Making your own fun this summer

By James Guttman

James Guttman is the father of two children, a nonverbal eight-year-old with autism and a non-stop-verbal eleven-year-old without autism. His blog can be found here. 

James Guttman with his kids on the trampoline

2020 has been a giant time warp.

For us here in New York, coronavirus restrictions kicked in around mid-March. There was still frost lingering on the ground, heat blaring in the house, and the Easter Bunny had yet to even lay his eggs. It was a different time.

So we locked our doors and followed guidelines. We barely made our way outside and, shut off from the outside world, it felt as though time had stood still. But, in reality, it didn’t.

Time moved on. Before long, we were switching from heat to air conditioning, school years ended with little fanfare, and life slowly began to return to a lite version of normal. We weren’t all mosh pitting in the streets, but we were outdoor dining, placing mobile coffee orders, and wearing cool facemasks to the post office.

In the Zoom meeting era, it has become easy to lose sight of what it’s like outside. In case you haven’t opened your shades in a while, it’s summer. Feel the heat. Switch from your hot chocolate mugs to ice teacups. Now’s the time.

A lot of us are used to the normal mode of summer fun. There are pool parties and beach clubs all waiting for July each year to welcome us back with open arms. Thanks to Covid-19, those plans have been affected in ways that, while we all saw coming, some of us weren’t prepared for.

Sure, there are some options, but in families where maybe a member can’t wear a facemask, like my non-verbal son, being in large groups becomes riskier than usual. For that reason, you may need to make your own fun. You need to get back to basics.

We’ve become big proponents of sprinklers. Whether it’s a kid-friendly inflatable that shoots water from an elephant’s trunk or the basic one that sprays one way before pivoting back or even the somewhat dangerous one that flails water around in a frantic circular motion, sprinklers are the best way to cool off while socially distancing yourself. Anyone who sees one spraying will usually stay more than six feet away for fear of getting their phones wet. Can’t miss those Zoom meetings.

My kids love the trampoline too. We got a giant one at the start of the pandemic and put it in the backyard. They go out there and jump around to their heart’s content. My son, when he gets tired, will lay down on it like a giant bed. It’s always been one of his favorite bouncy pastimes. Unlike the times he did it at carnivals, though, there are no random strangers nearly crushing him beneath their feet. He gets to plank as much as he wants. It’s been a Godsend.

Maybe you don’t have a trampoline to put for outside. That’s fine. The thing about summer is that you don’t need money to make the most of it. If you have anything that can be used for fun, bring it outside. A hula hoop? Jump rope? Laundry basket? You name it. Get it out of the house. This is the time to get creative. Kids love creativity but – and never forget this – adults do too.

We’re all kids. Some of us are older kids, but whether you’re 8 or 108, you know what it’s like to have fun. Making your own entertainment out of a random piece of equipment is exactly what childhood is all about. No objects at all? That’s fine too. Play hide-and-seek, the grass is lava, tag, or some other game that harkens back to your youth. My son even loves it when my daughter and I grab one of his hands each and begin running. That’s it. That’s the game. He laughs like it’s the most genius activity that we ever came up with and, given his reaction, it is.

The moral of the story is to remember to smile. This has been a year that you’ll remember forever. One day, your kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and beyond will look at you with astonishment and ask, “You lived through the coronavirus?”

And you’ll smile back and say, “Yeah. I did. It started by hoarding toilet paper and it turned into a summer I’ll never forget.”

Make it happen. This is the time to write the highlight of your story for future generations. Get out there and have some fun. You’ve earned it.


For our list of autism-friendly summer activities visit this page.

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