5. Teach unplugged games.
I love Bobbi Conner’s great book, Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. It's a parent and teacher must-have because it's chock full of fabulous outdoor ideas. It also has dozens of great childhood games like Mother May I, Duck, Duck, Goose, and Round Robin that you can teach your child. Just teach it once and your kid can teach the rest of the neighborhood.
And while you're at it, why not marbles, jacks, and hula hoops? Playground games are great and kids can play them anywhere!
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How to Create Boredom Boxes
Start looking around your house for recyclable items and put them into shoeboxes. Save things like tin foil scraps, paper towel tubes, bubble wrap, and popsicle sticks (just keep a bag under your sink). Or clear out your drawers of extra pens, paper clips or scarves. Put a few objects that might go together and the box becomes an instant "mini-entertainment centers." When your child says, "I'm bored", just point to a box.
The best thing is it doesn't cost a dime, takes you five minutes to put the objects together and keeps your kid occupied for hours. I showed two sample Boredom Boxes on the Today segment so if you're looking for a visual cue, just view the tape. Here are a few Boredom Boxes (and there are endless possibilities–be creative and get your kids involved!):
· Picasso Box: Glue, empty toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, paper clips and sheets of tinfoil. (Great for kids who like to do things with their hands)
· Frank Lloyd Wright Box: Hammer, nails, wood pieces, sandpaper (For your more active one-and not for wee ones or kids who do need supervision!)
· Frida Kahlo Box: Paper, crayons, pencils, paint, paintbrush
· Coco Channel Box: Hats, scarves, old shirts, torn sheets, bath towels (for capes) for dress up and pretend.
· Louisa May Alcott Box: Paper, pencils, or a journal.
· Nathan Lane Box: Draw out your kid’s singing, dancing, writing, or acting talent and suggest they write, direct and perform plays (for the neighborhood, their family, or certainly grandma and grandpa.)
· Paul McCartney Box: Make musical instruments out of paper tubes, wax paper and a rubber band or put a kazoo inside. Look around your house for any kinds of objects that make fun sounds.
Now the absolute last thing I'm suggesting you do is all this stuff. But why not just trying one new thing ? Just one. Stick to a realistic plan that works for your family. And then if one of your kids just dares to say, "I'm bored!" tell them you have the perfect solution. It's a list of household chores that you just happen to have posted on the fridge. I bet you anything he'll find something to do.
There! Isn't it ironic that we have to teach kids how to play and occupy alone time? Beware, childhood is being redefined, and it's not always positive. I'm a big one for kids and lemonade stands, cloud gazing, daisy chains and ball bouncing. I’m also convinced just a little more time in the dirt and water would reduce a lot of kid stress. Hopefully I'm not the only one!
For more resources on this topic, refer to the chapters in The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (by yours truly): Dependence, Separation Anxiety, Fears, Resourceful, Independence.
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Michele Borba, Ed.D., is an educational psychologist, former teacher, and mom. She is recognized for offering research-driven advice culled from a career of working with over one million parents, educators, and children. A Today show contributor and recipient of the National Educator Award, Michele is the author of 23 books.