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Stop Summer Boredom

"I'm soooo bored," sighs eight-year-old Jason as he sits down to lunch. "There's nothing to do."

For many children, summer means long lazy days that are a sharp contrast to the scheduled school year. In theory, parents and children alike look forward to a break from the pressure of homework and after-school activities. But in practice, a sudden wealth of downtime can add friction to families.

Here are ten replies to "I'm bored!" that will help your kids develop the internal resources that are important for a creative, satisfying life.

What to Say

1) "So, you're feeling like there's nothing interesting to do right now?"
It's tempting to jump right in with suggestions for activities. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge your child's feelings. This will go a long way toward helping him see you as a resource rather than an adversary.

2) "If you could do anything, what would you like to do?"
Try to encourage your children to generate ideas for activities. Some of them might be far-fetched or impossible. But by sorting through their preferences, you both may get ideas for things to do.

3) "That's a great idea. We can't do it today, but let's make sure we do on Tuesday."
If your child suggests something that can't be done right away, reinforce the suggestion instead of disregarding it. If you can, set a specific time for doing it, and then make sure that you both follow through.

4) "You're usually so good at thinking of things to do."
Reinforcing a child's sense of competence to generate activities will help him develop a sense of resourcefulness.

5) "Let's think of some things together."
If your child can't think of anything to do, even with your encouragement, it's okay to start making suggestions.

6) "I sure could use some help for a while."
Most young children like to help with household tasks. If you're cooking, sewing, or cleaning, find small jobs that your child can do with you. Even older kids can get into helping, especially if they feel like they're accomplishing something. Special projects, such as reorganizing toy boxes or shelves, can occupy long periods of time — especially when children are encouraged to re-examine lost treasures or reminisce about "the old days."

7) "Remember how we wanted to sort through our old pictures?"
Sorting through family photos is a great activity for children. They love seeing pictures of themselves when they were younger, and are often interested in seeing younger versions of family members. If possible, get a blank picture album for them to fill with pictures.

8) "Want to hose some things down for me?"
Water is soothing and magical for children. Kids can while away long hours hosing, washing, and scrubbing — and keep cool during hot summer days. Let them commandeer the bathtub, the porch, driveway, or backyard for some serious water play.

9) "How about making Grandma a present?"
Keep a stash of art supplies handy, including scissors, glue, stamps, and stickers. Rummaging through boxes of buttons and beads to make collages or jewelry can sometimes occupy children for long periods of time — even longer than it takes to make things.

10) "Let's do something together!"
Sometimes, especially with younger children, cries of boredom are really calls for companionship and attention. Designate some special times for you and your children to do simple, fun things together, such as playing a board game, reading aloud, or taking a walk. Encouraging children to pick the game, select the books you read, or plan your route will help them get in the habit of making their own choices about how they spend their time.

Supplies You'll Need

It's tempting to rely on television and videos to keep kids occupied during the long summer days. But you'll be doing your young children a favor by encouraging them to use simple materials, along with their imaginations and ingenuity, to generate summer fun. Here are the supplies you'll need:

  • Art supplies — glue and glitter, construction paper, colored pipe cleaners, markers, colored pencils, scissors, and crayons
  • Lemonade, ice, and pitcher — for a lemonade stand
  • Blocks — all kinds
  • Water — for washing the car and water fights
  • A library card — for trips to the library
  • Ingredients for baking cookies, cupcakes, or bread
  • A deck of cards — for solitaire, two-person games, or even building!
  • A collection of grown-up clothes — for dress-up
  • Old family photographs
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