This summer has been a great time to slow down, enjoy the moment, and take note of what’s important in life.
We are so thankful that we live in this beautiful area. Georgetown, Round Rock, and Austin offer great free and low cost fun activities for families. While you can take advantage of these activities, it doesn’t always help when you're trying to work at 10am on a Tuesday morning.
Here’s some different ideas to tuck into your back pocket when you hear those words, “I’m so bored!”
Long Term Fun
Set up some space for long term creative solutions. Use the backyard, the dining room, or the living room to have ongoing fun!
A few cardboard boxes of various sizes. All children love to play with cardboard. It’s a blank canvas for imagination, paints, cutting practice and stacking. We usually find ourselves stacked full up in the garage, but when we’ve run low, we’ll ask around the neighborhood, our friends or even stores to see if they have any on hand they would be willing to part with. Tunnels, forts, cars, airplanes; the sky’s the limit when you have a cardboard box.
Gather materials to let loose creativity
Loose materials equal great creativity. While you are taking a family walk, go ahead and gather rocks, twigs, leaves, sticks, and flowers. Once home, you can sort them out together and talk about some ways that they can use them to create things. A birds nest, a painted rock, a maze for insects, a small city, anything is possible! Encourage them to play with it as they want and keep it accessible.
Create space and discover toys
Have you ever cleaned out your kids room and noticed that they seem to rediscover joy for long lost toys? Try to spend some free time sorting out toys and bins so you can easily shuffle around toys. Re-defining play spaces adds a whole new world aspect to play as well. Bring out your safe kitchen tools like spatulas, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and whisks and let them use it in their pretend kitchen. Changing the setting can get those creative juices flowing.
Short Term Play
Some ideas for bonding times that make memories and inspire kids to try something different.
Set your camera to record and create your own family cooking show. Show ingredients, talk about your methods, and show your progress. Once you’re done, you will have entertainment to watch while you eat your delicious meal!
TIme to annoy your neighbors! Bring out all your noisiest materials, play instruments, metal cans to bang, and kazoo’s. Get set up somewhere to perform and take turns putting on a fun concert. If you can, record this as an intro to your cooking show! After such a noisy performance, your ears might need a rest and you can snuggle and read a book together.
Get your swim noodles and create your own fun obstacle course. How do you hold the pool noodles in the ground? Easy! Use leftover pencils to stick in the ground and put your noodle on top to create a fun hoop for them to crawl through. They can jump over them, balance between them, roll over them. The possibilities are endless.
Independent playing is very important for a child to learn how to be self-reliant, creative, imaginative, and fosters focus and thinking capabilities. Some children come by it naturally, others need more guidance and reassurance. Here’s some tips to help support your child playing more independently.
While you are playing with your kiddos, narrative your thoughts. Saying, “Oh. I’m looking for something to do. What should I play with? I know, my kitchen!” Then, go over to the play kitchen and talk through your play. “I’m making a cake!” I need to get everything together and mix it.” Encourage your child to talk with you and think about what they would want to do next.
Set clear independent time
Set clear expectations for a set period of time. Say, “I need to get some work done by myself. It’s your playtime. I’ll be ready to (play, read, puzzles, etc) in X amount of minutes”. Remember to set a timer for yourself and follow through. If they come up to you asking you to do something or play with them, remind them that you’re still working, but you will be available soon. Keep to your work and let them try to entertain themselves. As soon as the timer goes off, follow through with what you said you would do. Praise them for playing, ask them about what they did, and make it such a positive experience that they will be eager for more independent opportunities.
Wait and watch
If your older children come up to you bored and wanting entertainment, acknowledge that sometimes we all get bored and ask how they want to solve that problem. Wait and watch and see what they naturally gravitate towards. If they come up with an idea all by themselves, offer praise and encouragement. If they continue to struggle, model behavior that helps them solve their problems. Say, “I’m bored too. I’m going to (create a menu, paint a picture, make some bread, make a fairy garden, ect)” Spend some time on your project and encourage them to join in. The point isn’t for you to entertain them, it’s you actually entertaining yourself while modeling your thinking process and problem solving skills.
Have patience with yourself and them. Know that they are going to be just fine being bored sometimes. You are just fine if you have to work, want some free time, or maybe have some independent project time for yourself. Sometimes, it will work out splendidly that everyone is happily entertained, and other times they won’t be, and that's okay!