Ah, summer — the days are long and your kids’ attention spans are short. It’s the season you truly come to appreciate teachers and vow to up the spending cap on teacher gifts next year. And, it’s the season that despite all your best efforts, you’re bombarded daily with that dreaded phrase: “I’m boooooored.”
We need a game plan to dodge the boredom. Huddle up, parents! I have some tried and true ideas to share with you. Since military families are all over the world, I’ve compiled some universally applicable activities.
Get in the water. It doesn’t matter where you are, there is water nearby — ocean, river, lake, backyard pool, base pool, splash pad, water table, etc. If you don’t have any of these liquid resources, hook up a sprinkler in the backyard. Aside from the pool, the beach, the sprinkler and a local fountain that we’re pretty sure you can play in, my kids love:
- Ice block excavation — Fill a container with water and a lot of small, colorful objects, freeze it and let your kids chip away at the frozen block outside.
- Water balloon fights — Get the neighbor kids involved and make a day of it.
Explore uncharted territory. No matter how adventurous you are or how long you’ve been stationed where you are, you’ve probably missed something. Seize the (long summer) day! Find a hiking trail, beat the heat in a museum or take a day trip out of town.
Move “boring stuff” outside, and watch it become awesome before your very eyes! Here are a few activities that are more fun with an outdoor twist:
- Painting — Try spray-bottle art, splat canvas, frozen water colors (freeze diluted water colors in ice cube trays with popsicle sticks) or sidewalk paint. Let them paint rocks and hide them around the neighborhood or set them up with a canvas and let them paint a landscape. Paint a shower curtain. Use fingers, feet, sponges, brushes, leaves — anything goes outside!
- Drawing — Trace shadows, do a collection of nature rubbings, draw with sidewalk chalk, or just draw in the sunshine.
- Chores — I can’t get my kids to clean their rooms, but they love to sweep and organize outside!
- Games — Buy or make giant versions of their favorite games. As an added perk, it’s fun for adults, too!
Sign up for camp. Wherever you are, someone is hosting a summer camp. Your installation likely has a day camp, like Camp Adventure (which my son went gaga for last summer). If not, scour the local community. You can let your child pick one or block out an entire month.
Start an epic project. I’m starting to run out of fridge space to hang my kids’ many masterpieces, so I started picking a few projects that will span several days (maybe even weeks), accomplishing one step each day. Here’s some epic project ideas:
- Make rock candy and have your kids document the progress in a science journal.
- Grow vegetables and track the growth.
- Build something together! Kids love tools. Let them help you build a lawn-sized yard game, a fort, water table, reading tent or a lemonade stand.
- Make a life-sized self-portrait. Have your kids trace each other on the blank side of some leftover wrapping paper on day one. They can decorate it for a few days, then cut it out. Let them hang them on their bedroom doors when they’re finished.
- Mail a letter to a far-away family member each week. Your kids can write a letter or draw a picture depending on their ability.
- Take on a summer challenge. Sign up for the summer reading challenge at the library. Decide THIS is the summer your kid will learn to read, swim, ride a bike or tie shoes. Then work practice into your summer plans.
Set the standard early. Kids love structure even if they think they don’t. Set a schedule that has mandated reading time, meal times, outdoor play and — as my husband calls it — independent play time (which means to find something to do that doesn’t require adult participation). You can also make a “Bored Chart” with parent-approved activities they can do when they’re bored.
Military kids have high thrill thresholds for summer. This is when they’re used to PCS chaos and major life changes, so boredom is fierce when they are staying put. The big things like family vacations and family visits will take care of themselves, but for all the long hours in between, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to think like a kid and let summer feel like a vacation. Ready? Break!