Family life has been demanding lately, from juggling homeschooling and work over several months to consoling kids who are missing their friends and activities. It’s going to look very different this year. Don't despair; you can still make it a good one. There are a lot of ideas to keep your family's spirits up while keeping your finances in check and social distancing intact.

Travel closer to home

Heather Greenwood Davis' family usually spends a month of each summer travelling to places far and wide. This year, the founder of the family travel site, Globetrotting Mama, and mom of 2 teenagers planned to spend 2 weeks travelling through British Columbia. Instead, the family is now considering renting an RV to explore parks and areas closer to their home in Ontario.

“It removes some of the worrying factors because you have your own kitchen and washroom,” says Greenwood Davis. “Many families are also considering short-term cottage rentals. You can clean it out on arrival and feel safe to have your family there. With both of these options, you can cook your own meals and buy many of the same groceries you would at home, so that can keep costs low.”

When you're not exploring close to home, have fun getting active

There are many fun, low-cost activities that can be done inside or outside of your home to keep your family active. Here is some inspiration

  • hold a family Olympics with homemade medals
  • use a mapping app to chart a distance your family wants to walk over the week. For example, challenge family members to walk the distance it would take to get to a famous landmark and track the distance each person walks until you reach your goal
  • purchase a membership to your local conservation authority and explore nearby trails
  • create an obstacle course and complete it in different ways: racing against each other, trying to beat your best time, doing it backwards.

Finish household projects together

This is the time to finish those projects you've been putting off, such as

  • painting the garage or building a shed
  • getting the whole family involved with age-appropriate tasks to complete your to-do list
  • helping your child paint or redecorate their room
  • creating a new project, such as building and painting a birdhouse
  • planting and tending to a vegetable and herb garden, and then enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Enjoy the outdoors

Getting outside in the sunshine is an easy, inexpensive way to brighten your day.

  • Make your own slip and slide, pull out the squirt guns or run through the sprinkler.
  • Go bug hunting in a park or your backyard or frog hunting at a nearby ravine.
  • Camp in your backyard, complete with s'mores on the grill.
  • Have a sunset picnic in the park or strike out early for a sunrise breakfast.
  • Make and fly your own kites.

Make the most of your indoor space

Staying indoors can be fun if you're ready with the right activities.

  • Stock your cupboards with supplies such as glue, coloured paper and markers so you’re always ready for a craft session.
  • Hold a family movie night, complete with tickets and a concession stand.
  • Teach your kids a game you played as a child.
  • Have your own paint party; buy canvases, paints and follow a tutorial online.
  • Create a family scrapbook.
  • Write letters to family members and mail them the old-fashioned way.
  • Teach your kids how to cook one of their favourite meals.
  • Make hand-painted or tie-dyed t-shirts.
  • Write and perform a play or film a movie.
  • Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.

This summer, Greenwood Davis plans to frequent the drive-thru ice cream shop and go on a lot of family hikes and bike rides.

“You could also visit nearby community museums or small art galleries,” she says. “I think most people are going to want to be low-key. We will want to get out of our homes, but we won't need a big, splashy, fancy thing. This could be the chance to explore great things closer to home that we may not have considered before.”