Parents, how's your summer going? Enjoy a fun family vacation or staycation? Ready for school to start? As we approach summer's halfway point, you may be tired of working as a full-time entertainment director and concierge for your kids.
Sure, you could buy the latest gaming system and leave them planted in front of the TV or computer all day. That is low-maintenance entertainment for your children, as all you have to do is occasionally feed and water them. However, constant gaming is bad for your kids in the long run, especially younger ones. Sending them out to catch monsters in Pokémon Go could result in some real-world terrors.
We all know that when you buy a new toy, younger children are just as likely to play with the box the toy came in as they are the toy itself. Why not encourage that creativity with these simple and inexpensive entertainment methods?
- Chalk – If you have a driveway or sidewalk, sidewalk chalk is a great artistic outlet. Large buckets of colored chalk are inexpensive and allow the kids to make anything from old school hopscotch squares to entire landscapes. In addition, all the mess stays outside.
- Water Games – Wet kids and summertime are a perfect match. Games with kiddie pools or sprinklers can usually keep kids entertained for hours without buying expensive Super Soakers. If water alone does not do the trick, strategic use of mud will. An extra bath is worth the peace and quiet.
- Bubbles – Bubble solution is inexpensive, and with a little creativity, you can make a giant bubble wand out of scrap items. Even the rims of lids will work if the center is carefully cut out. See who can make the biggest bubble wand. Challenge the kids — how long has it been since you have made gigantic bubbles? Caution: you might have fun yourself.
- In-house Playgrounds – Rainy days can be dealt with using simple things like cardboard, tape, and string to eliminate the mess. Make a cardboard fortress with boxes, lay out toy auto racetracks with tape, use string to make a "laser" obstacle course…these are all ways to while away time with inexpensive materials for a minimal amount of mess to clean up. Unfortunately, we cannot help you with the noise.
- Books – If you have readers, encourage the use of the library. If your kids don't read often, encourage it anyway. There are sneaky ways to promote reading — for example, check out a book on home science experiments and tell them you will do several of them that they choose, but they have to read the book to decide. We advise doing recon on the book beforehand, especially if you have boys, so you are not building a crude missile system or home nuclear reactor.
- Craft Wars – Are your kids tinkerers and builders by nature? Try the junkyard supplies challenge. Give each of your kids a pile of useful starting materials — cardboard, tape, rinsed-out milk jugs or soda bottles, leftover foam packing, popsicle sticks, yarn or string, bubble wrap, old pie tins, etc., and challenge them to build something out of the supplies. You could make it a competition — but just be sure that they start out with the same supplies and that you have some useful means of determining a "winner," with suitable rewards for all.
Keeping your kids busy can be a lot of work, but it is a lot less work if you teach them how to use their creativity and give them simple supplies to let them find their own entertainment options. It is also better for the experimentation, critical thinking, and creative skills they will need to succeed in the world. All you have to do is maintain a supply stash and do a little extra cleaning. That seems like a fair trade, doesn't it?