Skill Builder: Ten Cures for ‘I’m Bored!’
These great ideas can help get your kids outdoors this summer.
By Nancy Herron
When kids or grandkids lament, “I’m bored!” try these free or low-cost cures for restless kids to get them physically active, unplugged and using their imagination.
10. Extreme treasure hunts. Look for signs of an animal or plant family, camouflage, trap or hideout. Younger kids can search by sight or sound for things that start with each letter of the alphabet or the first letter of their names and their friends’ names. Have them tell about, draw or take a picture of their finds.
9. Egg carton collections. Pick a theme, such as “rocks with more than three colors,” and fill up an egg carton with a specimen in each hole. If you are in a state or national park, put the items back before you leave.
8. Build a fort. Tell kids it’s OK to move things around and get dirty when they build. It all comes out in the wash.
7. Kid-crazy picnics. Challenge children to make snacks that look like what they find outside, like spiders made with pretzel stick legs on cheese cube bodies. Imaginative and healthy!
6. Blast from the past. Remember hide-and-seek, freeze tag, TV tag, Marco Polo, Mother May I?, Red Rover, jump rope, leap frog, crack-the-whip and tug-of-war? They’re still fun! Get kids started and they will come up with their own variations.
5. Cameras! Action! Make a movie with a video camera, still camera or drawings. Kids can make up wonderful outside adventures and then treat you to their storytelling.
4. Play Picasso. Whether it’s in the park or the backyard, art is everywhere. Paint rocks. (Remember pet rocks?) Or use a piece of paper and a crayon and take rubbings of tree bark, interesting rocks and cemetery markers — anything with texture. Try putting watercolors on fallen leaves and pressing them on paper. Make sandcastles or mud pies, or just lie on the ground and try to see images in the clouds.
3. Obstacle courses. Let the kids create their own obstacle course using things around the house and yard. Try hula hoops, small logs, different things to jump or climb over. Even the dog can get into the act.
2. Jungle explorers. OK, maybe it’s the park or backyard, but take a magnifying glass, a net, a jar and a piece of paper and open the biggest encyclopedia of discoveries ever. Make up names for animals and plants you see. Make bird feeders, toad abodes and animal homes. Pitch a tent for a junior scientist’s remote field station.
1. Head to a park with the kids. Play, hike, swim, fish, camp and take in a special program. Time outside with people you love is the best cure for all sorts of things, and helps us be healthier, happier and smarter!
Worried about what to take or do at the park? Here are some tips: Take a sense of humor. There’s always one person who’s not happy. Accept this and just keep going. The less attention you give, the quicker it passes. Frequent breaks and easygoing attitudes go a long way.
Slow down. Set big goals aside and let kids set the pace. Stop to laugh, explore and smell the flowers. Sing songs. Be fascinated by rocks. Skip stones. Build castles in a sandy part of the trail. Relax and enjoy nature.
Take snacks. Bribery gets you everywhere. Plan for frequent stops with several light and healthy snacks along the way. Kids can carry the snacks in a day pack. Take drinking water and some hand wipes. Stop every 20 or 30 minutes and let them choose the snack for that stop.
Dress to get dirty. Worried about pictures of dirty kids? The expressions on the faces of kids who get to explore are priceless.
Plan for discovery. Learn to identify one or two of something — a tree with some distinctive identifier (bark, shape or leaf); an easily heard bird song (cardinals are good first birds) or frog call (such as the rock-clicking sound of the leopard frog); or a flower that’s blooming; or a dragonfly, algae or duckweed. No need to be a walking encyclopedia. If you get a lot of “What’s this?” or “Why?” questions, ask them what they think. That’s how science was born.