Here are 100 things to do this summer with or without kids
Updated 2:00 AM ET, Sat May 29, 2021
(CNN)As those who are vaccinated peek out beyond our masks, people are looking for a return to summers past in 2021.
Many are trying to book summer camps, find out whether pools are open, plan vacations and fill out out calendars with family and friends. And do we need backup plans in case there are coronavirus hot spots that shut down parts of the country?
But life is opening back up in many US cities. The summer of 2021 is not the summer of 2020, when the weeks ahead were filled with too much work or loss of work, lack of childcare, hunger, and more struggles. For some, those struggles are still real.
There really is joy to be had as we reconnect with loved ones, and we need that connection. Some of our fun can be the same as last year: We can connect with family and friends, get outside to enjoy nature, play silly games; and find ways to do good and express gratitude for others, including the first responders and frontline workers who have saved so many.
Make your summer 2021 list
Write down a list of activities you and your family want to do this summer. Number your list from one to however far you get, and maybe even write it down on actual paper.
This is not a homework assignment. It's about finding the joy that still exists inside you after more than a year of pandemic life — kids and adults alike. Get the first few ideas out. Now keep going, because that's when the ideas get ridiculous and really fun.
Want to walk on the moon? Write it down. Want to make your own movie? Write it down. Want to use all those wacky kitchen devices you have never removed from their boxes? Time to write those ideas down.
No, you can't actually fly to outer space right now, but you could stargaze at night and track the progress of NASA's Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.
My kid is deep into softball and gave me a glove for my birthday. We're breaking it in whenever we want, well, a break, replacing nightly walks with nightly softball lessons. The tables turn: It turns out I know how to catch a ball (and I respond better to positive teaching methods).
Learn what your kids are thinking
If you want to know what your kids are thinking these days, ask them to make their own lists (and don't critique them). They will tell you what they are thinking in those lists. And some of their ideas will be possible.
Nothing you or your loved ones write down means we won't still be scared or can't get sick or that we won't be in danger anymore. But it can get you to figure out what's important to you, get your kids to think about what's still possible and fun, and connect you to the people you love (even if you still connect by video calls).
My teen's 2020 list included cooking shrimp and grits with Meme's recipe for dinner one night (Meme is one grandma's name), playing Monopoly, the first "Mary Poppins" movie and a living room sleepover. Oh, and I'm supposed to put down my phone while we do all these things.
I still love that list, and I can't wait for us to update it. I'm all in.
Need some starter ideas for your list? Use ours. When I sat down to write this list last year, I stared at my screen. One hundred things? Why did I suggest 100 things? But it got fun the longer my list got.
Here are my updated 100 things to do this summer collected from colleagues, friends, family and me. I hope it salvages your summer and inspires your family and friends as we navigate this new normal in the summer of 2021.
1. Family game night: Have a weekly game night, and rotate who chooses the game. We'll be playing Monopoly this weekend at my house. The first time, we'll use the Hasbro rules. The second time, we may use the lesser-known rules from The Landlord's Game, the original game created by Elizabeth Magie Phillips.
2. Family movie night: Show a movie on the main television in your home (we have one TV, so this is easy). Serve popcorn and sodas and sing along to "Mary Poppins," watch Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader duke it out in "Star Wars," or watch a modern Disney classic.
3. Family dance party: Host a family dance party to all sorts of different music and show the kids you can boogie (or salsa). Invite more guests via Zoom, because you can invite anyone you love now, not just people in your local circle.
4. House or neighborhood scavenger hunt: Set up a scavenger hunt with clues at the end that involve a prize such as a favorite dessert or the winner's choice of movie night pick.
5. Create light: Make candles from scratch with yummy smells to give as presents.
6. Face painting: Learn to face paint and practice on each other. Hold a contest to vote for "best paint job," "most realistic," "best superhero" and "scariest animal."
7. Do a puzzle: If you're bored with your puzzles, trade with a neighbor.
8. Lego challenges: Give everyone a bag of Lego pieces and charge your crew with building a house, a store, a park, their school or a castle in the sky — and then set the timer. Creativity wins! (There are great 30-day Lego challenges to be found online.)
9. Raise a glass to freedom: Sing straight through Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton." Not for little kids — we get it — but you can pretty much sing your way through the entire musical. Little kid substitute: "Mary Poppins," of course.
10. Each one, pick one: Each member of the family gets to pick something from his or her personal list for the whole family to do together. One rule: No picking something you already know another relative hates. Not fun!