Private School Directory

Socially-Distant Summer Fun

Julia Smith
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Kirk Waller

Rising SJS senior Kirk Waller practices his newly found badminton skills. (Photo: Greg Waller)

Buzz summer intern Julia Smith shares creative ways teens are spending time this summer.

When Kirk Waller’s mother, Dale Waller, brought home a badminton net, rackets and birdies from Academy for the family at the beginning of quarantine, he initially thought she had wasted her money. He didn’t really even know what badminton was.

That night, parents Dale and Greg, Kirk, age 17, and Julia, age 20, played their first game. The darkness was not an issue, as the birdies were equipped with color-changing LED lights, adding a fun twist to the activity.

Immediately, Kirk, a rising senior at St. John’s School, was hooked.

“It was actually really fun,” Kirk said. “Now we spend like two hours doing that every day.”

Badminton does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of summer plans for teenagers. But when a global pandemic is raging through the country and social distancing is recommended, we have to get creative.

To say the least, this summer is unlike any other we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. The pandemic has completely changed the way we interact with others, forcing us to rethink typical summer traditions, including summer parties, gatherings with friends and going out to eat.

Covid-19 has introduced new levels of danger and caution to nearly every aspect of daily life. In line with the current situation, many teenagers have come up with new ways to stay entertained while socially distant.

For West University resident Ellie Monday, outdoor games have provided an entertaining and exciting way to interact with others while remaining socially distant. In the area surrounding Rice University, she played Sardines with a group of eight friends, a version of the classic hide-and-go-seek. Two people concealed themselves in different locations, and the rest, either on foot or bike, spent their time “seeking” the others. All the while, the friends remained six feet apart.

“Games outside are the best way to still have fun over quarantine,” Ellie said. “My parents were very happy, and they trusted me after that to be able to maintain distance.”

Spending time outdoors has become a popular pastime. Many teenagers have hit the neighborhood streets, either alone or with friends or family, to bike, skateboard or simply go for walks.

Charlotte Stokes, a rising freshman at St. John’s School, is spending most of her time outside when the weather permits. She is careful to follow social distancing rules and take extra precautions when riding her bike with friends.

Libby Smith, Julia Smith

Sisters Libby and Julia Smith prepare for an afternoon bike ride.

“I’ve been biking a lot with friends and going on walks,” Charlotte said. “I bring hand sanitizer everywhere I go. I have a pocket on my bike, so I just stick some in there.”

Spending time outside is a great way for teens to pass the time in quarantine, but the Houston heat often interferes with outdoor plans. A couple weeks ago, my usual activities of bike rides and walking seemed virtually impossible, as the sun and humidity had led to a surge in temperature. What I really wanted to do was swim, but my family and I don’t have a pool.

While in our garage, I spotted a large tarp. I had seen kids playing in baby pools in their front yards, and I realized that the slope of our front lawn and the blue tarp were perfect for a similar invention - the slip-n-slide.

My sister and I threw on swimsuits, stole our mother’s dish soap and dragged the hose to the front. After laying out the tarp and turning on the water, we had a perfect summer activity formed from items around the house.

Creativity among teens can be seen across the neighborhood. While my sister and I built a slip-n-slide, Kirk Waller set up a foldable plastic table in his driveway that functioned as a tennis net.

“That was an easy thing,” Kirk said. “And [I didn’t] have to go out and buy anything.”

Smith family

The Smith family, dressed in their best 1920s attire, pose for a picture of their Gatsby-themed dinner.

My own family and I tapped into our creative sides with a themed tea party one recent Sunday evening. Modeled after The Great Gatsby, we each dressed up as versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic characters: my father as Jay Gatsby, my mother as Daisy Buchanan, myself as Jordan Baker, and my younger sister as Myrtle Wilson. After a homemade high tea, we sat down together to watch Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 interpretation of the story. Without quarantine, we never would have spent a summer evening in such a funny and interesting way.

From bike rides to the invention of new forms of entertainment, there are many ways for us to stay busy and safe during this time. While we may lament the loss of a traditional summer, the pandemic has certainly led to interesting stories and activities, as well as enabling us to focus on ourselves.

For Ellie, COVID has provided an opportunity for her to better herself mentally this summer.

“There’s more time to look inward,” Ellie said. “You can also look outward on how Covid-19 is affecting everything and pick what you want to focus on during this time.”

Tea party

Libby, Cristina and Julia Smith are all smiles as they get ready to enjoy a homemade evening tea.

Whether teens get philosophical or stick to lighthearted activities is up to them. But one thing is for sure: there are plenty of ways for us to stay entertained and safe as summer continues.

Fun summer activities to consider:

  • Set up lawn chairs six feet apart in friends' yards to socialize
  • Build a slip-n-slide
  • Try a new hobby, such as picking up a musical instrument, creating art or baking
  • Cook dinner for your family
  • Family movie night
  • Bike rides solo or with friends or family members
  • Visit a park
  • Have a picnic in a park with your family
  • Skateboard with friends
  • Themed family dinner: Dress up as characters from a book or movie and eat dishes in the theme of the book/movie
  • Draw with chalk
  • Go on a drive with a sibling
  • Drive through Whataburger or any other fast-food restaurant
  • Journal
  • Try reading a book
  • Go for a walk in a new area of your neighborhood
  • Try a new form of exercise
  • Visit a community garden or start your own
  • Set up a Zoom trivia night with your friends using Kahoot
  • Drive somewhere to watch the sunset, either meeting friends or with your family

How are you and your families keeping busy and having (socially-distanced) fun this summer? Share your ideas below! 

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