Throughout the years, I’ve read different articles and blog post about how to keep your kids entertained during summer vacation, rainy days, Christmas break, snow days, etc. I’ve always read them with interest, but mostly with curiosity. You see, it never occurred to me that I needed to keep my kids entertained when our routine changed.
Maybe you’re like me. Growing up, I was rarely bored. I could play outside with the neighbors or my siblings, I had toys to play with, I had books to read, and there were crayons and paper if I was feeling artistic. I hula-hooped and played on my swing set by myself for the afternoon. If we actually had snow (remember I grew up in Alabama, so it was very rare), it was super exciting and I stayed outside as long as I could stand the cold (in my tennis shoes wrapped with plastic bags to keep them waterproof). Rainy days, we could wear a raincoat and play in the water or curl up with some books (picture books or chapter books, depending on age). In the summer, if it was really hot, we could pull out a wading pool and splash around for the afternoon. My mom occasionally had a fun project, usually centered around a holiday, but I don’t remember any rainy day crafts or things to keep us entertained in summer. Maybe she hadn’t read those magazine articles – or maybe they hadn’t been written yet.
So if you are like me, not really a crafty mom, I want to speak some words of freedom to you right now: your kids are not deprived. Maybe David and I are lazy parents, but we have raised low-maintenance kids (maybe because that’s what we were raised to be). Our kids play together no matter what the weather is. If they get bored, they figure out something else to do. The Golden Book of Family Fun gets pulled out, pillow forts are built, books are written. Sure, we have video games, computers, and a television, and those get used more than I like, but television is not a given (we have no problem with screen time, but our kids get grumpy with lots of it). We have had several friends offer recently to watch our kids to help during this crazy season, and while it touched us tremendously, the fact is that our kids do not keep us from working most of the time. If they do, it’s a parenting moment – usually teaching them how to get along or taking the time to explain the “why” (as David talked about last week), things we want to be teaching and reinforcing with our kids. Of course, we do take advantage of childcare at times to get away for undistracted times, but it’s not because they are constantly underfoot. As I am writing this post, Stella is sitting on the floor next to me, playing quietly by herself with a Magnadoodle.
Now, please keep in mind that I’m writing this from the perspective of a mom of 4 kids, 2-10 years old. The more kids, the more people they have to play with, and the older the kids, the more they can play unsupervised. If you have much younger kids, or even have 1-2 kids, it is harder for them to avoid boredom. But David and I actually believe that boredom is a really good thing because boredom inspires creativity. A bored child thinks about things outside of his usual system, and comes up with new ideas or ways to play with things.
So, that’s how we “entertain” our kids. We give them lots of free time every day so they learn to entertain themselves and we think it’s great if they get bored. We are not parenting experts by any stretch, and I am not against crafts and fun activities, but I especially want to encourage you moms that see all the creative things you could be doing on Pinterest or on other blogs – it’s more than okay to not do them. It’s okay to expect your kids to behave inside and to play rowdy outside. You don’t have to create an amusement park/educational experience in your home every day. You don’t have to make your own Play-Do or fingerpaints. It’s even okay to not read to your child every day. I know, this is a blog all about reading, and I did cringe as I typed that sentence because I do deeply value reading, but really the most important thing is to be around your kids – to know them and believe in them. You don’t have to entertain them when they don’t know what to do, but I would suggest that you watch closely to praise the results of their boredom. Boredom produces amazing creative solutions and it is delightful to see those solutions proudly exhibited by the formerly “bored” child.
How do you deal with bored kids? Have any great ideas that were sparked by boredom? I’d love to hear them!