11 Ways to Make Summer Fun When Camps are Cancelled

family hiking around lake outside

We all had big plans for the summer, didn’t we? 

Unfortunately, for most of us, it is just not working out quite as we’d hoped. Though summer will look different across the country, there is one thing we all have in common. Our summers are modified, twisted around, and flipped over. 

Our family had all kinds of plans that we’ve been looking forward to all year long. I’m guessing yours did too. The kids were registered for camps they love, our road trips were rescheduled, and much-anticipated summer traditions with family and friends have all been postponed. 

But now, camps are mostly cancelled, road trips are postponed, pool access is limited, and playgrounds are roped off. And, as expected, our kids have already declared that they are bored, and the summer has just begun. 

So, what is a family to do? 

We can lament our losses and cleared calendars, or we can do the work to salvage summer. We can decide to still have fun, even though we are disappointed about what we’ll be missing. We can salvage, shift, and pivot with hope and faith that God has something for our families. But it is going to require imagination, effort, and creativity. 

On the flip side of our foiled plans is an opportunity to connect with our families in ways that we’ve never had the time for before. It is also a chance for our kids to learn to push through boredom and learn to settle and entertain themselves. Silver linings abound. 

Here are 11 ways for your family to find some sun-soaked joy and connection:

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

  • literal bucket with bucket list sitting on a sandy beach

    1. Make Lists and Dream Together


    List-making might sound like the opposite of fun. But how about calling it dreaming, hoping, or planning? Better indeed, and that is the goal. Get your family together every week and dream up plans and desires for the future. You’ll be left with excited anticipation.

    Give every family member a chance to share ideas and give input. Let the lists be silly and dreamy. Why not? You will be connecting with your family and teaching them to make the most of life, regardless of what comes your way.

    Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    1. Summer Bucket List: Make a list of activities you CAN do. Think going for ice cream, playing with kinetic sand, hiking, and drive-in movies.

    2. Cooking List: Are there dishes you usually enjoy in the summer, like Grandma’s macaroni salad or Aunt Sally’s pecan pie? Then, brainstorm foods that you’d like to try, like homemade spaghetti sauce. You’ll get your kids in the kitchen to learn new skills.

    3. Movies to Watch

    4. Show List: List the shows you watched as a kid to introduce your kids to. Or, just new-to-you series your family has been meaning to try. 

    5. God at Work List: Talk about all God has done in your family’s time in quarantine. Did he quiet your mind? Make space for a Bible study? Deepen your faith? 

    6. Restaurants to Try

    7. Road trips: Make one for local and long distance. What are the places you’d like to finally visit? 

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Coompia77

  • family playing board game together on floor

    2. Gather for Game Nights


    Make game night a weekly tradition. Consider adding special foods, like appetizers. Give everyone a chance to choose the game (Sequence, Sushi Go, or Five Crowns). Go through all your games and dig out some dusty ones. Family video games are fun too. Have fun around the table with some chips and dip!

    3. Arrange Movie Nights

    - Give everyone something to look forward to and make this another weekly tradition. Enjoy popcorn, sodas, and movie candy. 

    - Read books that have been made into movies, for reading, and watching. 

    - Make a giant blanket fort and watch a movie on your laptop.

    4. Set up Challenges

    Spice up your weeks with challenges.

    - Lego challenge: Give everyone Legos and challenge them to make a school or a holiday scene. You could judge by categories with prizes. 

    - Sidewalk challenge: With a box of sidewalk chalk, give everyone categories to win for prizes, such as most creative, inspirational, or most fun.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

  • outdoor nature scene of womans hand trailing over wildflowers

    5. Discover Nature


    Enjoy all your local trails and state parks. Hike new trails, pack picnics, or go camping. 

    6. Dive into Backyard Creativity

    What new things could you do right in your backyard?

    - Grow herbs or a garden. Let the kids plant a veggie in a pot

    - Camp in the backyard or let the kids put a tent on the trampoline

    - Put up a bird feeder

    - Picnic

    - Backyard games like volleyball, badminton, bocce, or Can Jam

    - Light the fire pit and make s’mores

    - Flashlight walks

    - Glow Stick Hunt: Buy several packages of glow sticks. Hide them and then hunt them!

    7. Have Some Water Fun

    Enjoy some simple fun with the hose. 

    - Play in the sprinkler

    - Create your own slip and slide

    - Have a water balloon fight

    - Challenge everyone to water gun battle

    Photo Credit: © Sparrowstock

  • children laying on grass outside

    8. Set Up Scavenger Hunts


    Create a scavenger hunt for your house, neighborhood, or town. Let the kids lead. Prizes add to the competition. 

    9. Make Time for Art

    - Take virtual tours of art museums.

    - Chalk art

    - Origami

    - Face painting

    - Learn to draw using websites, like Art Hub

    - By number sticker books

    10. Acts of Kindness

    - Call/Write to older relatives or friends.

    - Thank-you notes: Who could you thank?

    - Blessing bags: Is there a homeless population in your community? Gather snacks, deodorant, socks, soap, wipes, etc. to drop off at a food bank or shelter

    - Food donations

    - Visit lonely neighbors: Sit on front porches with older neighbors who might not receive much company

    - Make food to share: Cook or bake for neighbors, hospitals, or fire departments

    - Chalk messages of hope

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/omgimages

  • mom reading with her kids in a tent in bedroom

    11. Indulge in Summer Reading


    - Trips to the library. Many are opening back up or doing curbside

    - Listen to a book on tape

    - Book/movie combos

    - Write a book. Order blank books and let kids write and illustrate their own works

    Summer is a special time of sun, joy, and freedom, and that doesn’t have to be canceled. The sun will still shine, and joy is still plentiful with some effort. You might have to pivot as you navigate the new normal, but it can still be fun and memorable. So stay in and cook up some new traditions, or head to the backyard, and say yes to some messy water play.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

    Rebecca Radicchi, her husband and crew of kids, live outside Atlanta, where the summers are hot and the tea is sweet. She’s ridden the waves of adoption, breast cancer, and being the mom of kids with complex medical needs. And, through it all, she’s seen that abundance can be found in the uncomfortable hard and in the easy beautiful. She’s also discovered that whether she’s passing bread at the kitchen table, clock-watching in a hospital waiting room, or listening to a neighbor on a porch swing, God always has something to say. It’s a wonder really. She encourages others to listen for it too on her website and Instagram, and also connects with adoptive families at No Hands But Ours.