It's only the first week of summer vacation, but with many camps canceled and three months of "I'm bored!" already piled up behind us, I feel like I'm already struggling to make the magic happen.
My kids are eight and 14, so old enough to fend for themselves, for the most part this season, but more than ever I realize entertainment isn't the challenge—it's finding connection.
We used to have rules around screen time. Used to. Then the whole world seemed to fall apart and those rules crumbled right along with it. So as quarantine roared, so did the TikTok-ing. And the Snapchatting. And the consumption of Youtube video after Youtube video. And if I'm honest, I didn't really do anything about it. Under the guise of loosening those restrictions to keep them connected with their friends, it's started to feel we've lost ours.
So, Operation Summer Connection is underway. (Note I didn't say screen-free. Staying realistic over here.) We've got our annual camping plan in place, along with a bucket list of close-to-home must-dos, but last weekend we stumbled upon an activity that's an instant hit for all of us.
It's simple, really. We walked in the woods with a camera. Not our phones. Not a digital camera with a screen for viewing. A beautifully basic camera that doesn't show you anything in the moment that we actually assembled ourselves.
Designed by a dad who loved making cardboard creations for his own daughters, the super awesome cameras from Father's Factory come with everything you need to create a basic digital camera. We loved putting it together and learning about the mechanics of capturing images, ones that you can only review after taking out the SD card and downloading the images.
On our walk through the woods, we chatted and noticed things we'd likely have passed right over and, now that I think about it, it was the least whiny "hike" I can ever recall. We swapped the fisheye lens for the wide-angle and played with the built-in filters, never knowing quite what would turn out. We poked around a falling-down cottage and tried to out-spook each other with tall tales of what could be inside. We laughed and climbed and snapped.
I know it might not be a fool-proof plan, but sparking their interest in the world around them— the kind that's right in front of you and not beamed through WiFi—feels like the best way to start the summer.
Check out all the cool ready-to-assemble cameras from Father's Factory.
Wooden digital camera point and shoot
This simple model is made from a walnut and cloud cypress case that houses a camera motherboard and batteries, all held together by two sets of nuts and bolts. It comes with two easily detachable magnetic lenses to flex their creativity.
Amazing rainbow paper digital camera
This super rad paper version is lightweight and easy to assemble. Four built in filters let kiddos switch between normal, black and white, sepia and blue.
Little painter paper digital camera
Budding artists and photographers will love this plain white paper camera that's made for decorating and shooting.
35mm original wooden toy camera
Keep even the littlest adventurers engaged with this sweet wood toy version. The gorgeous heirloom construction features a detachable wooden "flash" and kaleidoscopic lens that's perfect for inspecting everything from bugs to siblings.