After a long, rigorous school year, the kids are ready for the dog days of summer. Yet it seems to only take a week or two before you hear the dreaded words, "I'm bored!" Are you ready for the dog days of summer? Before you start planning activities, consider the rationale behind KISS—Keep It a Simple Summer.
There are many studies that show boredom is actually good! These studies go as far as saying highly structured schedules that do not allow for any boredom are damaging to a child's development. Kids need time to be bored in order to explore their natural creativity and develop a sense of identity by filling their time using their own imaginations. Sounds kind of painful, huh? However, as a teacher I agree 100 percent with these studies, and I definitely see a lack of creative development in youngsters today. Parents tend to fear boredom, therefore they fill every waking minute of their child's day with pre-planned activities. This can cause kids to develop a sense of entitlement that it's your job to entertain them. I don't know about you, but I can find a million better ways to spend my time and money than hauling my kids around town every day, emptying my pocketbook and keeping me from getting stuff done at home. I truly believe that kids thrive in a simple environment.
Here's a list of tried and true, simple, inexpensive, and independent activities that allow for creative development and will keep your kids occupied—so you can do all that you need to do this summer!
Crafts: Keep a good variety of craft supplies on hand. This can get expensive if you stock up all at once, so I always make sure Santa brings a box of creative materials every year, and I look for discounted supplies throughout the year. I also love art with natural supplies such as sticks, pinecones, leaves, rocks, and mud. Recycled supplies such as cardboard boxes, scrap wood, et cetera are also great.
Have an art sale! This can be geared towards kids of all ages. Tell your kids that instead of a lemonade stand (or in combination with one), they can have an art sale. The planning process of the sale—from gathering the art supplies, to designing the artwork, to pricing the items, to setting up the display of artwork—will provide the kids with such great learning experiences, teamwork, and life lessons. This will also take a couple days to even a week or two, so it will allow them lots of creative development! Give them ideas of what to make, but do not provide them with too much of the design. If you're not comfortable with setting up an art stand for items to be sold, you don't have to take it that far. The kids could give their artwork away to grandparents, neighbors, or a local retirement home.
Photos courtesy of sortra.com | purlbee.com | boxycolonial.com
Pinterest is filled with wonderful ideas. You can find them by searching "Nature Crafts for Kids" or just "Crafts for Kids." A few of my favorites:
Seasonal pinecone decorations
Thirty-two projects using rocks, shells, twigs and other easily found natural craft supplies
Nature collage sun-catchers
Harry Potter wands
Other ideas include friendship bracelets, bookmarks, and paintings.
How about a Lego museum or a puppet show? Give the kids a couple of days to create some awesome and unique Lego creations. Have them set them all up as a museum or a Lego show. Invite grandmas and grandpas or aunts and uncles over to walk around and "Ooh" and "Ahh" over their creativity!
Find some single socks or paper bags for the kids to turn into puppets. Give them time to design a whole puppet show and make it a production in the evening, after your work is done. Pop some popcorn, sit back, and watch the show! Be sure to take note of how proud your kids are of what they've accomplished, and how much fun they had putting it all together.
Baking/Food making: Baking is such a fun milestone for kids. They've watched Mom and Dad do it for so long, and they just can't wait to get their hands dirty in the kitchen! Speaking of that, on nice days when my kids chose to bake, I like to put a tablecloth or sheet down on the deck and have them do all of the prepping outside. Keep it simple, remember? A fun baking activity for them shouldn't turn into a destroyed kitchen for me! I do make the clean up their responsibility, but because no one gets the kitchen clean like mama, there's always a bit of work for me.
Kids of all ages can partake in baking. It depends on the age and what you've taught them about kitchen safety before you decide if they're ready for the oven. I allow my eight year-old daughter, who has loved to bake since she was four, to turn the oven on and off. (I still double-check her!) We have done a lot of practice with this, and I had to see her do it correctly many times before I gained the trust to let her do it alone. She always has to tell me before she turns it on. And I do not let her put items in the oven yet—that's still my job.
The basic cake and cookie mixes from the grocery store are a great place to start. The directions are explicit and the ingredients are minimal. My eight year-old received a few fun kid cookbooks for Christmas and has ventured into a couple of those recipes, as they are definitely written for kids. There are many recipes that do not require the oven, such as trail mixes or no-bake cookies.
When I grocery shop each week, I try to figure out which days the kids could bake and help supply part of dinner or dessert. My kids are able to help cook rolls, cookies, prep salads, fruit, etc. My six year-old loves to wash and cut up the fruit, which is super helpful!
Outside play: Let's not forget about the bikes, scooters, Rollerblades, soccer balls, squirt guns, and Slip 'N Slides that clutter our garages. I like to remind my kids that if Mom and Dad don't see it being used, it's time for it to go! But there are fun and simple ways to put all of those gadgets to use.
My husband likes to give the kids daily tasks that get them using the outside toys, and allows for some good exercise. Before he leaves for work in the morning, he'll leave a task that may look something like this: "Bike down the driveway and back two times, run around the house three times, scooter down to get the newspaper, and shoot hoops until you make 10 baskets." Those simple little tasks tend to remind the kids how much they really like their scooter, so they get back on it, and how much they enjoy playing basketball, so they call the neighbor over to play. See how this works? Simple.
Another idea is to give your kids a task that is fun, yet helpful for you! For example, give each of your kids a bucket of water and a squirter or small pail. Assign them each a section of the garden to water. See who can empty their water bucket first—without dumping it, of course. They are having fun in the sun, and you don't have to water the garden after work tonight! So simple, yet so fun.
Although not an outside game, but still helpful for you: Give your kids the bucket of mismatched socks. Ask them to find the matches and keep them in a separate pile from each other. Once the job is done, the rolled up socks become weapons for a sock fight! More matches = more ammunition. Those socks without matches? They'll make perfect puppets for a puppet show! Super-simple fun.
Keeping up on the academics: Many parents hope to sneak a bit of academic work into the summer, without forcing it down their child's throat. This can be tricky, as kids view the summer as "no-school time."
Summer is a fantastic time for those who love to read to catch up on a good series; it's also a long time for those who don't love to read, to not read. The teacher in me wants to scream, "PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS READING THIS SUMMER!" It's usually those who don't like to read or struggle with reading that put it off for three months. But then school starts again, and they just can't pick up where they left off the year before. Reading can be fun, and you can just keep it simple. Don't make a huge deal out of the type of reading, the reading level, or the exact amount of time spent reading. If you can get a hesitant child to read at all, go for it! Whether it be the back of the cereal box each morning, a comic book, or a book they've already read a thousand times, it really doesn't matter.
- Does your child have a library card? Visit your local library and sign your child up for his or her own card. Let them pick out an assortment of books to last a couple of weeks.
- Have your kids make a reading fort outside, using sticks and sheets. Ask a neighbor if they will "hire" your youngster to read to their children, while both moms get things done.
- Have your child pick a pen pal from school, church, or camp. They can write back and forth, telling all about their summer fun!
- Allow your child to watch a morning TV program or two, followed by writing: Have them either write about the TV program, create their own story similar to the program, or change the program somehow (new characters, new setting, et cetera).
- Again, using nature, have your kids go on a hunt for sticks and other supplies to build the alphabet, or build anything in general. Allow them to take pictures of their creation, and then print them into a book.
Keeping summer simple is one of the best things you can do for both you and your child. Try to guide your child toward thinking of activities that allow for creativity and imagination. Don't fall into the trap of feeling as if you owe them some form of entertainment every single day.
- Boredom is good.
- Boredom is freedom to explore.
- Keep It a Simple Summer.
- September is just around the corner.
Written by Carrie TenBrink, a Rockford mother of three and a first-grade teacher at Cannonsburg Elementary School.