Ahhh… the lazy days of summer are here. School
is over, and it’s time for a more relaxing and peaceful – “Moooommmmm!!!!”
screamed my daughter. “Peter is bugging me!!!” “Well, she won’t let me play
with her,” complained Peter. “He keeps knocking over my dolls!” exclaimed
Carolyn. I could tell that Peter was bored and looking for trouble. “Peter,
come here,” I said firmly. He reluctantly came. And I handed my six year old a
knife.

The summer time is often peak time for boredom
among children. They have too much time on their hands and they often don’t
know what to do with it. Boredom in children precedes trouble, such as nagging
for new toys, self-pity, loneliness, bickering, and irate parents. So, aside
from summer camps and field trips, how can we keep our kids happily busy and
productive? Here’s my top-ten list:

1.
Choredom not boredom

“Peter, I think you’re big enough to
help me make dinner. I need you to chop the red peppers,” I said. “Be very
careful. The knife is sharp, but I’m sure you can manage.” So Peter chopped the
peppers, then the garlic, and finally the sausage. Peter and I had a great time
working side by side in the kitchen. And, he was so pleased with his newly
acquired skill that he wanted to do more.

The summer is a great time to teach your
kids new chores, and you needn’t pay them either. If you start them young
enough, you will find that your lavish praise and encouragement will be enough
of a reward. Together, you can come up with a list of chores your kids
should do each day. Don’t expect perfection – look at chores as a way to teach
responsibility, build self-esteem, and a great way to spend time together.

2.
Books and audio books

Have your child look at or read books by
himself for at least a half-hour a day. Spend another 15 – 30 minutes a day
reading out loud to your kids. Not only does this make them smarter, but it
also ignites their imagination. If your child is a reluctant reader, download
an audiobook from your library or from audible.com and have him listen to that.
 Then, give him the written version and
let him follow along or read it on his own.

Honey
for a Child’s Heart
by Glady’s Hunt and A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay
Gibson provide lists of outstanding children’s books. Harper Collins Children’s
Audio has several highly entertaining, well performed audio books.

3.
Imaginary play and movie making

Great books trigger imaginary play, and
this could keep your children occupied for hours. If you think your child has
outgrown it, encourage such wholesome play by taking part in it yourself. When
your kids are really too sophisticated for this, trick them into it by having
them make a movie of their favorite story. Not enough actors? Use action
figures, dolls, stuffed animals, or have them make puppets. You might even get
them to write and rehearse a script, and use background music. Praise their
efforts, share it with family on YouTube, and they’ll probably want to make
more movies.

4.
Outdoor play

Gardening, tag, treasure hunts, playing
in the sprinkler, hiding in a tent, building a fort, sandbox, sports, blowing
bubbles, catching bugs and making a bug zoo… sending your kids outside(while
keeping the electronics inside) is a great way for them to burn off their
energy without tearing up the house. And nature is one of the world’s greatest
teachers. One way to get your kids outside is to only let them have their
snacks outside.

5.
Crafts, hobbies and collections

Next time your child asks you to buy a
new toy, tell her, “Let’s see if you can find a way to make something like it.”
Go to the craft store instead of the toy store. Even better, see if you can
find a way to make the toy with the things you have at home. This fosters
resourcefulness and creativity. My boys build all sorts of things with boxes
and masking tape. Make sure you teach them to clean up after they are done. The
DLTK website is an excellent source of
craft projects for very young children. Usborne has many wonderful craft and
science books for older children. Klutz Books publishes many excellent craft
kits for school-age children.

As your children get older, encourage
them to develop hobbies such as painting, sewing, scrapbooking, baking,
photography, carpentry, building model cars and making circuit boards. Help
them to start a collection of items that are interesting to them: baseball
cards, coins, stamps, postcards, pressed flowers, etc. Researching and making a
family tree is another valuable activity.

6.
Board games, puzzles, and building toys

Besides being a lot of fun, board games
can be very good for the mind- especially the ones that require the use of
strategy. Building toys, such as Lego are great for creative and pretend play.
When I was a child, my siblings and I spend hours playing Lego. Now, my kids
do the same.

7.
The more the merrier

When I was a child, I always envied kids
that came from large families. They seemed to have a perpetual party. Obviously,
board games and toys are a lot more fun when there are other kids to play with.
Set up play dates. Co-ordinate with other parents to have friends come over
before or after sports. Plan vacations with extended family or family friends.
Or, if you’re a stay-at-home mother, offer babysitting services for the summer.

8.
Advertise the fun

When a child comes to you and says, “I
have nothing to do”, you need to help him. Suggest a variety of different
activities. But when you do, you must convince him how much fun each activity
is. If you simply say, “Go play Lego,” they will probably reply with “Nahh”.
Instead, try something like this: “Take out your Lego and see if you can build
the biggest tower in the world. Then you can get all the Lego guys and see if
they can climb the tower. You will need to build a hospital to treat the guys
who fall off the tower. Maybe the tower is in the middle of an island. You’ll
need a rescue boat and a helicopter…” Now, doesn’t that sound fun?

9.
The Bored Book

Sometimes all the activities and ideas
in the world will not satisfy your child. Perhaps she’s tired, grumpy, or just
plain out of sorts. But whatever it is, she doesn’t know what to do with
herself. She’ll come to you and say, “I don’t know what to do.” You offer a
variety of suggestions, but she shakes her head at each one. That’s when it’s
time to say, “Well, you need to think of something productive to do. I’ll give
you five minutes, and if you’re still bored, it’s time for The Bored Book.” That
usually does the trick. My kids suddenly become busy when they hear about The
Bored Book.

The Bored Book is any activity book that
you purchase and reserve solely for those moments when your kids can’t seem to
amuse themselves. Depending on your child’s age and temperament, it can be a
fun book, or something not so fun… like pages of mental math. It is an activity
book which he can do independently. He must do this book for whatever time you
have specified, whether he likes it or not. When he is done, he can choose
another activity… or do more pages in The Bored Book.

Kumon books are an excellent source for
Bored Books. Some of their activities are really a lot of fun, such as paper
crafts, puzzles, and mazes. Other Kumon books are not so fun, but provide
excellent practice in math or language arts. The Draw-Write-Now series is another fun and educational resource. If
you are very thrifty, print out pages from Learning Page. Or, your bored book can
be a compilation of extra chores to do.

10.
When all else fails

Once in a while, even the Bored Book
loses its magic. When it seems that all else has failed, and your child is following
you around like a lost puppy, that is a sign your child is hungry for attention
– your attention. You might invite her help you with your work, or you might
need to stop what you’re doing in order to listen to her, play with her, or
read with her. Be generous with your time. Children need a lot of love and
affirmation.

And
last of all: Limit the eye candy, push the brain food

When a child complains of boredom, it’s
so easy to plop them in front of the TV or shut them up with a video game. The
problem is, when the show is over or the game is done, they’re bored again. Too
much TV and video games stunts the imagination and makes children lose their
sense of wonder. Once a child is used to the glitter and glitz of electronic
media, it is hard for him to focus on a book, to engage in imaginative play, or
to marvel at nature.

It seems to me that the more TV a child
watches, the more he is prone to boredom. Save television and video games for a
limited time at the end of a day. Summer days should be filled with wholesome,
active and creative play.

Mary Cooney is a home-schooling mother of six who lives in Maryland. She blogs at Mercy For Marthas