British Columbia

Summer will be very different this year. Here's how you can make sure your kids still have fun

It’s not easy to have summer break during a pandemic, but there are still ways to make sure your kids get plenty of fun in the sun.

From day camps to online art classes — there are still options out there

There are still opportunities for kids to get out of the house and enjoy summer break. You just have to get creative! (Christine Brown)

Summer is usually a time for sun-drenched and lazy days — where schoolwork is replaced by afternoons at the beach and backyard barbecues sub in for staff meetings.

But guess what? A global pandemic can really suck the magic out of certain seasons. Spring break was certainly a wash — and since the kids have already spent months away from school, the concept of a summer "break" seems awfully bleak.  

For a lot of parents, the mental burden to occupy and care for their children is a heavy one — especially since March. With child-care options still limited or non-existent for many, this pressure has only increased. Lower Mainland mom Jordan Paul has been so busy with her work in telecommunications these past few months that she isn't able to do her work AND make sure her kids are engaged and entertained. So she's made the tough choice to use up all of her vacation days and take the entire month of August off.  

"That month off together ... that space to really let go of work…. I'm telling myself that's going to be the positive," says Paul. 

But that's a temporary solution. Once August ends, she's right back where she started, but without upcoming vacation days to provide relief.  

Sleep away camps are closed  but there are other options

But while I was under the impression that most day camps wouldn't be available this year, I was completely unprepared for how many options there actually are. Not only are many day camps still running — with limited numbers and increased COVID-19 safety protocols, of course — they still have space. The days of feverishly trying to sign up for camps months in advance never materialized this year, which is one of the only benefits from the pandemic, if you ask me.  

Some summer day camps are still open although they've adjusted their rules to keep kids apart. (John Hart/La Presse Canadienne)

Christine Pilkington, who runs the popular website Vancouver Mom, says you have to search a little to see what's available in your area as many organizations aren't doing much advertising.

"They're out there, you just have to look for them," says Pilkington. "They've been shut down, they've been nervous, they don't really know what's coming." 

And, if you've expanded your bubble a bit already, you might want to consider signing up your kids with the friends they are already allowed to see. That way, the risk of being exposed to too many new people is even lower.

Still, a lot of people won't be comfortable sending their children off for the day. So what can the kids do at home? Try "digital" day camps. While you might be tired of all the screen time they've already had in lockdown, if you've got a burgeoning computer coder or actor on your hands, you'll find a lot of chances for your kids to get online and create and perform.

And online means you aren't limited to what's within walking distance of your house!

If you're not completely fed up with all the online time your child has had recently, there are lots of fun courses and classes available. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Not all options are available

But if you were thinking you'd just turn your backyard into a hub of activity and exercise, you will — sadly — have to take trampolines off your list. I spoke with Ivan MacMillan, affectionately known as Ivan the Trampoline Man, about the COVID-19 "jump" in sales. After 40 years in the trampoline business, he's never seen anything like the recent demand and admits there's no way he can keep up.

"If you wanted a trampoline today, I'd be happy to get you one, but not until August 17th," warns MacMillan. "I'm trying to tell people it's the beginning of summer [on] August 1st, but not many are going for it!"

Has COVID-19 ruined some summer plans? Absolutely. 2020 continues to be the year of bad news and soul-crushing disappointment. Did you really think it was going to take a break for the summer?

But as we see more and more restrictions being loosened in the coming weeks, we will have more opportunities to embrace not only people outside our immediate family, but opportunities to make sure our kids are safely able to enjoy themselves and new experiences.

Will it be the greatest summer ever? I doubt it. But with a little compromise and creativity, I don't think the coming months are going to be a total wash out when it comes to having fun.

The weather, though? That I can't promise. 

About the Author

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.

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