“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.” Written in 1930 by philosopher Bertrand Russell in his book The Conquest of Happiness.
Children today tend to be over-scheduled. The academic year is filled with school days, homework assignments, instrument lessons, and sports practices. The rubber band breaks during June when school lets out and young people wonder what to do next. During the lazy days of summer, kids look forward to less demands on their time, yet they don’t know what to do with that time. Well-meaning parents, wanting to help their children over the boredom hurdle, schedule play dates, trips to various attractions, and a myriad of summer camps (band, baseball, football, basketball, and even quilt camp, to mention only a few available to today’s children). There’s nothing wrong with camps, provided the kids don’t have an 8-week string of assorted organized activities. In fact, camps help to strengthen skills learned during the school year or sport’s season. They shouldn't take over the entire summer vacation.
So what’s a parent to do when a child complains of boredom? Absolutely nothing! Or maybe almost nothing. Instead of recommending a series of home-grown activities that will probably be met with a roll of the eyes and a request to go the expensive trampoline zone, ask a series of thought-provoking questions that encourage creativity:
- If you could make a list of new things you want to discover this summer, what would be on that list? (Make two columns: Free or Inexpensive and Requires $$$) Always start with a lists that your children develop on their own and in their own time. If they need money for an activity, explore ways that they can earn that money.
- How can you take the supplies from your favorite board game and make a new game with new rules and a new board? This requires only the purchase of a poster board, or the back side of a project completed for a class assignment in January that’s still sitting around. Sit back and watch the creative juices flow as they create a new game. Encourage parts of the game to be 3-D (Like The Game of Life), but don’t require it. Then enjoy the game as a family and tweak the rules or design.
- What can you make that you can sell or give away? Some libraries and local civic centers have a day set aside for kids to sell their summer crafts. If they don’t consider approaching someone in charge to start one! You’ll find that your children will become little designers, crafters, and marketers when they think their efforts will be rewarded with purchases. Can they support the local animal shelter with their efforts? Ask your children to make another list of what they can do with their income.
- What will help you expand some of the items on your list? If your son wants to learn how to cook, encourage a garden to support that interest. Remind him to set up a watering and weeding schedule to properly maintain that garden. If your daughter likes to draw, encourage her to write a story that goes with her drawings. You might even send the picture and story to a grandparent or other favorite relative.
- What can you collect that we can look for all summer long? That might be as simple as a collection of pressed flowers, or as interesting as finding license plates from as many different states as you see on a family vacation. Let your kids develop the list and the see if they will selflessly support each other with that collection. Watch the arguments decrease as they learn the wonderful art of cooperation to complete a cooperative task.
- What can you fix that is broken? Kids usually don't consider broken toys as repairable. However, broken toys present the perfect opportunity to figure out how something works. Maybe the toys is truly beyond repair, but your child's imagination and sense of creative exploration will benefit immensely from taking it apart.
Finally, here are some recommendations for parents of STEM-ulated kids:
- Avoid setting a time limit to complete items on their lists. After all, it’s summer vacation!
- Don’t offer rewards like a trip for ice cream when a certain project is done. Children should enjoy the process, not the project. Let the trip to the ice cream stand be impromptu and unexpected, then discuss the progress they are making on their summer lists while you enjoy the icy treat.
- Accept that one of your children will get only one item done on the list they made in June while others will get some or all of them accomplished. It’s not a race, so avoid the temptation to make a progress chart on your refrigerator!
- Last but not least, allow children some time with their beloved technology. It's unrealistic to expect that they will eagerly accept a Lenten fast from technology during the summer months when they expect to be able to finally enjoy time to watch videos and play games. However, the timer comes in handy here and is probably the only limit you'll need to set for two and a half months.
Get a FREE copy of FUNtastic Family STEM Activities at www.EnteleTrons.com. Explore the website further and see if you can find the free e-book!