Some ABCs of summer fun

Posted: Monday, May 17, 2004

Are you prepared for when your children chant the dreaded "I'm bored" mantra just as summer begins? The following includes some wisdom for coping with summer and a houseful of kids.

A is for ... ALL right! School is finally out!

B (as in "I'm BORED!") comes two weeks later sometimes with a pout.

C is for CHILD Psychology 101, what do the books all say? Must we entertain the little darlings every second, of every day?

D is for what shall we DO now that summer's here?

E is for ask the real EXPERTS who really know it all: mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles and baby sitters. Here are a few tried and true home remedies for the summer blues:

Fun doesn't have to mean nonstop activity. Set aside some quiet times for kids to daydream and just enjoy being kids.

Get a big box and keep all kinds of neat stuff in it: tape, wire, crayons, happy meal prizes, etc. This works great when boredom strikes, and it's raining outside, reports Jennifer Eastham, a mom of two under 8.

Have a picnic.

Invent a new way to play an old game.

Jacks, chalk and bubbles are never out of date.

Kites! Don't forget kites! Also, as they get older, remember ...

Lemonade stands, garage sales and mowing the neighbor's lawn are good ways to stay busy. "I help my kids do the same," says a dad to four teens.

My kids are not free until beds are made, dishes are done and two pages of minute math are completed. They don't say the 'B' word too often," confides a teacher of hundreds and parent of two.

Nice to meet you bored" is Uncle Matt's favorite reply to the "I'm bored" whine.

One is a lonely number. "One thing I noticed with my little guys is that they seem to have fun mostly when we are doing something together," says Jennifer Waters, mother of five with six and a half years of experienced fun. "It could be as small as making toast or as big as going to the zoo. Let your imagination flow and the ideas will come. Try it. If it's a flop, they'll let you know. Once we did sketches of our bodies on freezer paper and colored them in with crayons, paints even finger paints, whatever they wanted it was a mess, but we had fun."

Pam Estes, mother of Bethany and Isaac, says that shell and agate picking and fishing are family favorites.

Quick thinking has bailed many a parent from having to sing, dance or otherwise entertain their kids especially on a rainy summer day. My favorite standby ...

Reply is "Really, then, you should write me a three-page essay on what you want to do." They rarely wrote the essay, but they did find something, anything to do other than write an essay.

Sit and plan a week's worth of adventures together! Give each person a role to be responsible for and check in with them. Do a count down and use stickers. "Heck, I'm an older person and I still love stickers and fun!" says Bonnie Jean Smith, mother of several.

Tasks are a powerful deterrent. "The word 'bored' is not allowed in my house. Tell me you're bored and I will be sure to assign you the most odious chore I can come up with on short notice. Cleaning toilets seems to work well as a deterrent to boredom. I decided early on in my career as Mommy to give up my role as cruise director and becomes a facilitator instead. I am not in charge of my children's entertainment. They are. Short and simple. When you make that mental switch things become crystal clear. If they are bored, they need to do something about it. Now, that is not to say that you can just chase your kids into the back yard, give them an old pot and a wooden spoon and expect them to be happy all day though if you add a bucket of water it might just work. My job as the facilitator of fun is to provide an environment rich in 'stuff.' Start with a plethora of craft supplies, as many books as the house can hold, a pile of old boards and a bucket of nails. Add to that a dog, a pen full of chickens and a back yard to romp in and you have the makings of a busy summer. If this style is new to you, it may take a few weeks of retraining before your kids adjust, but just think how clean your toilets will be in the meantime!" advises Debbie Clonan, mother of two.

Unusual fun doesn't have to be glitzy. "Usually I just go sit on the floor and wait. Kids make up the greatest games right out of nowhere. One kid I baby-sit for plays a game called 'hot lava rocks.' We have to jump from pillow to pillow so we are not gotten by the lava monster," says Tasha Twiet, baby sitter of many.

Virginia Walters, mother of four, the youngest of whom is 44, grandmother to seven granddaughters, and great grandmother to two, has a wealth of experience to share: "My kids usually occupied each other but sometimes they'd say 'we need something to do.' Those times, we'd do a jigsaw puzzle or maybe cook. They liked to bake cookies. As they got older the 'boring' times got fewer because they had friends, phones and school work, etc. I sometimes fell back on the old 'Well, I've got something for you to do' trick and gave them a chore, but not often. It seemed that once I turned their attention to something, like a puzzle, they soon drifted into something else. We kept the puzzle up until it was finished. It was always there to work on. Sometimes the one who put in the last piece got a small prize, sometimes he just got to gloat."

Whatever happened to kick the can, red rover and just being kids? Summer was always a blast, remembers two veteran mothers chatting about the summers of their youth.

X marks the spot! "Treasure hunts entertained my kids for hours. Littler kids got pictures to follow," shares Felisa Moore, mother of three.

You're not allowed to be bored until you're at least 25," is what one aunt tells her 13-going-on-21 niece.

Zoning out is underrated, advises one mother of two. "When the kids were little sometimes we'd crawl into the hammock and nap together."

Jacqueline J. Michels is the mother of five. She lives in Soldotna.

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