This is one weird summer. Some playgrounds are still closed, few splash pads are turned on, and physical distancing is still the norm. Recently I’ve noticed my mind is stuck bemoaning all the things I can’t do with my kids this summer. It’s not a fun brain-space to be, I can tell you that. To help myself feel better (and maybe you too) I’ve made a huge list of things we can do this summer, even if we’re hanging out with friends a lot less than we wish to be.

  1. Make circles in your park (hula hoops will work) and invite a few friends to have a dance-off. Bring good music and stay in your circle!
  2. Give your neighborhood the popsicle test! It’s a rating that urban planners use to determine how good a city is for children. Can a child safely walk to a store, buy a popsicle, and return home before it melts?
  3. Host a lemonade stand. Or a popsicle stand, if you’ve discovered your neighborhood has a shortage.
  4. Watch MOTHERLOAD. It’s a documentary about one mom’s fight against isolation and disconnection using a cargo bike and the rich community of families on bikes. If you’ve ever been curious about family biking, this is for you. 
  5. Go camping! Or just pitch a tent in your living room or backyard.
  6. Make a donation to your little free library or make your own! Be sure to add it to the world map of libraries.
  7. Turn your balcony into an oasis with plants and twinkle lights. Add pillows or chairs for max chill.
  8. Go on a bike ride. Can you hit a 30-day streak of rides?
  9. Go on a hike, urban or nature. Find a trail near you on the Hiking Project (a great source for bike trails too).
  10. Calculate the distance between fire hydrants, manholes, access pipes, telephone poles, bus stops, and other infrastructure in the area surrounding your house. Are they all spaced the same distance apart?
  11. Grab a camera and take photos of the best parts of your ‘hood. Print and display at your local coffee shop or another public place.
  12. Rig up a movie outdoors with a sheet and a DIY smartphone projector.
  13. Eat outside every day that you possibly can.
  14. Buy a new micro-transit option: a scooter, skateboard, rollerblades, etc.
  15. Ask your kid to guide you to a neighborhood spot. Can they lead you there with little to no guidance?
  16. Be trash ninjas: pick up litter in your neighborhood. Gloves and ninja masks required.
  17. Learn 25 new words in another language spoken frequently around your home.
  18. Design a boat and test it for floatation in the park, your kiddie pool, or even the bathtub.
  19. Make a stick family and leave them on your friend’s stoop as an anonymous gift.
  20. Make stilts with tin cans and string and take a walk around the block. Or try this beginner woodworking option with blocks of wood.
  21. Tally each fire hydrant, bus, manhole cover, street sweeper, crossing guard, bike, etc. you see on your walk.
  22. Make a fairy door for a tree on your block and see if any fairies move in next to you.
  23. Take up weaving. Use fabric scraps or even bits of nature to make your weaving. Take it to the next level by asking your neighborhood park if you can make a community loom.
  24. Challenge your family to walk everywhere for a week. Better yet, map out a two-mile circle around your house and commit to always walking to those places!
  25. Paint silly faces on rocks and leave them around your neighborhood to make people smile.
  26. Make a neighborhood scavenger hunt for a friend and then ask them to make one for you.
  27. Paint a tic tac toe board on a piece of wood (like a stump) and use rocks for the Xs and Os. Leave in a community area for everyone to enjoy.
  28. Improve your park. Use this guide to help you get started; it’s made for NYC but the ideas are universal.
  29. Get a small solar panel and figure out how to generate power for something like twinkle lights.
  30. Collect cardboard and other supplies and make an adventure playground
  31. Go on a nature walk and collect flowers, leaves, seeds, and any other interesting bits you can find. Arrange them into a Mandela or make a face. 
  32. Grab a bunch of friends and a bunch of cardboard. Make giant puzzle pieces for each person, decorate separately, then piece together your creation!
  33. Plan a river cleanup.
  34. Yarn bomb a tree! Or a bench, or a fence. (If it’s not your tree, you should probably ask permission.) Be responsible and watch your yarn bomb for signs of decay and clean it up when you notice it getting soggy or gross.
  35. Eyebomb! Anthropomorphize different objects in your city using ping-pong eyeballs or google eyes.
  36. Seed bomb! Launch some seed bombs in an empty lot or a spot that needs more plant life. 
  37. Try your hand at graffiti with washable spray chalk. Spray it on the sidewalk so it’s easily washed off with rain.
  38. Make a bench and place it in a spot that needs a seat. If you can’t build it, offer to purchase one for a small business with sidewalk space.
  39. Know of some community improvements in the works? Take the kids to a city council meeting and speak up—socially distancing of course.
  40. Search the night skies for the ISS or hubble or your favorite constellation.
  41. Find and join a citizen science project in your city.
  42. Start a compost bin under your sink. You could even try vermicompost!
  43. Calculate your home’s carbon footprint and brainstorm ways you can reduce it with your family.
  44. Organize a car-free day for your city using this guide from Open Streets Project.
  45. Pack a picnic using no plastic! Only reusable or compostable items allowed.
  46. Plant a tree on your street! Contact your city officials for permits and to see if there are any programs that are giving away free trees.
  47. Consider cleaning up your alley and install a basketball hoop, garden, twinkle lights, or other improvements to the shared space.

​I’ve changed my mind. It’s going to be a good summer after all.

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