Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Boredom Busters

My kids get bored over the summer. There, I admitted it. We aren't perfect.

Sure, I sign them up for camps (check out this one for technophiles) but this summer they asked me if they could do a week on/week off of camps. I agreed, but with the caveat that I would still be working and they would have to entertain themselves.

Now, we all know what's going to happen.

Plan A: I trick them into leaving me alone.

Plan A Example:
Kid: Mom, I'm bored.
Me: No, you're not. You're fertile ground, just waiting for an idea to sprout and bloom.
Kid: What are you talking about? Are you trying to get me to weed the garden?
Me: Great idea!
Kid: That's ok, I'll find something else. [nuclear explosion]

Plan B: I come up with stuff for them to do and don't get any of my work done.

Plan B Example: Kid: Mom, I'm bored.
Me: Let's play games all day! I'll teach you how to knit! We'll go explore the wide world!
Kid: Ok, but I probably won't be satisfied when we're done!
Me: Oh look, weeks have gone by and I haven't written a word on my manuscript! [nuclear explosion]

There had to be a middle ground, some third option I wasn't considering. And it couldn't be "play on the iPad/computer/PS4." Because before they do that, they have to do this little thing I call a "Tech-List." (like a checklist. get it?)

They also have time limits for devices!

Tech-list Example:Kid: Mom, I'm bored.
Me: Ok, what is something you wish you were doing?
Kid: Playing on the iPad.
Me: Did you do your three things?
Kid: Grumble. Sigh. [Heads off to accomplish three tasks. Loses track of time reading. Finds me later to tell me about good part in book.] 
But if they don't get lost in a book, they can only use devices for 30 minutes, so we're back to square one.

So on a run during our recent family road trip, I pondered my two options. I thought I'd try and make a list of things my kids like to do and when they came to me complaining of boredom, I'd hand them the list.

As I ran, I thought about what each kid liked to do. I started thinking of activities that would interest them.

Then it dawned on me. I didn't need to catch fish for them, I needed to teach them how to fish. Making this list could be something for them to do.

(That's a metaphor, but we will also go fishing this summer.)

Instead of giving them ideas when they are bored, my plan is to ask them to think. (Yes, thinking is possible over the summer, children.) So my real plan, Plan C, is the Summer Self-Assessment.

My kids don't like to admit it, but they actually love school. They love having their brains engaged. They love challenges and puzzles and reading and achieving. They are being raised by me and my husband, so this is no surprise. So my plan is not to hand them answers on a dish, but to turn the search for answers into its own summer activity.
Plan C Example:Kid: Mom, I'm bored.
Me: What was your favorite subject in school?
Kid: Science.
Me: Ok, grab your microscope, go out and pick some flowers or find a dead bug and look at them under the scope.
Kid: I can do that?
Me: Yep.
Kid: Cool. [heads off to explore the natural world.]

OK, so that example is a little optimistic. No one ever agrees to your first suggestion.

But the Summer Self-Assessment will go something like this:


  • Do you feel like doing a quiet activity or active one?
  • Do you want to be indoors or out?
  • Do you want to play alone or with someone?
  • Do you want to do a brain challenge or a physical one?
  • Do you feel like learning something new or doing something familiar?
  • Do you want to be creative or chill out?


Hopefully, by thinking about those questions, they'll be able to pinpoint a project or task that will interest them. Or at least I can buy myself some time.

And yes, I'm still making a list as a backup plan because 1. I'm a Virgo and love lists and 2. My kids aren't as good as making lists as I am because none of them are Virgoes and if you want a list done right ask a Virgo.

So, here's my list of activities based on areas of interest. I will add things as I think of them, and I'd love suggestions from you, too.

Science/Nature
Look at things through your microscope
Look at things under the magnifying glass
Grow those sea monkeys
Plant the seeds I never planted
Clean the fish tank and learn about algae
Learn how to identify poison ivy in the woods
Cook something and learn about chemistry
Identify every tree on our property
Find and id bugs

Math
Make math worksheets for your brother
Count everything in the park
Learn algebra
Measure everything in our house
Time yourself running around the park
Build with Legos

Games
Play chess against yourself
Learn solitaire
Learn how to play hopscotch
Write up a D&D adventure (also Literacy)
Invent a game like the Civil War game my brother and I invented
Play all the board games on our shelves

Art
Create a picture using only natural materials
Paint these sun catchers I bought that no one will paint
Draw with sidewalk chalk
Find out which of the markers in our giant tub don't work anymore
Weave something
Create a map of a mysterious world
Create a map of our neighborhood
Draw portraits of our family

Literacy
Read a book you've never read on our shelves
Write a book for your brother to illustrate
Create a scavenger hunt for your brothers
Create missions for your brothers
Try writing poetry
Write a letter to a family member or friend
Start a journal
Write a summer bucket list
Write down predictions about the future

Miscellaneous
Clean up your room
Clean up MY room
Fold laundry
Run around the park four times
Work on your hut (more on that here)
Call a friend and chat
Practice a sport
Practice your instrument (see above)
Take a nap
Daydream
Find a climbing tree
Swing on the swings
Go on a walk

2015 Summer Fun at the Water Steps