Summer is in full swing, but this summer looks markedly different than any other summer before. As we continue to deal with the global pandemic and prepare for a second wave, many families are still social distancing as much as possible to slow the spread.

So many of the traditional summer activities we do with our kids involve large groups of people. We often go to community pools, summer camps, summer school or the beaches. With most of these places closed, it leaves us with the burning question, “What are we going to do this summer?”

Our brains are complex and dynamic and children’s minds are a grand central station of activity. However, over the summer, fewer trains come through the station, which decreases excitement, engagement and enjoyment. Mentally stimulating activities are a must for children during the summer months to curb depression, anxiety or trauma. They also help keep them motivated and happy as well as uphold their mental health.

Our children have been away from their friends and social activities for months and it looks like this might continue through the new school year. It is important for them, and for us, that they begin to get outside more and enjoy the summer as much as they can. Quarantine can affect our mental health, and long-term isolation from outside activities could be detrimental.

Here are 10 ways you can make sure your kids are able to have fun this summer and get outside physical activity. These fun summer activities can be done in a small group of friends or just with family and will make sure your kids feel like summer is still the summer they are used to.

  1. Go on a Hike

Most trails are starting to open. If you pick a lesser-known trail in your area, you probably won’t come in contact with many people. Fresh air therapy is always good for our mental health.

  1. Go for a Walk in Your Neighborhood

While on your walk, have your kids collect rocks to take back home. When they get home, have them paint the rocks with fun, bright colors. If you don’t have paint, you can buy it from Dollar Tree.

  1. Run a Relay Race

This could be done in your backyard, on the sidewalk or inside your home. The purpose is to keep the children active and reduce isolation.

  1. Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Have your children pick items within the home or outside the home that begin with each letter of their first and last names. This promotes critical thinking skills and gets them moving.

  1. Have a Movie Night

Collectively with the family members in your household, choose a movie. Then make some popcorn, get everyone’s favorite drink and candy and enjoy the movie together!

  1. Set Up a Pool in Your Backyard

Get a small pool from your local store and set it up in your backyard or front porch to let the kids play. It’s not the same as the community pool, but after months of quarantine they will enjoy it!

  1. Play “Survivor”

You can set up some obstacles or even a food challenge inspired by “Survivor.” One example is to cut up an old t-shirt and then have them put the pieces back together like a puzzle. After, you can reward them with ice cream or another special treat.

  1. Go to the Beach

Remember to practice social distancing and pack snacks so you don’t have to eat out.

  1. Draw with Chalk Art

Get your creative juices flowing and create art using chalk. You can draw on the sidewalk, driveway or the steps of your home. You can get inexpensive chalk at the 99 Cents Only Store or the Dollar Tree. This promotes mindfulness and helps them focus on the “here and now.”

  1. Play Hot Potato

First, grab a ball. If you do not have a ball, any item will do. Then, turn on some music and begin to play Hot Potato. Let the winner choose the next activity the family or children will play.

Clinical Therapist, Cynthia Sedillo-Artiaga with her two children getting outside and taking care of their mental health.

Although summer looks very different than our summers in the past, with a few ideas and some creative thinking outside the box, you can give your kids some summer activities during COVID-19 that still make summer feel kind of normal.

Cynthia Sedillo-Artiaga, AMFT is a Clinical Therapist at The Guidance Center’s Compton Clinic, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about bringing mental health awareness to the undeserved communities. Before joining The Guidance Center team, Sedillo-Artiaga worked at Aids Project Los Angeles. Sedillo-Artiaga earned a Masters of Arts Degree in Counseling Psychology/ Marriage & Family Therapy at Argosy University.