. And yes, I pray for sunshine every day.
2. Play “Scrabble” using sidewalk chalk.
I can’t seem to order enough sidewalk chalk. The kids love to draw pictures, play tic tac toe and hopscotch. We also started playing sidewalk “Scrabble.” I draw a giant board and fill in some rows and columns with words and omit some of the letters. The kids love to guess the words and add their own words. This usually buys be another 25 minutes.
3. Tune into Cosmic Kids Yoga.
Jaime Amor, I love you. Jaime’s the star, writer and co-owner of Cosmic Kids Yoga, a mindfulness and yoga platform for children that has been around since 2012 on YouTube. I imagine it has become an essential service for families during this pandemic given views have skyrocketed over the past 17 weeks. The Frozen-, Trolls- and Pokemon-themed episodes are my kids’ favorites, but all of the episodes are fantastic, with Jaime dressing up as characters against digital backgrounds, leading kids through yoga. Each session is about 30 to 40 minutes. Did I mention that I love you, Jaime Amor?
4. Paint their faces.
This has been a real crowd pleaser, and I am becoming quite the face painter. I purchased the Melissa and Doug Deluxe Face Paint Set for $14.99 on Target.com and have no regrets. My kids have been a witch, a zombie, a bunny, a magician and more. My only complaint has been the orange and yellow paint does not show up well on brown skin and needs more pigment; note to self to write to Melissa & Doug on a break from camp. My face-painting skills have gotten so good it might be time for a side hustle when Hershey Park opens again. Although charging $49.99 per kids seems outrageous…or maybe not.
5. Paint anything else—except the walls.
Along with sidewalk chalk, I have plenty of paint and brushes on hand. And after we paint our faces, we paint everything (just not the walls). Amazon and Target boxes are transformed into cars. Paper bags become puppets. Toilet and paper towel rolls become wizard wands. Rocks become animals. Empty milk cartons become robots. Paper plates are used for self-portraits. We paint and paint and paint some more.
6. Fold laundry.
My kids suddenly like to do laundry. And you won’t hear me complaining. After they wash the paint off their hands, they help start the washer and put clothes into the dryer. We watched some YouTube videos on folding, which didn’t work out so well, so I let them fold however they can, and stick the clothes in their drawers and in their closet. And I let them fold my clothes too. If they are wrinkled, who cares? We’re living in a pandemic; no one is judging our wrinkled outfits.
7. Give long baths.
No limits on bathtime anymore. They can come out soaked and prune-like. I let them put on their swimsuits and play together with fizzy bombs, sailboats, buckets and whatever toys we can find. In the absence of a pool, a bathtub does the trick—even if on some days it’s a bit dirty. You can even sit beside the kids on your laptop to get work done while they (gently) splash.
8. Read Harry Potter for the first time.
I was never a Harry Potter fan. Never read the books. I think I saw the first movie—I can’t remember. And then this summer my 7-year-old son became interested in reading the books. And so we bought the first one, and every day read it together for 30 minutes. And now I am a Harry Potter convert and can’t wait to get to the second book.
9. Rediscover Disney movies.
You can’t survive a summer pandemic in the city without Disney+. We have watched so many movies together for the first time including Big Hero Six which is my daughter’s favorite. It has been more fun than I would have ever expected to watch movies with them that I have already seen. I get to watch Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White again, all through their eyes, and watch them enjoy the movies for the first time.
10. Give yourself mandatory alone time.
Every day for 30 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, we have mandatory alone time. This is a must for kids and adults. You can make a snack. You can color, draw or read a book. You can sit quietly in the corner. You can pass out on the couch. Whatever you do, you must do it alone for 30 minutes. Because we all need alone time. The only way to survive this summer is to recharge and regroup—and wait for fall to arrive in a few weeks.
Originally published on Working Mother.