Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer Boredom Busters

Normally, this blog is reserved for all my crafty endeavors, but I thought I'd add a little summer fun advice today.  I'm thinking about my kids only having 5 days left in school, and wondering how I am going to make this summer epic. 

A few years ago, the movie Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer came out, and we made a family fun chart, kind of like the one from the movie. It was great. I used large safety pins (the kind that are about 2-3 inches long, with no loop at the end) and beads and charms. Every time we completed an activity, we got the corresponding bead or charm that went with it. Some of the activities were daring, like "Touch a Spider," and some would encourage worldliness, like "Eat Indian Food" or "Try 3 Fruits in One Day." We each have different strengths and things we like or don't like. My daughter dislikes the texture of fruit, I am terrified of spiders, etc. One of the charms I got was a yellow chicken head. We all agreed that for maximum fun, and to provide a little incentive, if you refused to do an activity, or "chickened out," you would have to add a chicken head charm to your pin. The goal was NO chicken heads. As we did the activities, we would mark them off on the chart. It was really fun, and we kept the chart and pins.

This year, we have a trip planned to Rio de Janeiro to see the World Cup, and the kids are going to a week of sleep away camp. I hadn't given much thought to any other summer activities, since the big trip had occupied most of my planning time. Today, I realized that the trip to Rio is in the beginning of summer. After we get back, the rest of summer will be a huge let down if I don't think of something. These kids are getting older, and before I know it, they won't need me to plan activities. 

Once the wheels started turning, I came up with a lot of ideas for our own Not-Bummer Summer, most of which are free, or very low-cost!

1. Have a neighborhood scavenger hunt. 
    Our neighborhood is packed with kids. They could get in groups and have a scavenger hunt on their bikes or skateboards. The prize could be anything, even ice cream cones on the porch.

2. Make a piece of art together

    Start with a blank canvas. Have each person add 1 brushstroke to the canvas each day. To make it more interesting, you could make a rule that one person can't continue from the same brushstroke two days in a row. That way you're sure to get something weird and wonderful. For a twist, add three-dimensional objects with glue. Don't forget to sign and date at the end of summer.

3. Teach your kids to cook

    My kids are always telling me how much they love my cooking, but we are so busy, I don't have time to pass that on. Make bread, pasta from scratch, learn a French technique, make chili. Fun always comes with food in our family, so learning a life skill is an added bonus.

4. Teach your kids to navigate a city without a car

    A lot of people spend their lives going to and fro in a car, leaving kids with no idea how they got there. My son is really good at paying attention and seems to know the way everywhere, but my daughter is perma-lost in la-la-land. Getting out of the car forces them to pay attention, and can be really fun!
    A couple years ago, we went on a 3 week trek across Europe. Everyone said we were crazy to go backpacking with kids (who were 8 and 9 at the time), but it was the best time we've ever had. In London, after we'd been there a few days and they got their bearings, we let the kids find our way when we wanted to go somewhere. We'd tell them where we wanted to go, and show them where it was on a map. They'd figure out how to get there by walking, taking the tube, bus, etc. They worked together really well. We were pleasantly surprised how they figured it all out. We only had one real foul-up, but we let them go with it. We walked a mile out of our way, but they realized it and corrected!  
    Living in the Bay Area, there are plenty of transit options that we frequently use. The kids are BART pros at this point, but since we are in San Francisco regularly, I think we will tackle MUNI this year. I feel like this activity lets kids take control, and teaches them to be independent. Just make sure you know the way, too!

5. Visit a Japanese Garden
    Even the smallest Japanese Gardens are always so beautiful. In a nearby city, there is a garden that we would always drive past, but never visited. One day I decided we had driven by enough times, so we went and explored it. It had a real calming effect on the kids, without me having to do any shushing! There was a koi pond and several gazebos, as well as informational plaques telling about the trees and flowers and some Japanese history. We spent several hours looking around this small, but serene garden, and when we left we all agreed we would like to go back.

6. Learn a language together

    Everyone seems to have a tablet or smartphone nowadays. There are several apps that are free to download and use. The one I like is DuoLingo. It allows you to choose only one language to learn for free, but it is almost like a game. We are using it to learn a little Portuguese before going to Rio. 
7. Do some improv

    Have you ever seen those improv shows like Who's Line Is It, Anyway? Do you have musical kids? Have a conversation using only song lyrics or titles. Make up a stage play with no script. Use props from around your house to transform into funny things. 
    We have a park nearby that has a little stage. We are planning to go there and perform on the stage, followed by a picnic. You can have as grand a performance as you like. Matter of fact, I think I'll bring props and costumes and see what happens.

8. Pick a country from a map and try their cuisine.

    In our house we have a travel map, pinned with all the places we've been and want to go. If I blindfold one of my kids and spin them, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style, they could point to a spot on the map, then we find a restaurant with food from that country. We also have a globe. If you have a globe, you could just spin the globe, close your eyes, and point to a spot to stop it. (Although, spinning the kid might be more fun) Land in the ocean? Eat seafood!

These are only a few ideas, you can adapt them all to suit your own children and family. I hope this list inspires you to do some really great stuff this summer!

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