Shhhhh…. Listen closely…Can you hear it? It’s the battle cry of summer. As the first lazy days fade into a rut and the excitement of freedom begins to wane, moms and dads everywhere hear the same refrain. Sometimes we hear it seemingly a hundred times a day.
“There’s nothing to do!! I’m BORED!”
Now, I am a big proponent of letting your kids be bored sometimes, because periods of boredom often lead to some of the most creative bursts of play. But every Mom, Dad, Grandparent or care giver around can use a little help once in a while in providing that extra push when the kids have used up all the ideas they can think of.
First, let’s start with the basics. Summer is free time, yes, but that doesn’t mean all learning has to end. Summer days are some of the best reading days. And talk about a boredom buster… Inside the pages of a book are adventures just waiting to be had! Make a cozy spot in the house by setting up a basket of books, a beanbag or blanket (even build a blanket fort if you have the space for it!) and let them read! If you allow a more relaxed bedtime schedule in the summer, offer up flashlights and let them read in the dark in bed for a bit before lights out. If you have young readers or pre readers, allow older siblings to read to them every day. Which reminds me; children of all ages thrive on being read to aloud. Invest some time every day…twenty or thirty minutes … and read to your kids. (This is in addition to independent reading time.) Find a book or a topic that you can all enjoy and have a family read aloud time. If you absolutely can’t find the time to have a family read aloud, the library offers a great selection of audio books that you can check out and give a listen.
If you need ideas on what to read, most schools, and even some local businesses, offer summer reading lists and programs. Or, hit the library and load up on books of a certain topic that your children are interested in. Make sure you choose books from various reading levels too, as this helps to expose even your youngest readers to a wide source of information on the topic.
In our family, we love art. Some of us are better at it than others, but it’s always fun and an easy way to be occupied for a while. To be honest, in gathering art supplies, dollar stores will be your best friend. I have an entire basket loaded with different materials that are strictly from various dollar stores. Pair those things with a few quality art supplies and other open ended items and you have the makings for a treasure trove of imagination. Examples of supplies to have on hand are glitter, glue, play dough, pipettes, markers, scissors, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, straws, toothpicks, mini marshmallows, empty cardboard tubes from paper towel or toilet paper, plastic disposable cups, pom-pom balls, cotton balls, tempera paints, solid watercolors, paper, popsicle sticks, sugar cubes, marbles or bouncy balls, plastic spoons, rubber bands, q-tips, and string.
Many of these supplies can be used not only for art, but for STEM/STEAM activities as well. Some ideas for how to use them for quick challenges are: pyramid building, marble runs, maze building, straw rockets, bridge building, toothpick and marshmallow structures, catapult building, paper plane races, or structure challenges.
Having a “Minute to Win It” basket on hand is another easy idea that can save your sanity when the natives are restless and you need them to have something fast and fun to do. Many of the items from your art basket can be used here also, which is a money saving bonus! Choose from the items listed previously that fit some of the games you want to offer. Write out the games on index cards and the kids can draw from the stack and complete the various challenges. Simple ideas are: cup stacking (it’s a favorite with my kids), pom-pom ball races, stack the dice, chubby bunny, or a q-tip war.
When my oldest, who is now fourteen, was young, I created two activity jars by filling small jars with strips of colored paper. On each strip we wrote an activity that he would like to do and placed them in each jar. We had a summer fun jar and a rainy day jar. Our activities included things like blanket fort building, popcorn and a movie day, nature walk, scavenger hunt, laser maze (which was just taping red crepe paper in crazy lines up and down our hallway and him having to weave through the “laser beams” like a secret agent), nerf war, silly string war, play in the hose, park day, look at the stars, hopscotch, sidewalk chalk, have a picnic, and play a game. Other options might include: a “Together” or “By Yourself” jar, a “Create”, “Explore”, or “Wacky Science” jar could be a load of fun. My favorite would be a “Random Acts of Kindness” jar, which is a great tool for helping kids of all ages focus on others. Ideas there could range from baking cookies for an elderly neighbor to playing checkers with a younger sibling. Go to the park and pick up trash or visit residents at a nursing home. Jars can easily be tailored to all ages and can center on things they can do independently, with a parent/caregiver, or a mix of both. When boredom strikes and they have exhausted their own options, draw out an activity from the jar.
Whatever you do, make the most of this summer by offering your kids options that lead to creative play. At any age, play is one of the best learning tools there is. Let them create and explore and be messy. You never know where their exploration might lead them someday.