This past weekend after taking a great trip to the Ontario Science Centre, watching a movie, having the kids play outdoors for hours with their friends, and going to swimming lessons, the kids were still Bored! (Yes, that's Bored with a capital B there.) How could this be possible, especially with all the non-stop activity and mental and physical stimulus?
I couldn't help but take a trip down memory lane to my own childhood. As a child, I would play outside all day long, only coming indoors for meals. All the neighbourhood kids would congregate together to bicycle ride, visit the playground, roller skate and have a very exciting day together. It always seemed to be suppertime already, and there never seemed to be enough hours in the day to fit in all the activities like jump rope, lemon twist, hopscotch, hand games and more.
Inside my family home, I was directed to play in my own bedroom until dinner was ready. There was no playroom, or other "common area" room of overflowing toys in the house. You would never find a stray toy in my parent's bedroom. I was most often able to entertain myself, and when I could not, my mother would make a suggestion that I would happily accept such as reading a book, playing with my stuffed animals and toys, or listening to a record.
When it was a rainy day, I was allowed to invite a friend over or go visiting to a local friend's home. If no one was available, it would be my big brother and I having scavenger hunts, playing board games and launching toy cars down a homemade ramp. Television was a special privilege for us, and we had to earn the opportunity. My brother and I could read comic books for hours!
How the times have changed! Every room in our home is bursting with toys and books, usually strewn haphazardly and underfoot. Television is no longer the main draw to the kids, but the iPad, iPhone, laptop and the various videogame systems are the new replacement. My kids think that somehow it is my husband's and my responsibility to entertain them! In my own generation, my parents never played the role of entertainment clowns, so how have today's parents somehow fallen into this role?
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How did this happen to our kids, and why does this seem to be the case of so many children nowadays? But more importantly, how to shake up this generation of BORED kids? Here are some of my suggestions, below.
Get Physical -- Most kids seem to be at their best when they are staying physically fit. Whether you enrol your child in a weekly sport like swimming, soccer or gymnastics, or simply bicycle as a family through a nature trail. I find that unless the activity is structured, my kids will not go out of their way to get physical, so do schedule physical activity into each and every day. Exercise is great for the whole family too!
Get Social -- Does your child have peers that they play with regularly during the school week or on the weekend? If not, have your child exchange phone numbers with a classmate and set up a regular play date. Having neighbourhood friends definitely makes socializing easier, but there are some great free play groups in which you can register your child through your local municipality. There are groups for kids of all ages, from babies to teens!
Work the Brain! -- Let's face it, homework is designed to reinforce skills learned at school but it does not always exercise your child's brain. Make sure that your child has access to books that he or she enjoys, and set a time aside for reading. If your child is very young, this time can be spent flipping through picture books, or the older child can read to herself. A trip to the library or browsing through the plenitude of free e-books is time well-spent. Jigsaw puzzles are also a great way to work your child's brain -- and works great on a rainy day!
Make a Project -- There is nothing more industrious than a child working on his or her own project! Yes, this does require some adult supervision to help your child select an appropriate project and source materials, but it definitely does fight the Boredom Blues! Does your daughter like fashion? Have her design and create her own doll clothes using common materials. Does your son like science? Have him build his own cyclone, after laying his plans down in writing! The same can be said for making a playhouse out of a cardboard box by your little architect, a bird feeder out of a 2L pop bottle by your aspiring ornithologist, or an abacus out of some strings and jewellery beads by your clever mathematician.