Boredom Busters: Summer Engagement Ideas for Kids - Part II

Last summer I did a blog post on Boredom Busters to give parents some additional summer engagement ideas for their kids. As it was well received, I thought I would do a Part II this summer. Entering the tail end of July, I have definitely started to hear more of a chorus of: “Mom, I’m bored.” And when my kids are bored, they tend to get cranky and more prone to poor choices and behaviors. To help support them and my mental sanity, I made a new list of Boredom Busters. Below is the list of ideas I created for my family; I hope it is helpful to yours as well. As always, take what seems like it will work for your unique family, modify as needed, and forget the rest. While most of these ideas require some degree of parental involvement, many of the steps can be done independently once you set your kids up for the activities.

Get Your Kids to Earn (And Appreciate!) Their Free Time

While lazy summer days are so important to refresh and refuel, after a while endless unstructured days can make anyone a little stir crazy. Kids, like all of us, need to feel a sense of purpose and responsibility (as much as they might say they don’t!). Lately, I noticed that attitudes were great in my house up until the point the kids were asked to do their chores. So, I decided to switch things up to help them appreciate their free time more and recognize that it is earned, not something they are owed. I created a morning, afternoon, and evening task list and showed it to the kids. We then had a discussion of family responsibilities and fairness: Is it fair for mama and papa to do all or most of the work and for the kids to just have fun? Would you like it if you had to do all the work while your sibling played? We then explained that they need to complete their tasks first and then they can move on to free time. I printed each child’s list out, put them in sheet protectors and hung them on the fridge with dry erase markers so the kids can check off their tasks as they go. This way, they are in charge of their time (and I don’t have to nag them, hallelujah!), and once they have checked off all their tasks for the morning, for example, they can move on to whatever they would like to do. Here is an example list (you’ll see references to some school tasks like homework and bus tags; right now, my kids ignore this step, but I find it helps them to start thinking about back-to-school and I don’t have to redo the list when school starts. win-win). This type of direct, simple list is good for younger kids. Feel free to adapt to make lists that will work for your family.

  • Another idea is to create a list of extra chores the kids could do (above and beyond their daily tasks) to earn some extra spending money or fun family activities. Write down a list of tasks and for each task on the list create a corresponding “price tag” to let them know how much they could earn for completing each task. For example, organizing one’s room might be a task that could earn a family trip to the ice cream parlor.

Old School Letter-Writing Project

Another entertaining idea is to get your kids some fun stationary and stamps and encourage them to write letters to family members and friends. Maybe a few will become ongoing pen pals?

Problem-Solving & Advocacy

If we want to raise kids to be engaged citizens, aware of social issues and committed to helping address them, we need to start early. One way to do this is to help your child learn about and address a societal issue in small ways. One idea is to check out an age appropriate book on homelessness issues from the library, discuss the book with your child, and work with them to come up with some problem-solving solutions they could engage in to address the issue. For example, one summer my daughters and I made care packages for the homeless individuals we frequently saw panhandling in our area while we were running errands (we borrowed the idea from a family friend who did this with his daughter). The packages contained water, new socks, sunscreen, and nonperishable food items. The girls also decided to contribute their monthly “donate” portion of their allowances to Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community First! Village, a 51-acre master planned development that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness.

  • Another idea is to get a book on environmental issues and talk with your children about what they could do to address the problem. For example, as a family you could commit to researching and using greener cleaning products in your home, you could focus on using less energy or water, or you could pick up trash in your neighborhood.

These are just a couple of examples of simple ways to get your children thinking about how they can make a difference in their communities and support them in acting on these ideas.

Creative Engagement Ideas

I recently came across the inspiring and fun work of Meri Cherry, an LA-based Reggio Emilia-inspired atelierista (teacher with an art background), parent, and art studio owner that focuses on Process Art. Her website is a great resource for free, creative engagement ideas for kids. Her site lists a variety of projects for various ages that include detailed material lists and steps, so even a non-crafty mom like me can get in on the action (I love that she has a projects page specifically for “non crafty moms”! She also has a Process Art Toolkit that is available for purchase. Check it out and let the art begin!

Reading Challenge

Sometimes kids need a little nudge and the excitement of a challenge to get them reading. But even voracious readers also tend to love a reading challenge, especially if you have some great prizes. So, set your kids up for a family reading challenge. The American Library Association (ALA) publishes a variety of free, downloadable summer reading book lists that are recommended for various ages, including birth-preschool and grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. Take the list to the library and your child can check out some fun, age-appropriate books to read. Then, discuss the parameters of the challenge and the prizes for reading 2 books, 5 books, even 10 books (maybe even challenge yourself to participate too). It might further engage your kids if you come up with the prize ideas together. If your kids prefer graphic novels or you want to supplement the above lists, check out the ALA’s great graphic novel recommended reading lists by grades as well. Happy reading and enjoy the silence!


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