We are never one’s to state the obvious here at SOUTH WALES LIFE, but this is not the summer we had hoped or planned for. We’ve gone through our calendar here and spend our days deleting, moving, rescheduling and putting question marks on hundreds of great events which we’re planned to get us through the long, hot (hopefully) summer of 2020.

What we’re left with are cancelled holidays, parks, playgrounds and swimming pools and splash parks all shut, with still no indication of when they will be opening again. The summer weeks ahead are filled with – well, let’s be honest, not very much really. Kids are bored staying home, parents are at their wits ends trying to find things to keep them entertained. And through all this there’s the stress of an uncertain future for all of us. As Bananarama said, this really could be a Cruel Summer.’

We’ve been sat in the office thinking we can either all stress about what is out of our control, or, we can grab the bull by the horns and accept there really is still fun to be had. All we need is a little bit of planning, a fair helping of imagination (we’ve got very good at that recently) and we can hopefully set ourselves free from the restrictions that coronavirus has put on us.

As with most things, they will be different, we will have to compromise, but connecting with family and friends and coming up with new ways to make this a memorable summer, is the only way forward.

We’ve broken this page into section as we know every household is different. We’ll also be adding to this regularly, so bookmark the page and come back as often as you like for some fresh inspiration. Just click on the part you need and it’ll take you straight to that section.

LEARN WHAT YOUR KIDS WANT

If you want to know what your kids are thinking these days, just ask ask them to make a list. Make it fun and don’t criticise anything they add to it. They’ll tell you what they’re thinking in the list. Some of their ideas will be possible, some maybe not so. In most cases, lockdown has helped us reconnect with our family in ways we haven’t for a long time. We eat, play, talk and get bored together, and we reckon all of that is the positive benefits of the crisis.

A list 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. We’ve seen one 12 year-old’s list included cooking fish fingers for dinner one night, playing Monopoly, watching the first “Mary Poppins” movie and a living room sleepover. And they insisted the family put down their phones while we doing all these things, she requested. Now come on, what’s wrong with all of that?

GO OLD SCHOOL

FAMILY GAME NIGHT: Have a weekly game night, and rotate who chooses the game. We’ve been playing Monopoly, Mouse Trap (really) and Ker-Plunk. We also came across a really old predecessor to Monopoly, in fact it’s the original game created by Elizabeth Magie Phillips. Maybe you could adapt the tules and play them with your Monopoly set? The Landlord’s Game

FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT: We’ve been doing this a lot during lockdown but why not schedule in a proper night and go shopping for all the goodies to go with it. Show a movie on the main television, serve popcorn, Percy Pigs and lots of drinks, and watch Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battle it out or watch a Disney classic. The new Disney Artemis Fowl is pretty good and available on download.

FAMILY DANCE NIGHT (OR DAY): Have a family dance party to all sorts of different music and show the kids you can boogie (or salsa). Invite more guests via Zoom. This is a really good thing, not only because it’s fun, but it has health benefits too. Take a look at this article from CNN

HAVE A SCAVENGER HUNT: Set up a scavenger hunt with clues at the end that involve a prize or the winner gets to choose the movie night pick.

CREATE LIGHT: Make candles from scratch and add your favourite aroma to brighten up the home or to give as presents.

PAINT THOSE FACES: Learn to face paint and practice on each other. Hold a contest over Zoom to vote for “best paint job,” “most realistic,” “best superhero” and “scariest animal.”

DO A PUZZLE (TO THE END): If you’ve done all the puzzles in your house and you can’t find one you like in town (oh we miss our charity shops), why not swap with a neighbour.

LEGO CHALLENGE: We really love this one. Simply give everyone a bag of Lego pieces and get them to build a house, shop, a park, their school or a castle in the sky. Make sure you set a time too. There are some really fun 30-day Lego challenges online.

EVERYONE GETS TO 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. That’s not fun!

GO OUTSIDE

MAKE A SPLASH PAD: Before there were nearby pools or even living in a beach town, we’d turn on the hose in the backyard to cool down. Sometimes we’d add plastic bags on a slope to make a slip and slide.

HAVE A WATER BALLOON FIGHT: Send your kids outside to battle it out and get soaked or join in on the fun. Fill small balloons inside or with a water hose. Make sure adults also get doused.

GROW HERBS: We’ve grown mint, basil and parsley in our pots with high hopes for summer. Maybe plant sunflower seeds and patiently see whose will sprout first. As it grows, measure it, and once it flowers use the seeds to feed the birds.

BEAT THE VIRUS: Make a coronavirus piñata, fill it with sweets and whack the heck out of it. Great way to tackle the stress of the pandemic and be suitably rewarded at the end.

MAP YOUR STREETS: Walk your neighborhood and see if your family can make a map from your house to another location. If they can’t get off your property, have them do it inside. (You’ll be surprised at what they might notice.)

HAVE A PICNIC: Picnic or BBQ in the garden. Grill meat or veggie hot dogs or bring sandwiches or takeout if that sounds overwhelming. Grab a Frisbee or ball and play.

OUTDOOR SPORTS DAY: You can invest in a croquet set, ping-pong set up or basketball hoop.

FOOD AND DRINK

COOKING CHALLENGE: Create a cooking challenge for your family, where you create a short list of ingredients that must be used in the meal. Think cheese and bread for the younger kids or novices, and more advanced ingredients for the older/more experienced cooks.

AFTERNOON TEA: I promise many children will happily serve lemonade or juice at teatime, but you can’t beat a proper cuppa. If you don’t fancy making Afternoon Tea there are many places offering tea you can collect and take home.

DRINK NIGHT: I know this sounds like an adult event (and it can be) but why not turn to the non-alcoholic recipes of your favourite drinks.

OLD ONES ARE THE BEST: Call a relative and ask them to walk you through a longtime family recipe. Then make it. If they claims you have to have a certain ingredient or the recipe won’t work, ask for another recipe.

EAT AT YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY SPOT: Pick another country with food you like, cook it and listen to their music during dinner and bring some phrases to the table from that location. This is especially good if you had planned a trip to that place. You’ll be ready to go.

DIY ICE CREAM: Instead of going to the supermarket to buy your favourite ice cream flavour, set up shop and make some at home. If ice cream seems too complicated, try making fun flavoured lollies, like Blueberry Vanilla Yogurt. Yum! Our favourite, and quickest ice cream to make is banana. Rather than giving you the recipe here’s Tom Kerridge to show you how.

DO SOMETHING FOR OTHERS

PHONE A RELATIVE: So many grandparents are missing their favourite little people, so why not call a relative who misses your kids and maybe misses you? We realise we are coming out of strict lockdown but don’t use that as an excuse to stop or limit these calls.

WRITE A THANK YOU: Write thank-you cards to your teachers and other school staff, support workers. Maybe someone who has been really helpful in your local supermarket, or even a neighbour. Trust us, they’ll love it.

SEND A CARD: Let’s add “we miss you” or “get well soon” cards to send to anyone you miss or who you know isn’t well. Real mail and letters are really lovely to receive.

MAKE GOODIE BAGS FOR OTHERS: Gather shelf-stable snacks, bottles of water, socks and wipes into bags to hand out to people who need them. You can spot people from more than 6 feet away, wave, leave bags for them and walk away so they can safely pick them up.

DONATE YOUR FOOD: Make and contribute food to severely depleted food bank. We are real fans of the App OLIO. It’s free to use and the food on it is free too. Basically, it’s people in our community who have bought too much and can’t use it. Maybe someone has an allotment and has a surplus of fruit and veg. We’ve had loads from it and it’s really good. It’s not charity but a way to help use use food rather than waste it.

WALK THE DOG: Become a volunteer dog walker for your less mobile or elderly neighbours, or the local shelters. Cat socialisers are needed for local shelters that may be short-staffed or low on volunteers.

NIGHT TIME GARDEN

GO CAMPING: That travel is limited this summer doesn’t mean you can’t mimic experiences at home. Pitch a tent in the backyard for a few nights. You could even have a campfire if it’s safe and allowed.

A NIGHT IN THE FORT: Build a fort in the living room and let the kids sleep in it after they’ve crashed on popcorn and fizzy drinks.

PILLOW FIGHT: Clear all the breakables and sharp edges and have a massive pillow fight. Perhaps after building a fort. Outside is always good too, not as much fun for some reason. Just remember, pillow fights aren’t only for the kids.

HIDE & SEEK: Play torchlight hide & seek in the garden or close to where you live, if it’s safe and quiet. If the other side’s light “gets” you, you’re out. (That’s social distance tag.)

GLOW IN THE DARK HUNT: Try a nighttime treasure hunt with glow-in-the-dark items.

REACH FOR THE STARS: Going to the movies may not be an option, but there’s always a beautiful show playing out across the night sky. This summer, watch the International Space Station overhead, details HERE. look for multiple meteor showers HERE and get some tips and details from NASA on when to spot specific stars and planets.

HAVE AN EARLY NIGHT: Why not? We’re all stressed out and anxious about the pandemic, and lack of sleep makes us more vulnerable to illness. Getting back into some sort of routine, keeping the temperatures cool and a dark room are key to good sleep.

ADULT FUN

HOME SPA DAY: Make your own spa at home. It’s easy, inexpensive and so much fun, especially shared. For some ideas go HERE. And take a look at our review on the Lush Spa in Cardiff. LUSH.

HAIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW: I’m writing this through the biggest mop of hair I’ve had in years. It’s still a while before the hairdresser will open, why not go DIY. You’ll notice we have made this a mans only activity, for obvious reasons I think.

WINE, CHEESE, CHILL: One of the things we’re all missing are our evenings out. A date with a loved one, or just a quiet night in the pub or restaurant chatting and having a drink. There is no reason why you can’t recreate this at home. Have a wine or beer and cheese date on your patio/porch/balcony/kitchen table, and remember it’s lie a mini date, so why not treat it as such.

HOLD HANDS: It’s sweet and definitely makes you feel better.

MOVIE NIGHT: Watch movies that are definitely not for children. We’re not talking a visit to your favourite ‘hub’ site online, although if that floats your boat, go ahead. Popcorn, movie and grab the best seats in the house. It’s fine to fall asleep, though. We’re all a bit cream crackered right now.

EAT LATE: This second dinner might be a bit of a pain but aren’t you sick of eating what the kids ask for? Eat all the things your kids hate and have a real blow out together.

BE NICE TO THE ONE YOU LOVE: Do something nice that makes your other half happy – make a favourite dessert, take a walk, make a schedule, find a favourite wine, load the dishwasher or do the washing up. Whatever shows you care, do it.

LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE: This is a real thing, Oprah swears by it. Find out what your partner’s love language really is. Don’t guess – ask. It’s easy to get confused and think their own love language is yours. Is this confusing? Go HERE to find out more and take a look at the video below.

TALK – REALLY TALK: Talk about the pandemic and how it’s affecting you. Talk about your hopes and dreams and fears. Listen to what others have to say. Connect and keep that base strong to support you and your family.

PUCKER UP: Some haven’t kissed anyone for months. Don’t take it for granted. Get in close and gentle. Need we say more?

PETS

TRAIN OR TEACH YOUR PET: You’ve got the time, so teach your cat how to HIGH FIVE or even WALK ON A LEAD. And if That’s Life was still on our TV, Esther Rantzen would love this. Teach your animal to speak. You just need to be super patient, and hand out plenty of treats for a job well done. Your pet will be the star of your next video call.

COOL DOWN YOUR DOG: You’re not the only one who wants to chase away the summer heat with something cold. Yes, you can get doggie ice cream, we hear there’s banana, apple and carrot iced treat to be had. Not to be left out, there’s also cat ice cream. And believe it or not, this is for real, cat wine.

MAKE TUNA ICE POPS: You also could just make ice pops for your cat using the leftover liquid from your lunchtime tuna. Just water it down a bit, pour into ice pop holders and freeze. No, we are not making this up either, it’s for real. The Blue Cross have the most incredible selection of videos on their channel, all dedicated to caring for our pets as best we can. Take a look at them right here. BLUE CROSS

PET POOL: We’ve got the pool out for the kids (or you to lounge in when they’ve gone to bed). Just remember, your pool isn’t only for you, the dogs will love it too.

KIDS

MAKE A MOVIE: Grab your smartphone and get filming. The Los Angeles Public Library are running a competition, and while we may not be able to enter, they do have some great tips and resources on the site. MOVIE

GET CRAFTY: Upcycle your toilet-paper rolls, milk containers, egg cartons and cereal boxes into works of art, mostly by using colouring and painting supplies you probably already have in your home. Turn everyday objects into puppet theatres, or maybe a cereal box city.

LEARN NEW SKILLS: Want to learn how to make your own Lego-inspired movie? Or learn how to tell “fractured fairy tales”? (What if the Big Bad Wolf wasn’t so bad after all?) Or create and program your own video games using platforms like Minecraft? There are free classes for a whole range of things, right HERE.

FRIENDS

As long as you maintain social-distancing protocols, you can go on a walk with a friend. You have to keep your faces covered and keep at least six feet between the two of you until restrictions are eased. Experts believe outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones. The fresh, open air and ample space provide good ventilation, lowering your chances of catching or spreading the virus.

LAWN CHAIR CHAT: If you’d rather sit down, at least do it outside. Invite friends or family over for a chat on your front lawn or garden (provided guests can get to the back of your house without lingering indoors). Your friends can bring their own lawn chairs or you can sanitise the ones you have before their arrival. Space the chairs at least six feet apart and chat away. The hours will fly by.

MARKETS: Our markets will be allowed to be open, and they’re a great place to get fresh air, support local businesses and farms, and see people other than the ones you’ve been confined with for the last two-plus months. Keep your distance and enjoy what we’ve missed for so long. Take a look at our page here. MARKETS

STAR GAZING: This is another of those things you can do from the comfort of your own garden, or even if you’re out for a late walk. We find that taking in the bigger picture helps keep everything happening in the world in perspective. The LA Times put together a really good article on how to start your star gazing journey. It’s American but the principles are the same. STAR They also have an online guide to taking great photos of the night sky with just about any digital single-lens reflex camera. PHOTOS

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

RUN A VIRTUAL ROAD RACE: Your favourite race was cancelled or postponed because of the Coronavirus, but that’s no reason to slack off training, they will return. There are free training programmes you can follow on your own, including one for those new to running. We’ve heard about virtual organised races (you pay, run your course and receive a medal in the post) or make up your own virtual course, such as completing a half-marathon by running 1 mile every hour for 13 hours. Virtual Runner UK have a series of events and the nice thing is, they are all for charity. And with 50,000 members, they clearly are doing something right. VIRTUAL RUNNING

LEARN TO BIRD SIT: Go outside, sit still and look for a bird – it’s no more complicated that that. No binoculars or field guide needed. It can be in your own garden or your local park. This is what it’s all about.

What is the bird doing? What calls does it make? How does it interact with others? This is called a bird sit. You’ll get to know birds in a deeper way. Because we sit, the birds are not scared and don’t fly away. There’s no pressure to make an identification; it’s more important to experience the bigger story playing out on any given landscape Learn more here BIRD SIT.

WATCH THE SUNSET: Let’s be honest, we do have some fantastic sunsets here in South Wales. On those warm evenings, there is nothing better than sitting in the garden, drink in hand, watching the sun go down over out towns, villages and cities.

FLY A KITE: Now this we love as it takes us right back to our childhood and some amazing days spent at the beack. Flying a kite is a relaxing way to spend a Summer day that has a bit of wind in it. If you haven’t previously had any luck getting your kite in the air, you can either watch the first Mary Poppins movie or better still Wikihow can tell you more KITES.

SPEND THE DAY BAREFOOT: I must admit, once summer arrives barefoot is my default way to go. This may not be such a great idea if you are walking across hot concrete, but it would be fabulous and freeing if you were spending the day at the beach or in a soft grass field.

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