Kids have summertime boredom…already? Help them beat it.

Kids have summertime boredom…already? Help them beat it.
by Jane Clifford from

“There’s nothing to do-o-o.” They are words parents hate to hear, especially with long summer days coming.

No, you can’t prevent your kids’ boredom. But you can stop dreading it.

First thing to know: Being bored is OK. Really. Studies on the subject over the past few years, looking at both children and adult workers, conclude that the occasional bout of boredom can promote creativity, spark imagination and provide problem-solving skills.

Next, it’s not your job to solve the boredom problem. It’s your child’s job.

“Parents really feel a responsibility to be cruise directors,” says Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School. But he says it’s not only unrealistic to see yourself as the entertainment committee, and you’re not doing your child any favors by trying.

Rosenfeld recalled when his middle child, now grown, was in fourth grade and the school declared a “No TV Week.” He laughed, saying it nearly drove the whole family crazy. But by the second day, a funny thing happened.

“He got out his Legos and started building what he called ‘Legomaniacs,’ running them all over the house,” Rosenfeld says. And then his son started writing stories about the Legomaniacs and their activities.

“He constructed his own life,” says Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld explained that when parents try to fill the void, they are robbing their kids of the chance to explore possibilities. Better to make suggestions.

“You can say, ‘Would you like to take a walk?’ Or ‘Do you want to sit down and watch a movie?’ Or ‘If you’d like to bake a cake, I’ll help you.’ ”

Be available, he urges, to do something they want to do. Have the “tools” on hand that you know they’re interested in – drawing supplies, games, books, a basketball, whatever – and they eventually will fill their own down time.
In the Powell family, kids Brandon, 16, and Kaitlyn, 13, admit they are occasionally bored in the summer.
In the Powell family, kids Brandon, 16, and Kaitlyn, 13, admit they are occasionally bored in the summer.

Brandon Powell, 16, is a competitive swimmer, headed for that demanding junior year of high school. He has little down time but admits to sometimes being bored.

“I just remember lying on the couch, following the fan on the ceiling,” he says. “My mom would tell us to go outside. So I would go play with bugs. If it moved, I’d touch it.”

So boredom led to a love of bugs?

“Definitely. I have a lizard now, she’s awesome,” he says of his pet Remi.

Brandon’s sister, Kaitlyn, 13, is equally busy as a dancer. She started at 3 and does tap, jazz and ballet and loves it. Yet, she, too, fights boredom.

“Usually, when I’m bored, I sit on the couch or outside, debating what I could do. Sometimes I’ll think of stories I could write, books I want to read … Sometimes you find something to do that you didn’t even know you wanted to do.”

Their mother, Lori, a kindergarten teacher in San Diego County, knows all about keeping children occupied.

“You get those rascally kids who pull stunts and start cutting their hair instead of their paper,” she said, laughing, of her students. But she resists that temptation to coordinate every waking moment of her children’s days.

“If they come to me and say they’re bored, I’ll give them ideas but it’s up to them to choose,” she says. “If they say, ‘That’s stupid’ or ‘That’s dumb’ and they shoot down every one of my ideas, I say, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. Call your friends. Or how about you clean your room?’ And sometimes they do.”

Rosenfeld, author with Nicole Wise of “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap,” believes parents have to be careful about allowing their children to grow into the people they are meant to be, not just reflection of their own dashed dreams of never playing piano or being the football star. That’s true for the activities children are guided toward, whether extracurricular or as a result of boredom.

“Part of a balanced life is having down time and doing what matters to you, what interests you. Otherwise you end up growing up a fraud,” Rosenfeld says.

So when you hear those dreaded words, he suggests, “Keep insisting that your child find the answer.”

Jane Clifford is a Florida-based writer and mother of four. She fervently believes her payback will be sitting back and watching as they all become parents.

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Soaking Up the Summer: Water Play

by The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association | June 4

woohoo water play

Best way to cool off on a sweltering afternoon? Water play, of course! Tons of fun for all ages, easy clean-up and who doesn’t love getting wet?

Kids are naturally drawn to water play, and it’s a great way to get them outdoors. But there are even more reasons to head out to the backyard and turn on the garden hose. What your child thinks is good ‘wet’ fun is actually learning incognito. Water play engages children in physical play, helps them develop their sensory acuity, cultivates their social and emotional skills, and stimulates their imagination.

You thought it was just a garden hose, didn’t you?

Your baby learns much about the world through her senses, and water is stimulating to her budding understanding of the environment around her. Here are some ideas for water play with your baby:

• Make it rain on a sunshine-y day! Punch a few holes in the bottom of a clean plastic bottle. While your child is in outdoors in the grass or wading pool, or inside in the bathtub, put warm water in the bottle and let it “rain” over his skin.

• Explore wonders of ice. In the wading pool or bathtub, floating ice will intrigue your little one while it provides relief in the heat. Make ice in several sizes and shapes by using various clean containers (milk cartons, Chinese food boxes, plastic food storage containers, etc.). Make sure the pieces are too large to be swallowed in case your child puts them in her mouth. Help your baby reach for the ice, touch it, push pieces underwater and generally explore these magical melting “toys”.

A toddler’s world is full of firsts — they can be doggedly independent about how they choose to experience them! (Understatement, right?) When it comes to soothing water play in the summer heat, the best advice is to keep it simple. Here are a few activities to try:

• Mud Mixing. Oh, what a toddler can do with a little bit of water and the great outdoors! If there’s a patch of dirt anywhere in sight, your budding chemist (or maybe chef?) will enjoy mixing up a batch of mud. Give them a few empty plastic containers, the garden hose (or some buckets of water) and watch them go!

• Sprinkling a little joy. Admit it—every once in a while, do you still sometimes walk through sprinklers on a hot day, just because? Imagine how wonderfully refreshing and exciting a sprinkler feels to a toddler who is exploring many forms of movement—crawling, walking, running—and who loves the sensory stimulation of the cool water. Water your lawn and your toddler at the same time—both will soak it right up.

Preschoolers love to pretend and use their imagination. Give them a little encouragement, and they are likely to come up with all kinds of elaborate play scenarios. Try these fun water activities:

• Scrub-a-dub those riding toys. Make it a “car wash” day. A bucket of soapy water and some clean cloths or sponges can turn your backyard into a car wash. Your kids can round up all of their toys with wheels and work out their own system for who washes, who rinses with the garden hose, who dries off the toy, and so on. Don’t be surprised if other kids in the neighborhood to join in on the fun—and the scrubbing!

• Old Fashioned Laundry Day. A dishpan with sudsy water and another with clear rinse water can encourage your kids to do their dolls’ washable laundry the old fashioned way. Add to the fun by letting your preschooler whip up the suds with an egg beater! Find a place to put up a makeshift clothesline, and voila! your children’s imaginations will take over from here.


Primary school kids are increasingly competent and responsible, but still love to play! They will enjoy being in the water just for the sake of getting wet, but they can also wile away the lazy days of summer engaged in sophisticated water play. Here are some science-based water play ideas:

• Science fun with water. Can you get muddy water clean? What happens when you pour clean water through sand? Kids in elementary school may be intrigued by questions like these. Give them some jars, funnels, coffee filters, sand, pebbles, cotton balls, and other household items and let them test out their own theories.

• Big billowing bubbles. Bubble technology has gone far beyond its wand-in-a-bottle roots, and older kids can enjoy some cool new ways to play with bubbles. Make homemade bubble makers from pipe cleaners formed into loops to wave like wands, clean empty juice concentrate cans (dip one end into the bubble solution and blow on the other end for a huge bubble), and straws that can help you make a small bubble inside a larger one.

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