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When COVID Impacts Fall School: Activities to Keep Kids Outside and Fed When Stuck at Home

COVID has resulted in the closure of many day and overnight camps. Now many schools are delaying their start or finding a balance between online and in person classes. This has left kids disappointed and parents wondering how to adapt. Parents need to figure out how to keep their kids fed with about 1 of 6 households being “food insecure”.

While some schools are considering offering a learning format, children may still have free time as well. Here are several fun, and affordable, outdoor activities to keep kids busy. Here are also some ways to help keep kids fed and ensure they get the nutrition they need for their health, learning, and growth.

Activities to fill kids time

Financial literacy – Work on STEM skills (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) while also teaching kids how to be financial literate. Kids can do this, on their own during the fall and the games make it fun for them! And maybe even rewarding as they can win some gifts or make a little money. STEM and STEAM related jobs have been growing an estimated 2 to 3 times rate of other careers, and the growth is only projected to increase. The salaries are also 2 to 3 times higher. Using apps, games, and other technology to teach kids about math, numbers, and finances – all critical to STEM. More on Financial literacy apps to teach kids.

Backyard camp outs – While nothing can fully compare with overnight camp, camping outside still provides a fun experience, including the challenge of tent set-up, the fun flashlights over story time, and the undeniable coziness that sleeping bags provide.

Build an obstacle course – Building an obstacle course is a double winner: creating the course using odd and various items such as sports equipment and random items found in the garage, followed by the fun of trying out the course. This activity can help kids problem solve and think about logic, angles, and building something. Single child kids can race their parents or race against their own best time, while siblings and those gathering in small groups (as advised by local health authorities) can race each other.

Small team sports – Summer camps often involve some degree of sport, and some camps even dedicated completely to specific sports. Sports can still take place in the backyard during the fall, even if camps and formal sport teams have been cancelled or delayed this year. Some sports provide a great way for team building and some sports can be done in a very low risk way. Sports such as badminton, modified baseball or softball, Frisbee, and volleyball can be played with just a few players as well as mostly be social distanced. Or find other free camping resources.

Spike ball – Non-traditional activities may save the summer this yea and keep kids busy during the fall months. For example, Spike Ball has become an overnight craze for backyard gatherings, picnics, and beach days. Spike Ball is a cousin of volleyball except played using a small round taut net to “spike” the ball back and forth on. It’s light, portable, and can be easily set-up and removed from small areas.

Plant a garden – Don’t forget, even in the fall you can plant a garden for the next year. Research the process with your kids, and have them learn about root bulbs, perennials, soil, nutrients and other gardening aspects. Planting small gardens, either in the yard or in pots, provides kids with peace and relaxation. Additionally, caring for and growing a garden can result in a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Smart phone apps to exercise – Your kids can get some rewards, or maybe a few dollars, for staying healthy. There are apps that pay kids for walking or staying healthy. Of course adults can participate too. After all, a healthy body and lifestyle is a great COVID defense and great for a kids mind too.

Solo sports – Creating personal challenges in sports that can be played alone, such as basketball or even simply running, can allow kids to advance at their own pace. Setting up time trials or creating goals to improve technical skills can help kids build confidence with a sport or activity that they can do on their own. Remember to be creative; even tennis can be played as a solo sport when practicing against a wall or using a tennis trainer with a ball and string attached to a base.

Biking – Biking is an awesome activity for any age. When old enough, biking around the block or to visit with friends for a socially distanced visit gives kids a sense of freedom during otherwise restrictive times during a pandemic. If strictly staying home, consider building bike ramps and jumps for kids to both have fun with and develop technical skills.

Outside art – Outdoor art can be more than traditional side-walk chalk. Key to doing art outside is ensuring kids have a shady place to work, either under a tree or a shade tent. Whether in an urban setting or closer to nature with fall foliage, being outside allows for a plethora of new sights and sounds to inspire young artists in their drawings, clay creations, paintings, or many other creative endeavors. it can bring out a kids creativity, and partly substitute for an art class! As an added bonus, spilled paint and water is no longer such a big mess to clean up when outside.

Kids can play educational games on a tablet, computer or phone, and get paid. If you do down this path to keep your kids entertained, be sure to focus on an educational games such as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Those are the skills of the current (and future). More on playing games for money.

Outdoor theatre – Consider ‘Shakespeare in the Park’, kid style. This can work for all ages, either using story lines from well-known books or encouraging kids to come up with their own theme and script. Kids can find a interest in a book, write a general scrip or lines to act, and perform. Find a book or show the kid is interested in and have them act it! A trunk full of costume options will allow kids to really get into the role. Creating and designing a set can provide hours, if not days, of entertainment.

DIY projects – Getting absorbed in a project is a great way to pass time as well as learn. It is an opportunity for a kid to use their mind and come out with an accomplishment. Consider projects that kids can then use to further amuse themselves, such as the previously mentioned idea to build bike jumps. Kids can build these with some simple wood materials. For example, a “teeter-totter” jump only requires one plank and one round piece of wood with a nail in the middle to secure the two. Other DIY projects may be building a plantar box for a small garden, creating tie dye shirts, or making and decorating picture frames. Even simply painting rocks to decorate a shelf or garden, the list is endless. Building and creating is a great skill, who knows maybe your kid will be an engineer!

Free food for your kids

One in five kids live in a household that is below poverty levels. About 31 million students really on low cost or free National School Lunch or Breakfast Program from the USDA. With school being delayed, online, and going through transition, students are not only impacted from a learning perspective but also a nutritional one.

Students (and their parents) can get help from Feeding America, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other areas. There are also food stamps and many charities stepping up to the plate to help student who can’t get food at school. Assistance is from the government (state and federal), charities, businesses and many other agencies. We have a list of places kids can go to for their nutrition if they can’t get a breakfast of lunch at their school. Find more on where to get food assistance.

COVID 19 may have cancelled a lot of summer activities and it delaying or changing the school year, but it doesn’t mean the late summer or fall months are ruined completely. With a little creativity and planning, keep kids both entertained, learning, and fed.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.