Summer = bored kids and frustrated parents
Bored two weeks into summer vacation: Kyle, Jacob, Chloe and Santo sit around wondering what to do next. (Gazette, Julie Cadieux)
“I’m bored,” my oldest child said to me the other day. “I’m sooooo bored,” chimed in the other two. School ended for most kids over two weeks ago and aside from camp or a family vacation, that still leaves them plenty of time to be “bored or play video games all day,” said the St. Lazare IGA cashier I got into conversation with who has two kids. “I’m at a loss of what to do with them.”
“My son told me he wants to go back to school!” one St. Lazare father told me in disbelief. “He’s bored because I won’t let him sit around all day on the computer.”
Sure, there are water and amusement parks, museums, zoos, play centres and loads of day activities to enrol in, “but gas is so expensive on top of everything,” added Irene Lacroix who has three great-grandchildren.
My own mother feels there’s nothing wrong with being bored. “It leads to creativity,” she says. Susan Good, mother of two, agrees. “What’s wrong with doing nothing? Every few days they get invited to swim in the neighbours’ pool; next week we are going to Texas to see my mom; at the end of the month we have some friends staying with us and after that we are off on a family vacation. Why do I have to drive everywhere and spend money to keep them entertained all of the time?”
All valid points I myself have been lamenting over. However, the question remains, what can we do as parents to help our children overcome some of their boredom without depleting our bank accounts or allowing them sit hours on end in front of a screen?
Well, here are some of my solutions (get in on the conversation and feel free to email or Facebook the Hudson/ St. Lazare Gazette with your ideas).
• Barbies & clay. Our 13-year-old neighbour Lauren taught this to my daughter — it’s so simple and guarantees hours of fun. With a $1 pack of multi-coloured modelling clay your child can take an old (unclothed) Barbie doll and mold on imaginative outfits such as swimsuits and dresses with matching shoes. Hours of fun even for older girls who no longer play with dolls. For those with young “anti-doll” boys, get out the bin of Hot Wheels cars and fetch some nail polish. Sprucing up their cars with a new paint job has managed to keep my boys fascinated for up to an hour at a time.
• Chores. I know, you can already hear them complaining and are picturing the arguments that will ensue. But according to most pediatricians and child psychologists, chores teach kids about gratitude, responsibility and make them feel appreciated and needed as a member of the family. In an article published in the February 2011 Psychology Today, Nancy Darling, PhD, writes “There is nothing wrong – and much right – in asking kids to make a reasonable contribution to their family and their home. That’s what families do. Just go with that. Ignore the protests.” In our home I recently instated what I call the “Work THEN Play” daily chores list which I expect from them before they they go off and play. Feel free to steal mine or make your own (be sure the chores are age appropriate):
– Do your homework
– Walk & feed the dog
– Clean up your room & make the bed
– Always leave the bathroom clean
– Put away your laundry
– Help with dishes & kitchen clean up
– Put your stuff where it belongs.
– Tidy up the study
– Ask mom/dad if there are any other chores before playing (i.e. taking out trash, vacuuming, washing the bathroom sink).
• Catching Nature. Rifle through your recycling bin and have your kids craft a bug box. Then make them compete to see who can catch the most frogs, grasshoppers, lightning bugs, etc. (teach them the importance of letting the critters go unharmed after they’re done).
• Game Night. (Or morning or afternoon.) I recently stocked up on several games that were on super clearance at the grocery store: dominoes, cards, checkers and a challenging new Lego version of Connect Four.
• The Family & Friends Network. Last week my son Jacob picked up the phone and called up his grandfather and asked him for sailing lessons over the summer. Brilliant! My father lives on the waterfront, has his own sailboat and takes it out as often as the wind blows. Not only will Jacob learn something new (for free), but they will both have special one on one time together — which is priceless. Think of your own family; couldn’t your artistic Aunt Martha teach your kids pottery? Did you run out of strawberry jam? Have the kids help grandma whip up a batch (and learn her secret recipe).
• Plant a Garden. Three years ago I decided I would give up planting a summer vegetable garden. Without enough time to maintain it, I always ended up with an embarrassing jungle rather than the Martha Stewart garden of my dreams. My children were very disappointed though and after some begging I decided to give complete garden control over to them. I let them plant whatever they wanted, and I didn’t even give them directions or nag them on how to do it. I was amazed. They took the challenge and responsibility seriously, watering and weeding it. Although there were some disappointments (carrots planted too closely came up in bizarre clumps) they had fun learning and getting dirty.
• Reading for Nothing. It’s rare for me to say no when it comes to buying books for my kids, after all, it’s educational. However, my 13 and 12 year olds both love to read so much that they can easily go through a 400-page book in five days. With their books costing anywhere from $6 to $20, I simply cannot afford to keep up. Libraries are great, and we have definitely taken advantage of them over the years, but sometimes they don’t have what you want and as a mom I get the stress of making sure we don’t lose or damage a book (and of course remember the return dates — or else pay late fees). I recently discovered an alternative that has got me and my kids excited: NOVA book shops. Kids’ books are $0.25, and all others are usually $1 (with some exceptions). My kids were positively giddy when they walked out with a stack of books and felt great about helping a charity. One of the volunteers explained to us that NOVA Book Stores in St. Anne de Bellevue has raised $2 million for cancer research since they opened. And once we are done with the books, we will donate them back to the store so they can be sold again.
• Sidewalk Paint. Crush chalk with water until you get a paste or better yet buy sidewalk paint at a craft or dollar store. Find some old paintbrushes, leaves and sticks around the house and let your kids make art in the street, create faces on large rocks or paint their tree house all colours of the rainbow. No worries, the next downpour will wash it all away!
• Get a Job. Kids don’t have to be in their middle teens to get work. Aside from lemonade stands and yard sales, they can have fun making flyers to give to neighbours for services such as dog walking, pulling weeds, watering plants and pet sitting. They’ll feel proud paying for that much-wanted toy all on their own.
• Videos. If they want to be in front of a screen badly enough at least make it creative and more interactive. Assuming you will be nearby to supervise them playing with your video camera, have your kids make their own movie or music video. For kids who are tech savvy, there are several different softwares you can download to help them add fun features and edit it.
Have more ideas? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or share them on our Facebook page.
The Hudson St. Lazare Gazette – July 6th, 2011 – Julie Cadieux