Thursday, August 6, 2020

Catch Some Timeless Fun

When the pandemic brought our family's daily scramble to a screeching halt, I found myself wondering if this pause on "normal" would have felt so dramatic several generations ago. In my mind, those days, for kids in particular, were less extracurricular, more free-range; less scheduled playdates, more impromptu playtime; less commuting in cars, more exploring on bikes; and most certainly less time plugged in, more time outdoors. 

When the coronavirus shut things down, we, like many families I know, were in full stride, leapfrogging from this practice to that lesson, from this meeting to that game. When suddenly our calendar was wiped clean, it felt a little disorienting. And we not only had nothing scheduled, but we couldn't even take unnecessary shopping trips or visit commercial amusement venues to fill the void. 

What to do? The only thing we could: (Re)discover a simpler time. This summer we've been enjoying some old-fashioned (I prefer "timeless") fun. If your creative entertainment bank is running on empty, consider these ideas: 

Catch June Bugs
: June Bugs, or June Beetles, are the green metallic bugs you find hovering in open grassy fields during the hottest parts of the day this time of year. Fun fact: You can tie a string to one of their legs and they'll fly around you like a tiny pet on a leash. Seriously. I thought my husband was making that up to keep the kids busy for a while, but then one of them actually succeeded and I was amazed. Try it. It's not easy, but it is possible.  

Catch lightening bugs: What's more classic than running around the yard as the day softly comes to an close, chasing these magical glowing treasures? Barefoot, if possible. And with a jar handy. 

Catch frogs
: We spend a lot of time at the pond in the field near our house. All of the kids have gotten quite good at spotting the tiny green tree frogs hiding in the fronds of the arrowhead bog plants. Even if you don't like touching frogs (me!), there's something exciting about finding them. And something especially pleasant about simply listening to their songs. 

Catch a breeze
: Why not make a paper boat? Or a boat made from nature. If there's not a stream or pond nearby, sail it in your bathtub. Fold up yesterday's newspaper or find some sticks and weave them together with monkey grass. This activity is really more about the journey than the destination. 

Catch crawfish and salamanders
: This is a fun way to cool off in refreshing ankle-deep water as these critters like to hide under rocks in small streams. They are quick and sometimes hard to spot, but entertaining to study when you find them. Mountain creeks are best, but around here, crawfish and salamanders can be found in streams running through county parks and nature preserves

Catch up on reading
: There are so many good books we never seem to have time to get to "in real life." Power down each night reading aloud as a family. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has made it easy to discover new favorites. Choose something using their app and pick it up at a branch near you. Or, Imaginon, the children's library uptown, has a wonderful selection waiting at their entrance. Librarians have picked books suitable for all levels. And they are eager to offer suggestions based on what you're looking for and fetch some from the selves for you to check out at the front door. 

Some of our favorite books this summer have been Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert O'Brien; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, and the "Ramona Quimby" series by Beverly Cleary. 

As we've adjusted to the new normal, I find I'm none too eager to return to our pre-pandemic rat race, whenever the day comes that we can. There's something to be said for yawning, obligation-free weeknights and weekends. Simpler is nice. And timeless is timeless for a reason. 

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