Child’s Play

S ummer is on the way—but a different kind of summer, one in which many of the go-to amusements for families with children are closed or limited. What’s a kid to do? We asked a few experienced grownups to give us some out-of-the-box suggestions for fun during this out-of-the-ordinary summer:

Branch out. Edgerton Park’s arboretum includes many labeled trees, shrubs and plants. See how many you can find. Then take off on a scavenger hunt to find more of the same kind that aren’t labeled. Take photos on your phone to arrange in an album later. Be sure to photograph any labels, too. When you get home, you can look up more information about each plant. Or bring a sketchbook and draw your own pictures of the plants you find. While you’re at it, don’t miss the chance to roll down the big hill.

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Knights of Columbus Museum

Put New Haven on the map. You can’t drive to the top of East Rock right now, but you can park in the Davis Street or Eli Whitney Museum lots and walk up for the best bird’s eye view of New Haven. Bring along your backpack with some paper, pencils and crayons, then study and draw the landscape.

Walk and chalk. All it takes is a little bit of chalk and some imagination to turn the sidewalk into a playground. Draw a hopscotch grid, a box for jumping jacks, or a trail with a spiraling line. Instruct passersby to tiptoe, practice karate or do the Funky Chicken. Janie Alexander often draws fun instructions like these on the sidewalk outside her house with her kids. “I watch people do these all day long,” she says. Alexander, the mom of a nine-year-old and a two-year-old—who happens to be the education programs manager for the Shubert Theater and has been posting activities weekly for Shubert Camp at Home—also suggests drawing racetracks for toy cars or inspirational messages for passersby.

Wing it. Lake Whitney’s great blue herons have hatched their chicks. Bring a pair of binoculars and see if you can spot them or the osprey family that lives across the street. Wander down to the shoreline and watch for shorebirds. This guide will help you identify them. Or try a game of the Peabody Museum’s Long Island Sound Invertebrate Bingo. If you can’t leave your own nest, check out the live osprey cam at New Haven’s West River Memorial Park.

Paddle up. Adventurous families can rent single ($25) and double ($35) kayaks in four-hour blocks from the Quinnipiac River Marina. Melissa Kaplan of Hamden says she and her family are even thinking of buying their own watercraft. At $600 to $800 per boat, that cost might have seemed prohibitive, until the family realized it’s far less than the $7,000 they would have spent this summer on sleepaway camp—now closed—for their two kids, aged 10 and 12.

Push paper. Use this tutorial to make an origami paper boat. Then cast off in the fountain on the Green, the edge of the Mill River in College Woods or a puddle in your yard after a thunderstorm.

Take a (new) hike. The brand new orange trail at Edgewood Park, starting just north of the Edgewood Avenue bridge, is a short and sweet walk along the river and a haven for squirrels and birds. Also recommended by local parents: numerous hikes in Woodbridge, on Regional Water Authority properties (permit required, $50 for a two-year family permit, currently 20% off) and at Brooksvale Park in Hamden, where you can also visit the barnyard’s miniature horses, sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits or search for frogs, turtles and snakes at the edge of the pond.

Despite the challenges, there’s a bright side to the summer of 2020: It may force our kids—and us—to get creative.

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image 1 features a fun stretch of sidewalk. Image 2 features a family at Brooksvale Park.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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