School’s out, summer is in! No more alarm clocks. No more homework. No more routine. For school-age children, summertime means freedom! For the grownups taking care of those kids … the back-to-school countdown has already begun.
Parents who work outside the home are dealing with the added expense of day care. Work-from-home parents are adjusting to increased noise levels and other disruptions to their workflow. Stay-at-home parents are finding that their houses are suddenly a lot messier than they had been.
But one struggle that unites us all no matter our household structure is how to deal with bored kids.
Boredom is a childhood summertime rite of passage. Some might even argue that summer doesn’t begin on June 21; it begins when your child utters their first, “Mom/Dad. I’m bored.”
At first, it may appear to be an easy problem to fix.
“Go play outside.”
“Watch a movie.”
“Play with your toys.”
“Read a book.”
However, after about the tenth time (the first day), a few things become clear:
- Kids are perpetually bored.
- They don’t have any ideas of their own.
- And they don’t like any of yours.
Take heart, grownups! No one expects you to entertain your kiddos 24/7. In fact, putting them in charge of their own entertainment is a great way to encourage independence and creativity. Helping them to solve their own boredom issues is a teaching moment for them and might just be a lifesaver for you.
Sit down with your child and make a list of all the activities—big or small—they want to do this summer. Refer to these ideas whenever he or she says the b-word.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Nature walk. Nature exploration provides many opportunities for play, learning and creativity. Start a nature collection, take pictures, go on a scavenger hunt – the possibilities are endless! Just be sure to pack summer-appropriate necessities like bug repellent, sunscreen and lots of water.
- Play dress up. Put together a trunk (or box) of old clothes, costumes and accessories. Come up with a simple theme like, “craziest outfit” or “fanciest style.” Invite friends to join in and put on a fashion show, have a contest, or throw a tea party.
- Art show. Entertaining a group of kids can be challenging. Putting them to work on a fun project not only provides hours of entertainment, but it also teaches them a lot about teamwork. All they need is a bunch of art supplies—crayons, washable markers, pencils, paper, etc.—and the promise of a captive audience (and maybe some light refreshments).
- Tie-dye shirts. This activity is a favorite at any age! Summer is the ideal time to tie-dye since it can get messy. It’s highly recommended to take this craft outdoors. Supplies are fairly inexpensive and easy to find. Most craft stores carry the kits, and plain white t-shirts can be purchased at a reasonable price. Kids and grownups will all enjoy making their own designs, and the family in their tie-dye creations makes for a fun summertime photo op.
- Build a fort. A boring rainy day inside can be transformed into an epic adventure with this timeless game—build a fort! Gather every blanket and pillow in the house and put them in the living room. The kids will know what to do. Cleanup will not be fun, but it’ll be well worth it!
- Sidewalk chalk. Go to the nearest dollar store and load up on sidewalk chalk. Kids can draw pictures in the driveway, play hopscotch or tic-tac-toe, or design a raceway for their toy cars. For easy cleanup, the best time for this activity is the day before a big rainfall.
- Make mud pies. Give your kids some measuring cups, bowls, and spoons, and let them become outdoor chefs. Warning: this will get extremely messy! Dress them in minimal clothing (swimsuits are ideal) that you won’t mind getting stained and then let them run through the sprinkler afterward.
- Water balloons. Nothing says summer like a good old-fashion water balloon fight or water balloon tag! Swimsuits and water-friendly shoes are recommended. If you don’t have the patience or the desire to fill up one balloon at a time, look into water balloon kits that can be attached to your hose and fill up dozens of balloons at once.
- Toy potluck. Invite friends over for a toy potluck. Each child brings a basket filled with favorite toys from their own house to share with their friends. This is a win-win: your child gets to play with new toys, and you don’t have to buy anything!
- Cardboard box castles. We all know that kids sometimes prefer the box to the toy inside. Save your large boxes to make cardboard castles. Mom or dad can cut outdoors and windows while kids use crayons and markers to decorate their palace. Multiple boxes and be fashioned together to make for an excellent sleepover in the living room with friends.