We’ve made it to summer break! We can say goodbye to remote learning responsibilities (at least for awhile) and gloomy weather, and say hello to the carefree days of summer! Right?
Well, almost carefree. As COVID-19 continues to run its course, safety precautions will continue to dictate how and where we spend our summer vacation, which means—most likely—more time spent at home practicing physical distancing to help slow the spread of the virus.
So how can we keep our kids active, engaged, and entertained after 3 months of quarantine? Here are some ideas to help you think about ways to beat the boredom blues.
When children are busy, they are less likely to be bored, anxious, sad or get into trouble. With your child, come up with a list of 10+ activities that they can do if they find themselves bored. Depending on your flexibility (for example, you are working from home or just need time to get something done), you could create a list of activities for your child to do on their own, and then another list of activities that the whole family can do together.
As you make your list together, remember that it isn’t your job to entertain your child all day. It’s OK for your child to get bored. In fact, much creativity and imaginative play comes from unstructured free play. Many brilliant ideas can come from laying in the grass and watching the clouds. Your child doesn’t need to look busy to know their brain is working. They may be integrating an important concept or conversation from earlier in the day.
Instead, view your list as a way to help your child narrow down their choices. Young children can feel overwhelmed when there are too many choices. If you ask them, “What do you want to play?” they may struggle to come up with an answer. But if you give them a choice, “Would you rather play with your dinosaurs or color some pictures?” they are usually able to make a decision fairly easily. Another way to help children decide about something they can do is to rotate their toys. Put some toys away for a week or so. For example, leave out their wooden toy food and soft dough, but put away the tinker toys and square blocks until next week. Leave out the watercolors and brushes, and put away the finger paint. Reducing the number of choices reduces stress.
“What can I do?”
Your families’ activity list should be tailored to your child’s interests, as well as your comfort level and availability to use public spaces, such as playgrounds, swimming pools, and other kid-friendly places.
Include physical activities to keep children active — there are many that they can do either inside or outside. Some ideas include:
- Build an obstacle course with common items like pillows, cones, etc.
- Go on a nature hike, even if it’s just observing your immediate outside area
- Play soccer in your yard or at a nearby park
- Run through the sprinkler
For activities that stimulate the mind and senses, try:
- Soft dough (make your own from scratch!)
- Bake a recipe together
- Reading independently or being read to
- Fill some tubs or small kiddie pool with water and soap. Add toys for a fun, bubbly sensory water bin. Always supervise young children around water play.
- Make your own bubble solution and bubble wand.
When time permits, have special family activities that you can add into your weekly routine, such as:
- Have a family movie night with popcorn and special snacks
- Take a day trip to the Forest or Ocean for a change of scenery
- Have a family meal night where everyone helps make dinner
- Camp in your backyard, or even set up a tent in the living room
Having these moments to look forward to provides a sense of routine and stability for the whole family—and are just plain fun! Consider separating weekend activities from weekday activities. This may be difficult if you are working from home or if the days seem to run together. Making weekends special helps your children by having something fun to look forward to, and gives them a sense of normalcy.
Advice on screen time
Since shelter-in place orders, many parents have had concerns about their children spending too much time on devices. During these unusual times, it’s OK to loosen up your screen time rules and go easy on yourself. Ask your child about what they are watching; talk about how the characters feel or the results of their actions. If your older children love video games, ask them to teach you their favorite game and play together.
Whether it’s imaginative play, practicing a life skill like baking, or watching a movie together, your child will simply enjoy spending time together as a family and sharing those moments together.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).