7 COVID-Conscious Activities to Get Families Through Summer 2020

By: Alyssa Mendez
With roughly one more month until school resumes again, parents may find themselves fresh out of new ideas to keep their children physically, mentally, and spiritually engaged during this unprecedented summer of coronavirus quarantine. This blog post shares seven activities that South Florida and non-local families may not have considered yet. A pandemic doesn’t have to stop your child(ren) from having a summer to remember!

I think we all can agree that it’s been a loooong summer, but it’s not quite over yet. With roughly one more month until school resumes again, parents may find themselves fresh out of new ideas to keep their children physically, mentally, and spiritually engaged during this unprecedented summer of coronavirus quarantine. No need to fear because here are seven ideas that may not have crossed your mind yet. Some are geared toward South Florida locals while others can be implemented from wherever you are. Let’s dive on in!

  1. Look into COVID-conscious summer camps and programs (virtual and live).

    Sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. I recommend looking into programs that have already been planned and/or can be administered by someone else, because let’s be real . . . you can probably use a break for a few hours; there’s no shame in admitting that.

    There are a plethora of virtual summer classes for all grade levels available on platforms like Varsity Tutors and Outschool.com, either for free or for a reasonable fee. These sites also have filters that let you easily find activities based on your child’s availability, grade level, subject preference, etc. Here are just some of the fun classes they can choose from:

    Michaels and Broward County Library are also offering free virtual programs worth checking out as well. If you’re looking for a virtual camp that encourages spiritual growth, be sure to register your teenager for SOFLO Camp! From July 26 to August 1, churches across South Florida will be joining forces to provide middle and high school students with an incredible, free digital experience. Each day will feature competitions, worship, teaching, breakout sessions, small group discussions, missions challenges, and more.
    You can probably use a break for a few hours; there’s no shame in admitting that.
    If you’re comfortable with registering your child(ren) for an in-person summer camp that has taken proper safety and cleaning precautions, Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale and Calvary Christian Academy Hollywood are hosting summer day and sports camps through Friday, August 7 for students in all grade levels. Experienced staff members will ensure that your child has a great time developing new skills, friendships, and memories in a safe and nurturing environment.

  2. Host your own VBS at home!

    Many churches around the country had to cancel their Vacation Bible School plans this year due to coronavirus, which is unfortunate. I know some of my fondest summertime activities as a child involved going to VBS. Did you know that there are VBS curriculums available online that allow you to recreate this fun spiritual retreat at home? GO! Curriculum is committed to bringing VBS to families during the COVID-19 shutdown and has designed a 3-day "backyard" VBS that is user-friendly and easy to execute. The cost for a single family license is a fair price of $25! To see what this includes, click here.

    Answers in Genesis – an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively – is also offering a free VBS experience in response to COVID entitled IncrediWorld VBS: A Thrill Ride Through God’s Creation! Click here to download their curriculum.
    Recreate this fun spiritual retreat at home!
  3. Prepare for the fall.

    Aside from school resuming, there are some other events likely taking place this fall that require some forethought and attention. With Florida’s primary election scheduled for Tuesday, August 18 and early voting happening from August 8-16 in Broward County, you have the opportunity to encourage civic engagement in your household. One of my most vivid childhood memories is going with my mom to the voting precinct to punch the holes next to the candidates’ names that she wanted to vote for. Even though the days of hanging chads are long gone, you can still fill out your absentee ballot as a family or start doing your research together so you arrive at the polls ready to go.
    Your vote and voice matter; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
    The research process might be better suited for middle and high school students. I encourage you to visit each candidate’s website and/or social media account(s) and ask your child(ren) what stands out to them in terms of their presentation and ideas; some candidates may not have a web presence, or some may have a stronger online presence than others, which could serve as a good conversation starter with your child(ren). And you know those political ads you get in the mail that you’re probably tempted to toss in the trash? Save them (or at least recycle them)! They will come in handy for this time of assessment and reflection, possibly sparking some meaningful discussions and a newfound interest in public service.

    Sample ballots for Broward County can be accessed by clicking here. Please keep in mind that Florida is a closed primary state, which according to the Florida Division of Elections, means that “only voters who are registered members of political parties may vote for respective party candidates or nominees for an office in a primary election.” If you fit this bill, you’ll have the opportunity to vote for candidates running to become state senators, congressmen/congresswomen, circuit court judges, sheriffs, school board representatives, and more. Your vote and voice matter; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
    Reminder: Florida’s tax-free weekend is August 7–9
    Another very real possibility this fall, especially down here in South Florida, is a hurricane heading our way. Although we’re praying for a quiet season in the tropics this year, it is wise to prepare and ensure that you have all the supplies you need BEFORE a hurricane poses a threat. There will likely be less supplies and goods available this year due to the pandemic. But here’s some good news – the responsibility of ensuring that your family has everything they need to weather a hurricane doesn’t have to fall just on you. Get the kids involved and turn the mundane process of reviewing a hurricane checklist into a fun scavenger hunt! Determining if you already have supply items will allow you to save money and identify what needs to be purchased. Your child(ren) can assist with putting this list together either on a paper using colorful markers and crayons, a chalkboard, or a whiteboard so you can easily take a picture of the list on your phone and move forward with the shopping. To download a checklist from the Florida Department of Emergency Management, click here.

    Speaking of shopping, be sure to take advantage of Florida’s tax-free weekend, which is taking place August 7-9, 2020. Click here to view a comprehensive list of tax-free eligible items and the cost limitations they have. Some of the items that will be exempt from state sales tax that weekend include clothing, footwear, school uniforms and supplies, and certain electronics, so this is a perfect weekend to stock up on any items you may need for the 2020-21 school year, which CCA Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood intend on beginning on campus while offering state-of-the-art mobile learning options! If you’re not comfortable with leaving your home to shop, you’ll be happy to hear that these tax-free savings also apply to online purchases, so you’ll be able to gather with your kiddos on the couch or at the dining room table and go online shopping together for clothes and supplies they may need for this school year. Involving children, especially younger ones, in this process that involves choices gives them the opportunity to make decisions and develop a healthy sense of independence.

  4. Pay it forward with your feedback.

    It’s no surprise to any of us that many businesses out there are struggling as a result of COVID-19. Although purchasing goods or services from them is one way to show your support, another supportive gesture that will mean a great deal to business owners is the power of a positive online review. According to Bright Local (2019), “82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews.” Wow! Who knew a star rating and a few sentences of your feedback could hold so much weight. People may be more inclined to leave a negative review following a not-so-pleasant experience, but if you’re leaving more negative reviews than positive reviews, I challenge you to flip the script and spread some sunshine around the internet. It could use some cheering up these days.
    Wow! Who knew a star rating and a few sentences of your feedback could hold so much weight.
    You can turn review writing into a family activity by asking your child(ren) to list out their favorite places to go. As you go down the list and address each business, ask them what they like and appreciate that establishment, and help them communicate their thoughts as needed while explaining the purpose behind the action that’s being taken. You can leave reviews on platforms such as Google, Facebook (in the form of recommendations), Yelp, Niche, and Trip Advisor (just to name a few). One thing I like to do is copy and paste what I posted on one platform and share it to others, in the name of efficiency. Your kind words will serve as a blessing, as they will likely lead new clientele to the businesses and organizations that have blessed your family through their service and quality.

  5. Drive through and drive in.

    With car parade celebrations becoming the latest trend, we’ve learned that socially distanced excitement can still be had from the safety of your vehicle. Consider taking the family on a field trip to Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, which has reduced their admission to $19 per person (children 2 and under are free) given that they’re only offering their drive-through safari experience at this time. Click here to see some of the animals you may see on your air-conditioned adventure that you can drive through as many times as you’d like until the park closes . . . or until you run out of gasoline. Whichever happens first.

    There’s a similar experience taking place in Boynton Beach at a spot called Animal EDventure Park – a non-profit that rescues, rehabilitates, and cares for all different kinds of animals. At the moment, they are offering COVID-safe drive through safari tours in which a personal tour guide brings the animals (a sloth, kangaroo, camel, lemur, and more) to your car window and educates everyone in your vehicle about them! These guided tours are offered Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM for $10 per person (children under 2 are free). To make a reservation, you can text 561-350-6948.
    Socially distanced excitement can still be had from the safety of your vehicle.
    For those of you who prefer to keep your car in park, a drive-in movie experience might be more up your alley. At the moment, drive-in movies are being offered at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Here, you can enjoy watching a blockbuster hit from their new open-air theater ($12-$19 per person + taxes and fees), which provides a socially distanced movie watching experience with restaurant style dining and concessions available. They’re also offering a dinner and movie ticket combo at $50 per adult and $20 per child; a minimum of two adult tickets must be purchased in order to purchase tickets for children. Another option you have at the stadium is driving your car onto the field ($39 per vehicle + taxes and fees) where you can listen to the movie from inside your car or from a designated tailgate space that is distanced from other guests. Regardless of the option you go with, you can feel good knowing that all proceeds will benefit the Miami Dolphins Foundation Food Relief Program, which was founded in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

    In Broward and Palm Beach counties, you can experience a drive-in movie at the Swap Shop. This is a more economical option with adults paying $7, children ages 5-11 paying $2, and children 0-4 paying nothing! Patrons are being asked to wear a mask if they exit their vehicle and to park at least 6 feet away from other vehicles; concessions are open for business as well.

  6. Simplify baking and cooking.

    Kids love throwing on a chef hat and experimenting in the kitchen. It’s no wonder that TV shows like Chopped Junior, MasterChef Junior, and Disney’s Be Our Chef have grown in popularity. But what if you didn’t have to go out and buy an abundance of ingredients and supplies, or spend time finding recipes you can make with what you already have in your fridge and pantry?

    Consider purchasing baking and decorating kits to create sweet treats with less headaches and messes compared to baking from scratch! Some Publix locations are offering them for their cupcakes, and some Dunkin' Donuts stores have introduced DIY Donut Kits; I recommend calling both Publix and Dunkin' in advance to confirm if they have them in stock and how much they cost before taking a trip there. Sweet Rustic Bake Shop in Fort Lauderdale, one of my favorite places to score a happiness-inducing pastry, is also offering bake-at-home pop tart kits, which you can either pick up in store or order online!

    For a more in-depth baking experience, I encourage you to check out the Virtual Cake Decorating Summer Camp Mia Cake House in Plantation who is offering this summer for children ages 8-16. This is a week-long camp where your child(ren) will get to experience the art of cake decorating goes for $220. You can either pick up all the items you need to participate (with the exception of baking supplies, pans, or a KitchenAid mixer) from their store for free or have them shipped to your house for $20. I must say, the end-products these campers have created so far are very impressive!
    Consider purchasing baking and decorating kits to create sweet treats with less headaches and messes compared to baking from scratch!
    If your child(ren) leans more toward savory and fresh foods, or if you’re wanting them to take a break from sweets, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami is hosting a free, 30-minute Virtual Family Food Lab for children ages 6-12 each Sunday from July 19 to August 16. These pre-recorded and live lessons are designed to get kids excited about veggies through hands-on activities and interactive discussions that teach them about the food that grows all around them.

    There are also companies that offer age-appropriate monthly box subscriptions that make the kitchen come to life for kids. The cooking kits Kidster mails to its subscribers each month include eye-catching, step-by-step recipes, cooking tools, and other fun activities; the mini chefs can compile their favorite recipes in a special cookbook binder to reference in the future! Boxes range from $19-$25 per month depending on the plan you commit to; use the promo code SUMMER to get 50% off your first kit in a 6 or 12 month subscription. Kidster is also offering a free virtual camp and virtual vacation to Europe . . . sign me up! Raddish is another monthly cooking kit company that helps kids hone their culinary skills through curated recipes, grocery shopping lists, tutorials, activities, and more. Plans range from $20-$24 a month, and you can save $15 on a 6 month membership with promo code SUMMER.

  7. Explore the cosmos.

    As a child, I was quite intrigued with astronomy. I had a telescope at home and one of those spinnable star maps that helped you locate constellations. One celestial event I always looked forward to was watching meteor showers from my backyard. My mom, sister, and I (dad valued sleep more than stargazing, which I can now understand) would get lawn chairs, blankets, and hot cocoa and just look up at the sky for hours in the middle of the night. It was a quiet, simple activity that left such a lasting impression.

    By seeing shooting stars that leave a trail of colorful dust as they enter earth’s atmosphere and cause you to gasp in awe, children and adults alike get to see and experience the greatness of God. In Psalm 19:1, David says that “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” Ain’t that the truth.
    Wherever you end up, remember to pack bug spray (I learned that the hard way)
    The Perseid meteor shower will be dazzling the night sky next month with its peak happening August 11-13 right before dawn. Since school won’t be in session yet, letting your child(ren) stay up late (or wake up really early) to watch this free show shouldn’t be too detrimental to their routine and overall functioning (hopefully!). You can either camp out and get cozy in your backyard or head to a remote location away from city lights. I’ve had good luck viewing meteors from both locations, but it goes without saying that a place with less light pollution will put on a better show.

    Wherever you end up, remember to pack bug spray (I learned that the hard way) and pray for no rain and minimal cloud coverage. You’ll have better luck spotting meteors without binoculars or a telescope. Simply look up (wearing a travel pillow would provide nice support for your neck) at different parts of the sky and wait patiently for them to amaze you. For younger children, this could serve as a good opportunity to practice counting in order. You can even offer a special prize for whoever spots the most meteors, which can simultaneously serve as a lesson on honesty and integrity 😉.

    NASA also has a variety of free space and STEM-related resources such as projects, activities, virtual tours and apps, and crafts that kids can interact with without being subject to mosquito bites and sleep deprivation.

Let us know in the comment section below or on social media if you end up trying any of the abovementioned ideas in the coming weeks. We’d love to hear how they turned out for you and your family! If you enjoyed this article and are interested in hearing some more ideas, be sure to stop by the CCA Blog next Friday for part two. Have fun and be safe, friends! Until next time.

Alyssa Mendez joined the CCA family August 2019 and serves as the Content Specialist on the Marketing and Communications team. She recently graduated with her master’s degree in leadership from Nova Southeastern University and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida where she majored in public relations. Alyssa is married to an insurance agent/chef who she met at her church youth group in middle school and is a proud dog mom to one of this year’s CCA Auction puppies named Sadie.
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