“Mom, there’s nothing to do. I’m so bored!” Sound familiar? Parents would be millionaires if they had a nickel for everytime they heard that phrase come from their children’s mouths. Without the rigorous schedule of homework, sports, and after school activities, the summer can be open season for boredom to find its way into the minds of our kids and sour the sweetest summer day.
First of all, boredom is a choice that people make. They choose to discard all known options of occupying themselves and instead vocalize that decision to the person they believe can solve their problem. Children are masters at doing this, and often parents don’t want the battle so they cave to the demands of whatever is being asked of them. Here are some fun, creative, and mostly free suggestions to help your kids choose being busy over being bored this summer.
BEAT THE HEAT.
Sprinkler systems, kiddie pools, garden hoses, water balloons, water guns, and slip n’ slides all not only keep the kids cool, but bring a ton of fun to the day as well. Siblings, neighbors, and even parents can get in on the action, and before you know it an entire day will have passed with tired and cooled-off kids falling into bed. If you have a local pool or access to a beach or lake, make a day of enjoying it together.
Encourage your child to organize a neighborhood ‘street fair.’ Each person is responsible for creating a fun outdoor game and then everyone else takes turns playing. The prizes can be small pieces of candy, small toys from the dollar store or Oriental Trading Company, or the person with the most wins receives a prize. Another idea is to host a board game, card game, or outdoor sports game tournament for your kids and anyone else’s who want to participate. Have older children ‘run’ it so you’re not stuck playing referee all day.
OUT OF THE HOUSE.
A great way to beat boredom is a change of scenery. Most local libraries have wonderful summer reading contests and programs for kids of all ages to enjoy. Movie theaters often offer free or almost free kids movies during the day, and include discounted concessions. Volunteering at your church, the local animal shelter, senior center, or food bank are wonderful ways to teach children an attitude of service and thoughtfulness. Going for bike rides or walks in a new area or on a new trail also provide fun distractions, plus it keeps kids physically active. Make a plan with another mom to host her kids at your house for a day and then she takes a turn the next week, giving both of you a day to yourselves while your kids have fun together.
Even though summer is a time to be free of schedules and ‘must do’s’ there is wisdom in keeping a small, easy daily schedule for each of your children. A list typed up and hung on the wall, door, or fridge may include personal tasks (make your bed, brush your teeth, etc.), household tasks (vacuum the floor, take out the trash, etc.), and family tasks (read sibling a Bible story, write Grandma a letter, etc.). By scheduling out daily tasks it helps to eat up some of the downtime that can cause boredom, it teaches that everyone needs to contribute to the family, and it reinforces responsibility. Of course make sure to include flexibility in the schedule. Don’t be dogmatic that they accomplish the entire list everyday, and give lots of wiggle room when other opportunities pop up unexpectedly.
There are many other ways to keep children occupied, and each family will find what works for them. Remember that summer flies by at an alarming pace, so make sure there is plenty of downtime and rest time available for the family. It’s not a bad experience for your kids to be bored, in fact it is a great time for them to learn how to occupy themselves, be creative, and find a solution to their ‘problem.’ Don’t always rush in to rescue them when they come calling for something to do, but instead offer some suggestions and let them make the choice. Most of all, be present in every moment with your kids this summer, and don’t forget that it’s over before you know it.