By Carla M. Dubis Tedeschi

Picture the perfect Tampa Bay summer and you might envision barbecues with friends, beach bungalows, pool parties, and sightseeing vacations. 

There’s always plenty to look forward to in Florida during the summer. But with the coronavirus pandemic changing the landscape of available—and acceptable—activities, summer 2020 may look a bit different than usual.

Despite the disappointment of canceled summer camps, concerts, cruises, and camps, with a little creativity, it is still possible to have a fun summer as a family in our beautiful Sunshine State. 

I’ve done a lot of research online and rounded up a list of safe and fun alternatives to enjoy as a family during these trying times.

Here are 25 great options for you and your family to enjoy this summer:

  1. Visit the beach – From Honeymoon Island to Ft. DeSoto, Florida beaches are still the number one destination for a fun summer day with the family. Go to visitflorida.com for a county-by-county list of currently open beaches. The Florida Keys reopened to visitors on June 1st. 
  2. Visit your local public pool or neighborhood YMCA. The majority are open with certain guidelines and regulations, but they are always a fun way to keep the family entertained for a whole day of swimming and fun under the sun. Some fantastic public pools in Tampa that are great for kids include; Bobby Hicks Pool, Danny Del Rio Pool, Loretta Ingraham Center, and the Sulphur Springs Pool amongst others. 
  3. Use a lawn sprinkler. Provided you have some yard space, go old-school with your family, and haul out a lawn sprinkler for kids to run around in. You might even get the urge and run through it yourself.
  4. Get a kiddie pool. It may not be the height of luxury, but in a pinch, an inexpensive kiddie pool is better than nothing! Cool off in one of these refillable plastic shells. 
  5. Have a squirt gun or water balloon fight. Sometimes you don’t feel like taking the whole plunge into a pool, anyway. Spritz each other with squirt guns instead or enjoy an epic water balloon fight.
  6. Visit a Florida State Park, lake or first-magnitude Spring. Some of my favorites include; Alexander Springs, Blue Grotto, Blue Spring State Park, Bob’s River Place, Buccaneer Bay at Weeki Wachee Springs, Crystal River/Homosassa Spring, De Leon Springs State Park, Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, etc. 
  7. Camp in the backyard. Roast marshmallows, tell spooky stories, and spend the night under the stars—right in your own backyard. 
  8. Take a culinary “vacation.” Can’t travel the world? Bring the flavors of far-flung cuisines to your home kitchen. Once a week, try a new recipe from a place you’d like to visit someday, like a fresh poke bowl from Hawaii, succulent chicken tikka from India, or a traditional arepa from Venezuela (my home country.). 
  9. Enjoy the great outdoors. After months of quarantine, we could all probably use more fresh air. Have a picnic, take a hike, or go for a scenic drive. Bay news 9 offers incredible resources on their site baynews9.com under the “Florida on a Tankful” section. Explore all the magnificent places you and your family can enjoy on a tank full. 
  10. Make it a staycation. Your very own hometown (or one close by) can be a surprising source of interest and fun. Make a list of the popular attractions in your area you’ve never visited—or the ones you’ve visited and loved. See how many of them you can hit this summer. If budget allows, book a stay at a local hotel or local Airbnb where you can leave daily stressors behind and simply relax. I recently used the Airbnb app to book a stay at a Tiny Home located on a goat farm in Deland, Florida, and it was a blast! Download the app, set your budget, and research all the incredible local places you visit right here in Florida.
  11. Create a “Home Chore Chart.” Summertime is a great opportunity for children to learn hard work and responsibility while parents are away at work. By setting up a chore chart and an allowance system, parents can teach their children the value of money and hard work. Also, chores and allowance system can give a self-confidence boost to your children. Best of all, this can all be done safely within the home.
  12. Take advantage of virtual tours. Famous sites and world-class museums all over the world have jumped on the virtual bandwagon during Covid-19. Destinations like the battlefields at Gettysburg, the Louvre, and the Smithsonian now have tours available online. Take an educational “trip” as a family to any of these bucket-list attractions.
  13. Have a daily workout. Summer camp or no, kids need physical activity! Schedule a time each day for exercise, whether a bike ride, a walk, a dance party, or a kid-friendly Youtube workout video.
  14. Game Nights: Build mini empires. Legos, K’nex, and plain old wooden blocks can all serve as a fun foundation for hours of play. Bring on the board games. Large-group games may be out of the question at the moment, but board games are still on the table (figuratively and literally). This classic family pastime has a hidden benefit: Board games can be good for kids’ linguistic, cognitive, and social development.
  15. Watch astronauts read children’s books from space at https://storytimefromspace.com/
  16. Watch live video feeds of giraffes, baboons, koalas, hippos, polar bears, owls, and so many more animals from the San Diego Zoo right in the comfort of your Florida home. Visit: https://kids.sandiegozoo.org/index.php/videos
  17. Get kitchen-savvy. If there’s one skill your child will always use, it’s cooking. Chef it Up 2 Go Tampa Bay brings the cooking fun to you. They are currently offering “fall virtual cooking classes” for kids! They also run after school enrichment programs, field trips, fundraisers, and more. Ages 3 and up. For more information contact them at tampabay@chefitupkids.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/chefitup2gotampabay/
  18. Try a science experiment – Everyday household items like baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring are fair game for science experiments for kids of any age. Visit mosi.org for fun project ideas, or join the staff for “Virtual Most” a daily Facebook live featuring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities and a chance to ask questions! Summer camps through MOSI may be available, please check their website for up to date information.
  19. Teach Your Kids Life Skills – Some of the best lessons in life are learned outside of the classroom. Why not use this time to teach the kids how to change a tire or do a load of laundry? You could also teach your own etiquette class, demonstrating the proper manners to use on everything from receiving an event invitation to dining at a restaurant.
  20. Dive into arts and crafts. You don’t have to be a creative master to help your kids enjoy arts and crafts. Search projects appropriate to your child’s age on Youtube or Pinterest. 
  21. Plan a scavenger hunt. Who doesn’t enjoy a scavenger hunt? Create your own list of items for kids to find around the house, then set them loose to search for a pink sock, a measuring spoon, a jingle bell, or other simple objects. 
  22. Play dress-up. An outfit of Mom’s high heels, Dad’s ties, and a silly hat? Why not? Playing dress-up is an age-old, cost-free go-to for little ones.
  23. Crack open a good book. To motivate kids to read, find out if your local library is offering a distanced summer reading program for kids. Or, if audiobooks are your child’s preference, tune in to Librivox, which features thousands of classics in the public domain for free. Audible, too, is offering many kids’ titles for free as long as schools are closed.
  24. Make it a family affair. Had to cancel your annual summer luau or Fourth of July bash? Have a themed “party” with immediate family instead. Scrounge up some costumes and pair a themed menu to the occasion.
  25. Have a parade. A birthday boy or girl deserves to feel special! When a party isn’t possible, enlist friends and family to drive by in a celebratory parade. Lots of helium balloons are optional but encouraged.

For more family fun ideas and local resources please visit: fun4tampakids.com