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Kid Stuff: Backyard camping and other fun stuff to do in quarantine

It’s “summer vacation,” yet many parents have already been at home with their kids for several months now, and ideas for activities may be running low. So here are some things you can do—either in your house, your own back yard, or in other outdoor spaces where social distancing is possible.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Plant something and watch it grow. Whether you have an established garden or room for a few pots on your front step, you and your kids can sow seeds, water them daily, and watch the transformation from tiny seedling to a flowering plant—or something edible like basil or tomatoes!

Go picking. It’s the height of blueberry season in New England, and many farms have made special accommodations so that you and your family can maintain social distancing while picking your own berries! (Just remember to bring your masks!)

Set up a water station. Splashing around will always be a fun choice for kids in summer—especially in hot summer weather. So why not set up a refreshing outdoor play station for your kids? Break out the garden hose, set up the sprinkler, or make a DIY water table from some old Rubbermaids (Pinterest is your friend!).

Take a nature walk. Explore local trails with your kids. Even just a 30-minute walk in nature can feel like a mini-vacation in quarantine times! Whether you opt for a long or a short jaunt, be sure to pack water and a snack. You will also want to bring masks for yourself and your kids. You probably won’t need them, but if you end up on a narrow trail with other hikers, it’s good to have them on hand.

Go backyard camping. Set up a tent, build a fire-pit, toast some marshmallows, and get ready for a fun family getaway right in your own back yard! This might not be the exact camping trip you’ve always envisioned, but there are some definite perks to the location… including the luxury of indoor bathrooms nearby!

Backyard Camping

THE GREAT INDOORS

Cook or bake something. Pick one of your kid’s favorite foods and whip it up together. From blueberry muffins to homemade pizza, there are plenty of fun and delicious things you can create—and eat—together!

Get an activity box subscription. Get kits and activities sent right to your doorstep on a regular basis! Subscription boxes are great for rainy (or very hot) days, when spending time outside isn’t really an option. From STEM- to arts-and-craft-themed boxes, these subscriptions will provide ready-made fun and learning for you and your kid(s)! Here are some popular services to choose from

Write a story together. Tired of reading that favorite children's book for the eleven-thousandth time? Sit down with your kid and cook up a new story! Whether you start with a prompt (Google “writing prompts for kids”) or inspiration from your kiddo’s own imagination, there is lots of fun to be had. Let your child take the lead, and you can be the scribe. Once the story is written down, you can even do some illustrations together!

Have movie night (or afternoon). Pop up some popcorn, pile up some pillows, and round up the whole family for a special viewing party. If you need some guidance choosing a flick that will work for the whole family, commonsensemedia.org is a great resource.

Family Movie Night

Build a fort. Whether it’s from blankets and chairs, cardboard boxes, or a giant stack of pillows—fort-building is a fun activity, and can result in a cozy spot for kids to sit and play or read afterwards.

Hold a living room yoga class. If you’ve taken a yoga class or two, then you probably know enough to hold an “intro” class for your kids. If you prefer more formal instruction, there are plenty of classes available online for kids of all ages. Check out some YouTube videos in advance, and find one that you think would be right for your family!

Build a truck ramp. Do you have a recycling bin full of cardboard? With some empty boxes, scissors, and some strong tape (think mailing or duct tape), you and your child can build tracks, ramps, or jumps and hold races for toy vehicles.

Check out a nature cam. Watching animals or marine life frolicking in their own habitat can be a fun, relaxing, and educational way to spend an afternoon. Here are some great animal livestreams to choose from.

Have a dance party. If your household has come down with a case of severe grumpiness, there’s nothing better than an impromptu dance party to lift the mood. Crank up some music and dance like a maniac! Your kids will either join you or laugh along with you. Either way, it’s a win!

Exploring Hawley: Part 3

This next location is not technically in the state forest but if you continue down the trails, you will enter the state forest. The Hawley Historical Society has done a wonderful job with a self-guided tour of what was Hawley center.

The location is on East Hawley road near the intersection of Forget Road. The trail head and parking are on the west side of the road across the street from a red cabin, that was built on the foundation of an old tavern. There are several foundations to see each with a history of what was there and asks some questions for further contemplation. There are nine sites on this rather short hike.

If you want to hike longer, you can either continue down the old roads that are now snowmobile trails or hike out to the Hawley Bog, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The bog is beautiful with tons of bird life but it will be more interesting as we get further along into spring and summer. You will then be able to see more of the rare plant life blooming etc. This trail becomes a series of narrow boardwalk, so I would suggest bringing a mask to wear, in case you encounter other hikers. I have generally found when I have been there that I am the only vehicle so I have been alone on the trail. It is also not that dog friendly, if you do have a dog with you, the dog should be on a short leash and try to keep the dog on the boardwalk.

Hawley Bog

Home Projects for Winter Weekends

House projects can be tricky in winter. Other than snow removal, there isn’t a ton you can do to improve your home’s curb appeal this time of year. But that doesn’t mean you need to defer all projects until Spring. There is plenty of work you can do inside to breathe new life into your home. Much of it can be accomplished in a weekend and for under a hundred bucks!

Rearrange

Whatever you want to call it—feng shui, space flow, reconfiguration—getting your furniture into just the right spots can make a huge difference to the impact of a room. If things feel off and you just can’t figure out why, ask a friend (or your realtor!) too look at the space with you. Sometimes all it takes is a set of fresh eyes to see the true potential of a space.

Do a Deep Clean

Once you’ve done the routine work of tidying, dusting, and vacuuming, try going a bit deeper. From washing windows and wiping down doorframes, to scrubbing bathroom grout and cleaning light fixtures, there is a lot you can do to make your home feel sparkly and new with just a little elbow grease.

Style Your Bookshelves

Tidy up your reading materials and make some space on the shelf for one or two non-book items (a plant, or a nice piece of pottery, for instance). This will add style and draw the eye to this otherwise utilitarian area of your home.

Do a Sofa Makeover

If your couch is starting to show some wear, dress it up with a new slipcover, some accent pillows, or a cozy throw.

Winter Home Project IdeasOrganize Your Kitchen

Kitchen clutter can be a real drag. If you have stacks of pots and pans living on top of your stove for instance, consider a pot rack. Whether it’s hanging, wall-mounted, or free-standing, an item like this can add visual appeal as well as providing storage space.

Paint

A fresh coat of paint on walls, trim, or doors can go a long way to making your home feel fresh and cared for.

Update Fixtures

From the pulls on your kitchen cabinets to the knobs on your interior doors, updating hardware can make a big difference for not a lot of bucks.

Thinking Outside of the Box

Holiday Giving TipsLooking for new ways to give—or give back—this holiday season?

Here are three of our favorite ways to help others and bring new meaning to the holidays.

Pass along things you no longer need.

Does your home feel cluttered? Has your child outgrown a bunch of clothes this year? Is your linen closet overflowing with extra towels or blankets? Take a pass through your home and round up the things you no longer need. If the items are in good condition and fall into any of the following categories, they are very likely needed at your local homeless shelter:

  • Clothing (especially warm socks, gloves, coats, hats, and any item that can be worn as a layer)
  • Toiletries (such as shampoo, soap, lotion, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, new toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and razors)
  • Blankets and towels
  • Diapers and baby wipes

Make a financial donation in someone’s honor.

Need a thoughtful gift for a friend or loved one who already has everything? Instead of a physical object, make a donation in their name. Whether it’s Heifer International, the ASPCA, or the Red Cross, there are numerous organizations out there that will do something useful with your donation. If you want to check into an organization before giving money, you can look them up on Give.org.

Give a few hours of your time.

There are plenty of ways to help people out, just by showing up and spending some time. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Serve food at a soup kitchen.
  • Bring some treats or cards to a local nursing home and visit with residents who may not get other visitors over the holidays. (Remember to call ahead to schedule your visit.)
  • Bring a warm meal to an elderly neighbor.
  • Lend an ear to someone who is having a hard time. Whether it’s a close friend, a neighbor, or a colleague, there is probably someone in your life who is going grieving a loss or going through something else difficult. Invite that person over for coffee or a meal, and let them know you are there for them if they would like to talk.

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