Ask the grumpies: Things for an 8 year old to look forward to this summer (that don’t involve leaving the house)

Z asks:

My daughter (age 8) has been complaining that now that our summer trip has been canceled, there’s no longer anything to look forward to.  I have to admit I feel the same way too.  We’d been planning on meeting up with the grandparents in Florida and she had fun summer daycamps planned that are probably cancelled.  She’s been asking how Belle can sound so happy when she’s singing, “every day like the one before” and how can Belle feel lonely if she has so many people to say hello to every morning. (If you can’t tell, we purchased a Disney+ subscription.)  Do you have any ideas for things that she could look forward to that don’t involve things that could increase Covid 19 infections?  Any ideas for things that *I* (middle-aged woman) could look forward to?  Our library is still closed and it has been taking a lot longer than usual to get e-books.  We have some extra money that we would have spent on Florida and camp, but not infinite amounts.

I feel your pain so hard.  Our 7 year old has been similarly mopey.  DH and I have been talking about it.  Could we *drive* to see grandparents if we’re good about social distancing?  But that would really involve avoiding gas station restrooms (do not want to inadvertently kill grandparents) and I’m just not ready to go by the side of the road or the even more unnerving things one reads truckers doing.  :/  We have been face-timing and zooming with relatives but it’s just not the same at all.  (Maybe we could set up time with grandma to work on the same crafts?  But that seems like something more fun in person than long-distance.)  So… that just doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

So DH and I have been thinking really hard and tried to remember the kinds of things that we looked forward to when we were younger and our parents couldn’t afford regular vacations.  I was like… books?  But without the library that’s hard.  One can buy books, but new books are usually hardback and I’m not crazy about hardback (this is a me problem, not a universal problem).  Still… we’ve got the third Nikki Tesla on the list once school ends and it comes out in July.  I may order the rest of the Jim Benton books that DC2 doesn’t have since they’ve taken over my electronic wishlist and I’m only allowed to have 10 books on hold at any time.  There’s also a few Gordon Korman books that zie would like, but I have to be more careful with those– Son of the Mob is neither age nor interest appropriate (I still maintain that the best Gordon Korman books were the ones he wrote as a teenager, but those are harder to get).  (All amazon links are affiliate links.)

DH immediately thought about games and looked at the list of things coming out for various video game outlets this summer.  DC2 is seriously into Pokemon, so we’ve decided to tell hir that once school is out we will get hir the new paired Pokemon games for the switch.

Another suggestion:  Does your daughter want to redo some or all of her room?  We recently repainted the shelves in DC2’s closet and it really brightened the place up.  Depending on your daughter’s preferences, now might be a good time to upgrade a bed or paint furniture or add a bookcase, or even just rearrange the furniture (maybe remove some of the stuff she’s outgrown) etc.; if she is interested, it might be fun for her to do a lot of the planning.

One of the most exciting things that has happened with us since the pandemic was when my sister sent us frozen stuffed pizzas from tastes of chicago (not an affiliate link)– I’ve definitely upped my ordering from specialty places like nuts.com and vomfass and southernseason and penzey’s and our favorite tea place in the local city so on (not affiliate links).  I’ve been contemplating getting something crazy like mail ordering fancy ice cream or something baked even though grocery stores have decent premium ice cream (though generally only Ben and Jerry’s and Haagandaaz) and DH has been baking up a storm… but you know, just to have something made by someone else.   We thought about ordering sushi grade fish online, but balked at the $50 s/h fee.  We’re not quite there yet.  To be honest, right now I’m feeling a little sad that I’ve run out of things I’m dying to get at nuts.com.  I want more variety!  But retail therapy had been working for me for a while there.

I would also love any ideas that anyone from grumpy nation has.  I saw an awesome comment on a blogpost about having a treasure/surprise bag to go through for younger kids with toys and activities after chores are done (I can’t find the specific post– will link here if anyone remembers).   Our DC1 (age 13) was already planning on starting a youtube channel and learning video editing this summer, so those plans haven’t changed– zie is mostly focused on the AP World History exam right now and hasn’t had a chance to be angsty, unlike poor DC2.

What are you and yours looking forward to this summer?  Do you have any suggestions for things to plan or places to buy random fun stuff from?

p.s.  my dc2 has a birthday in late summer and usually gets 2-3 celebrations over the month—in-laws, us, my sister … need to be thinking how to make our single little family celebration more special than just presents, a cake and a song with dinner since zie usually also gets a party at grandma’s with the cousins during summer vacation and a day out with my sister on a later weekend.

39 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Things for an 8 year old to look forward to this summer (that don’t involve leaving the house)”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Out 6 year old had a late March birthday so everything was planned and then canceled. One way we made it more special was making a treasure hunt for his presents in the house. We wrote clues on a theme (such as Pokémon) and hid his presents around the house. It was much more exciting for him to solve a clue and find a present in the freezer than unwrap the actual gift and it made the present opening take much longer.

  2. omdg Says:

    Similar situation here! Love the idea of rearranging the kid’s room or video games. My kid is going to get to do more school like activities this summer, as well as hopefully some fun stuff as well. Maybe we will eventually be able to do a playdate or a horseback riding lesson once we’re no longer in the red zone (if that ever happens).

    Re road trips: This opinion may not be popular, but… I think you can likely use a public restroom without *too* much risk. Wipe down any surface before you touch it with your hands, and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. It’s amazing how few things you can touch in the bathroom if you’re mindful about it. If that idea still squicks you out, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that peeing by the side of the road is not a big deal at all, and that maybe I know someone who has done this more than once when they just can’t get to a bathroom in time during non-COVID times, including a week ago while going for a long run.

    • omdg Says:

      Also, the use of a urinal (pee bottle) is genuinely not a big deal at all. That is how men and boys go to the bathroom in the hospital when they can’t get out of bed. My only sadness is that there is no equivalently easy option if you don’t have a penis. I thought that link would be about doing #2 by the side of the road and then not picking it up, which is an actual public health hazard.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        There’s also adult diapers!

        And I know the risk is low for public restrooms (less so if the enclosed area we walk through is crowded, which is not predictable), and if it were just me and my chance of getting covid it wouldn’t be a big deal, but if we do anything to kill DH’s parents it would be horrific.

        There’s also a difference, I think, between using a plastic recepticle in the privacy of a hospital room and either in the car with a 13 year old present or out in the open.

      • Steph Says:

        There are actually “stand-to-pee” devices for those of us lacking the biological version, though you still might have to get out of the car

  3. gwinne Says:

    Just wanted to say I’m interested in the replies. I have a squirrely 8-year-old. More technology in our case is NOT the solution; it will create more problems. I’m thinking of getting a badminton set…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a good idea! I wonder what else can be set up in a yard for older kids…

      It’s funny how so much of dealing with kids during the pandemic is going back to our own childhoods in the 80s and 90s (we had a badminton set, also croquet). Except they probably shouldn’t knock on neighbors doors to ask if they can go out and play.

  4. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    We don’t need to get into whether it’s “pizza”, but Lou Malnati’s in Chicago also has great delicious deep dough vessels filled w cheez & sauce. They’re definitely shipping right now.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yes, that is where my sister sent the pizza from (they ship through Tastes of Chicago, see link in post). It was wonderful.

      • Michael N Nitabach Says:

        Awesome!!! If you ever go to one of their restaurants in Chicago, they also have exceptional caesar salad & minestrone soup.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Anchovies are gross, but I am aware of the glory of Lou Malnati’s. Their Atkins/gluten-free/paleo pizza saved me one ASSA when I was pregnant with DC2, insulin-resistant, and allergic to wheat.

  5. Steph Says:

    Depending on where you live, short trips out to local parks might be possible, or take scenic drives where you can at least see some sights, even if you don’t get out of the car.

    If you have access to a private yard, and your kid is either imaginative or into plants, give her a corner of the yard to do whatever she wants with? Let her plant things, dig around, build a fort or pavillion. I spent a summer pretending to be a witch out in our side yard when I was a kid, with a bunch of expired herbs for spell components.

    Otherwise, perhaps let her get creative in other ways? Have her research a couple of artsy or craftsy things she wants to try out, buy little test kits, and see how it goes. You can do a lot with just some notebooks and a pencil, or some acrylic paints and any wooden things you’ve got lying around. I think the key is not having there be any pressure for working on those – let her mess around and invent her own private world, if that’s all she wants to do.

  6. Dana Says:

    Amazon unlimited is $10/month and is almost like getting to join a new library. The selection isn’t the newest, most current books but it opens up lots of options. My son is using it to devour all the “Diary of a Minecraft Creeper/Zombie.Noob/etc” books and it’s been a good deal for us. You get 10 kindle books at a time and there’s no limit to how long you keep anything or how often you exchange them for new books.

    I think we might add some new online subscriptions just to change things up this summer. We also have a croquet set and my 7 year old has enjoyed bubbles in the yard (and attacking them with a sword) more than I would have expected for this age. My parents have badminton and I agree it’s great, but someone has to be willing to play with them so beware of that.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Epic! has been pretty cool for us during the school year (it’s an online book service like amazon unlimited, but only for kids books), though I don’t know if they will still be offering a home version once the school year ends.

  7. Mary Says:

    I think to a certain extent, we’re going to be just accepting that we’re living smaller this summer. We have a younger child (age 4) so we don’t have as many expectations to deal with, at least.

    What we did when we were kids, none of which is particularly exciting or new:
    * Sent outside to do whatever we came up with. My brothers often kicked a ball around, doing a semi-soccer thing with the goal being between two trees. I climbed trees a lot and also wandered around pretending various things. We sometimes made up games. Complaints of boredom were generally countered with parental “you can cleans,” which were not appreciated in the least.
    * Run around in the sprinkler, wearing swimsuits.
    * Water pistol fights in the yard, bubbles, tree-climbing, etc.
    * Play various board and card games.
    * Read/reread books.
    * Pulled the books off the lower shelves of my bookcase, drew room backdrops, and made up/played out Barbie pretend stuff. I also made them dresses out of tissues and tape.
    * Random crafty stuff. Watercolors, crayons, shrinky-dinks, those suncatcher sets, rug hooking, etc.

    What I’ve been doing with my kid for the last 2 months of being home, also not particularly exciting or new:
    * Play with clay. (I mixed up some diy play-doh at the start of lockdown and left it plain white so that color mixing wouldn’t be a Thing). Also art with watercolors, crayons, markers, etc.
    * Blow bubbles in the yard/ play games involving popping the bubbles. She likes to be a crocodile.
    * Ride her bike in the driveway/across the yard
    * Enlist her in cooking and “helping clean” except when I’m not in the mood for the level of mess/slowdown her help entails
    * Let her outright play in the dirt when we were getting the garden ready
    * Early morning solo playtime when the sun wakes her ahead of the official getting up time. She’s doing pretty well for up to 45 min, playing with dolls, building herself little forts, and playing with other toys in her room
    * Reading, puzzles, little-kid board games, ipad learning games
    * Letting her tear apart the couch for climbing, jumping, fort-building purposes. Usually while I’m allowing her to watch more television than I ever have in the past.
    * I’ve been playing with her a lot, too. Playing pretend, playing with dolls, building with blocks and legos, everything. She hasn’t seen another kid in two months. She needs someone to interact with her at her level, and I’m it.

  8. bogart Says:

    So, I don’t know where you live, how closed down it is, or what your preferences are, but … things we are doing already include disc golf and regular golf. The latter leans toward expensive (the former is often free if you can find a course or courses, and yes, my kid has been playing it since probably before he was 8, actually, though he is now older. I think he probably started at 7?). But the latter does have summer camps, some of which may be open with appropriate safety rules (we are hoping the one we usually go to will be), which might be a (probably pricey but maybe not out-of-budget) one week fun thing to do. Even if not, if it is something of interest to you there could be ways to try it out. First Tee is a good kids’ organization that is low-cost; I’m not sure how they’re operating (if at all) right now. I type all that not to encourage you if it’s of no interest, but in case it is, but you lack a plan.

    I am considering/debating kayaking and other boating options in our area (on public waterways). My main concern is whether there’s any risk of there being coronavirus in the water (?! presumably from fecal matter, if so, which is obviously unappealing regardless) and if so whether I need to worry about it (concentration? consumption? contact?). I mean, probably not, but what do I know?

    Geocaching is a possibility we haven’t really explored yet.

    We may camp. The issue here may be shared bathrooms; we have a camping trailer making this a non-issue if parks with hookups are open (not yet) (and campers can be rented, but of course there might be concerns about how sanitized it is).

    I’ve wondered about tennis (including possibly tennis camps or instruction) as an activity that could be pretty effectively distanced (possibly except for touching the ball…

    Obviously not a good idea (at all) if not appropriate for your family, and as a volunteer with a foster organization I know that animals in need are actually less available, not more, right now at least where I am, but fostering or adopting a puppy or a kitten could be a wonderful summer activity for the right kid(s) and family.

    • bogart Says:

      Oh! Someone recently told me about Outschool (.com), which offers virtual, synchronous courses for K-12. There’s academic stuff, but there were also courses like, “How to take care of a horse” that were well reviewed — I really know nothing about the site or its offerings, but they looked interesting and seemed pretty affordable.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Great ideas!

      Oh, that reminds me that we need to talk to DC1 about the online magic courses being offered this summer…

  9. Debbie M Says:

    My suggestion is a project. A summer-long project. Besides the ones already mentioned in other comments:
    * Learn to knit or sew, and make more and more complicated things.
    * Get an embroidery or cross-stitch kit that is gorgeous.
    * Make a dollhouse with stuff inside. And by “dollhouse” I mean castle, haunted mansion, firehouse, whatever sounds fun.
    * Learn to play a new instrument. Or work up to a favorite song on an old instrument.
    * Put on a play. (Or, along with the last bullet, a recital.) Or an art show. Or puppet show. Or dance recital. You get the idea, some kind of presentation that requires a lot of prep.
    * Start a blog or YouTube cooking show or something like that.
    * A new bike or scooter or roller blades/skates or basketball and hoop to learn and practice with.

    For the birthday celebration, I recommend some kind of theme. Here’s what my sister said about my niece’s birthday celebration in April: “Birthdays in the time of pandemic. We were just starting to talk about Alexandra’s birthday when everything shut down. But Lucia reminded me that 11 is the year young witches and wizards get their Hogwarts letter. And I happened to have an owl puppet. So she wrote the letter, I left the owl in the mail box, she put it all together. We had a tiny party, Lucia on one side of our home’s threshold, us on the other. There was singing, cake, and presents. And air hugs. And it was a surprise to Alexandra, she was bouncing with excitement and happiness. Thank you Nona Lucia for helping make this day brighter.”

  10. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Unpopular opinion: I am making my kids do school work every morning all summer just for something to do. The littlest one is just starting to read fluently; they all got tablets for their ebooks.

    We got a bunch of board games and puzzles from the local game store and the kids have 2 separate D&D games going.

    My kids like to cook and make stuff so we’ve been taking turns cooking new foods with them. And then, of course, there’s the jello.

    We are also super lucky to live near a nature center and have an almost -an-acre front yard with a creek so in a pinch they go play in the creek. And also, my parents almost certainly ALSO already had Corona virus so my mom has been coming to do childcare help (which is allowed in our state) now that I’m not worried about accidentally taking out grandma.

  11. Miser Mom Says:

    Coming late to the conversation, but I think this would be a great summer to collect family stories. My first summer of grad school, my then-husband and I drove around the country visiting elderly relatives to look at photo albums and ask the relatives (mostly women at that point) about the people in them. We got GREAT stories about why a great-grandmother thought a certain marriage was beneath her daughter, and practical jokes people had played . . . we started a family history book that included photos and stories and favorite recipes.

    At any rate, this would be a great summer for a kid to video chat with a relative to collect stories about old photos. For me, it was a way of connecting with people, capturing stories that would otherwise get lost, plus building up memories and traditions that I’d eventually pass along to my kids.

  12. First Gen American Says:

    Was thinking of an epic scavenger hunt. But that takes a lot of time to plan. I have honestly felt super guilty, it’s been a madhouse at work and twice as busy as usual it seems, so I haven’t been able to give as much one on one time as I’d like.

    We are building a treehouse this summer and a biking trail in the woods behind our house. And then maybe a treetop bridge. The boys are looking forward to that. Even though my son is 11, we have a giant fort in our living room that looks like a yurt and he’s been sleeping in it, taking his classroom zoom calls in it. It’s been fun. My younger son also wants his room gutted and redone but that is more disruptive. But maybe he can draw and paint his walls before we rip everything out.

    What they want most is face to face time with friends. I think once that can resume, all will be well in the world.

  13. Decemberbaby Says:

    Wow, thanks for the link love!

  14. middle_class Says:

    So far, I’ve bought an outdoor pool, bikes, and a boppy toy that bounce back. My special needa kid also loves mylar balloons. I’m going through all comments for ideas. Maybe I should get a bubble machine..

  15. Anne Says:

    My son turned 7 in April, when there was discussion going on around postponing the Olympics. So for his birthday, he wanted us to do our own Olympics! He picked a bunch of events and we made an entire day of it: shooting baskets, running races, archery (nerf guns with targets), “mini golf” through our house, long jump, “javelin” throw, etc. To end the day, we set up the tent in the backyard and slept overnight in it. He said it was the best day of his life and I imagine will ask to do the same thing for every birthday in the next few years :)

  16. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I have a treasure box for JB: puzzles, coloring activities, new math book (went over REALLY well, to my surprise). Periodically aunties and uncles send things for the box, and I add them as they earn new treats. The scratch and sketch book is really good. I was about to order a small pile of Scholastic books since the daycare is running their fundraiser online to dole out as well buuuut I missed the boat on the specific books I wanted. Sigh. I guess I could just go get more Singapore math books, I just hate paying for shipping.

    Once I actually get my act together, I’ll have a chores and earnings chart where they get to earn more goodies out of the box.

    We have painting, beading, and bike-riding (which I know yours already do). There’s also “kick the soccer ball around the empty field” time. They’ll be doing pretend camping next week, in the living room. I want to give them more building type things but I don’t want more stuff around the house.

  17. What are we doing to deal with the huge post-holiday Covid surge | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] go to the City.  I’ve already gotten a number of you hooked on nuts.com and we’ve spent some time talking about places other than amazon where we’re buying things.  Something […]


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