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Beat Summer Boredom

Creative Summer Games To Help Your Kids Beat Boredom

"Mom, I'm bored. There's nothing to do around here." Second day of summer vacation and already the kids are bored. Never mind that a week ago, you couldn't drag them inside to eat supper. If you're ready to jump ship, hold off a minute. Help is on the way. These moms keep their kids thinking and amused during the summer months.

The Play's the Thing

What do kids do when company arrives? Act up. Kids love to dress up and be center stage. Liz Sharp lets her kids put on their own play. "They write the play, make tickets, advertise, design a set, make the costumes and prepare snacks."

Sharp helps her three children, ages 6, 8, and 10, get the ball rolling. "We brainstorm ideas and I write while they talk." Once they're working together Sharp lets them plan the details of who plays which character. "It's nothing fancy and the plot is usually pretty silly."

Let your kids go through closets and old clothes boxes to find costumes. If it can't be glued, tied or pinned, offer to help out with some sewing. Sharp lets her children dye old sheets for capes or curtains.

Sets are easy to make with a refrigerator box from a local furniture store. Sharp says, "I usually call once or twice during the summer and see if they have any deliveries in my area. If they aren't too far away, they'll drop the boxes off." Kids can paint and cut as needed.

Encourage the children to make posters advertising their play and tape them to fences around the neighborhood. Sharp's children also make tickets to pass out to the neighborhood kids, parents and grandparents. "We don't charge admission," says Sharp with a grin. Let the kids plan the entire event, including a simple snack of popcorn and lemonade.

Olympics

Why wait every two years to enjoy the Olympics? Hold your own neighborhood Olympics and beat the boredom of hot afternoons. Involve everyone in running races, swimming triathlons, egg toss and watermelon pit spitting.

Have your children create an opening and closing ceremony and prizes for all the events. They can make their own megaphone out of bristle board and take turns using it. Pat Williamson's children make enough badges to give to all the children who participate. "Give yourself and your kids about two weeks planning and practice time," she advises. Planning an Olympics can be as much fun as the actual event.

Before the big day, Williamson's children write out the agenda for the day and make all the snacks and drinks that they need. "It's their day and I get involved only if they need help." Williamson feels the planning and execution of an event like this teach her children more than sitting behind a desk ever could.

Unusual Swimming Races

Instead of having kids swim widths, try adding your own personal spin. Sing the national anthem while swimming across the pool. Have children push, pull or drag something from one side to another. Watermelons, life preservers and air mattresses work great.

Instead of bobbing for apples, throw a pail of corks, tennis balls or socks rolled into a ball in the pool. The team with the most at the end wins. "These games all need strict supervision by an adult," says Williamson. "If unsafe behavior becomes a problem, the games are stopped."

Land Races

Use an old favorite like the backward race, sack race, human wheelbarrow race or three-legged race. Or hold a shout race and have the kids shout as they run. The one who makes it to the finish line first and still shouting, wins. Instead of a water balloon toss, try feathers or raw eggs.

Boot Hockey with a beach ball is a favorite of the Williamson family. Play it on the grass with rain boots on. Frisbee Golf gets cheers from the kids too. Have the kids throw their Frisbees at markers on trees or fences. If they miss, they take their next shot from the place where their Frisbee landed.

Cooperative Games

Life Raft – Divide the kids into two teams and lay two towels on the ground. Each team has to huddle on the towel without touching the ground. Fold the towel in half each time they finish and watch the human pyramids go up.

Scavenger Hunt – Give each team a list of things to find and a time limit. Include some things the children will be able to easily find as well as some they will have to create. For example: one wet towel, five small stones, three dandelions, eight homemade cookies and four red rubber bands. Give points for creativity.

At the end of the day everyone gets a prize. Be creative and think up some unusual bests: most goosebumps, ate the most watermelon, made the biggest splashes.

Just For One or Two

When Penny Martin's two boys, ages 4 and 6, whine "I'm bored," she reaches back into her memory of the childhood games she played on the family farm with her siblings and cousins. Card games build math and memory skills. Crazy Eights, Rummy, War and Solitaire top their list. She also plays marbles with her children to develop fine motor skills.

They play old favorites like ringer (drawing a circle and shooting marbles in the circle), castles (knocking your partner's castles down), and spannies (shooting and trying to get opponents marble). Try hangman, tic-tac-toe and jacks with your children when the sun gets too hot. Quiet games are as important as active ones.

Most games can be made from things around the house. Get them started and let them go. Encourage them to stretch their imagination, and they'll keep their minds and bodies active, learning without realizing it. And best of all, they won't be saying there's nothing to do.

A few more mom- and kid-tested ideas for beating summer boredom:

  • Encourage your child to talk to a grandparent or an elderly neighbor to learn the rules of marbles. Remember pick up sticks? I bet Grandma does. Both will benefit from the encounter.
  • Help them make their own games of Bingo or Checkers and then teach them to beat the pants off their friends.
  • An old basket tied up to a tree makes a great basketball net and lawn chairs and a blanket are ideal for badminton or volleyball. Any kind of marker will do for a soccer match.
  • Don't forget how much fun a tent set up in the backyard can be. Some junk food and an old record player with '45s will keep them amused for hours. Scan those garage sales!
  • Let the kids take something apart. An old typewriter, record player or radio are great for building motor skills in little fingers.

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