“Mom/Dad, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
How many times have you heard your children whine this way? When you’re really busy, it’s hard to come up with creative activities for your kids. And it’s impossible to entertain them all the time. In fact, it’s good for children to be creative and think of ways to entertain themselves.
However, here are some suggestions to keep handy for the next time you hear, “What can I do?” You might even want to create an idea jar. Write each activity on a piece of paper, and let your child draw one as a reward.
Create a town. Buy several different colors of clay and nontoxic, washable tempura paint. Clear an area in the garage or under a carport so that a large piece of cardboard can lie flat. Then have your children create a town with houses, cars, people, dogs, trees and so on.
Paint a banner. Cut a long (5–10-foot) paper banner and invite other children over for a play date to decorate it with tempura paint. You can hang the banner from a fence or leave it flat on the driveway as children paint. When they’re finished, have them play in the sprinkler to wash off any mess.
Make a bird feeder. Help children cut openings on opposite sides of a clean milk carton, and then have them decorate the carton with nontoxic paint. Or purchase a wooden bird feeder from a craft store and let them paint it. Then hang the feeder with wire. Have your children keep the feeder full so your family can identify what birds live near you.
Paint rocks. Find ones that make your children think of an animal or object, and let them try to paint the rocks to look like what they’re imagining.
Make bubbles. Combine 1 cup water with 2 tablespoons light karo syrup or 2 tablespoons glycerin and 4 tablespoons tearless baby shampoo for tear-free fun. You can fashion wands out of pipe cleaners, wire hangers, giant straws, fly swatters, or even a slotted spoon.
Make an obstacle course. Help children set up several activities to do in succession. Try these ideas: balancing on a board placed a few inches off the ground, weaving in and out of chairs while carrying an egg on a spoon, tossing water balloons while jumping in and out of hula hoops, crawling under a low string stretched between two poles, crawling through a large cardboard box, running while bouncing a ball, and bicycling around a tree.
Host a neighborhood kid Olympics. Invite neighborhood children over for fun games that demonstrate skills in running, jumping, skipping, throwing, catching and balancing.
Learn to ride a tricycle or bicycle. If your children are young, this is a great way to help them develop strong muscles and coordination. Then you can bike as a family on some of the paths in your area.
Have a photo scavenger hunt. Give your children a disposable camera or one of your older digital cameras so they can take pictures of specific items that you’ve listed. Item ideas include flowers, trees, bugs and even buildings. Next, learn as much as you can about each item and make a scrapbook with the photos and facts.
Make a bug jar. Get a clear plastic jar and poke small holes with a nail into the lid. Let your children collect bugs so your family can study and identify them. Then take a trip to the library or go online to learn about each one.
Turn a portion of your yard into a garden. Let your children grow any plants they want. Taking care of the garden will get them outside every day. Even if you don’t have a yard, your kids can grow plants in a large pot.
Camp out in your backyard. Set up a tent or make a fort out of a sheet. Then lay sleeping bags on the lawn. By day, everyone can lie down and watch the different shapes in the clouds as they float by. At night, you can watch the stars together. Bring out a lantern and deck of cards so you can play games. Don’t forget storytelling!
Although it can be a real challenge to find ideas for day-to-day activities that will benefit and delight your children, quite often doing little things can be the most fun. And, most importantly, kids want to spend time with their parents, so make time to enjoy summer with your children!
Carmela Guizar-Sanchez is a PAMP member and owner of Simplify Home Solutions, a lifestyle and household concierge service. She has an 8-year-old daughter and sons ages 5 and 1. You can find more of her tips at www.simplifyhomesolutions.com or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.