Normally, I come to you every Monday morning through this blog as JH Champine, an author. Today, however, I write to you as Jenny, a mom. (For those of you readers who are confused, my first name if Jenny.) As I have written about before, I have two boys, ages 7 and 9. While I worked in the school system part time when my oldest was an infant, and am now a published author, I have been a full-time parent since my youngest was born. It is truly the hardest yet most rewarding profession out there.
Even though we are still shoveling snow/ice (and it really needs to stop), the conversations have already started amongst my fellow parents about what summer camps everyone is planning to do. My sons love baseball camp and other sports activities, while other friends of mine have kids who enjoy music or dance, storytelling and theater, or even computer programming camps geared for kids. My boys usually spend a week, maybe two, doing some kind of camp or activity.
What I hear many parents say is, "I try to have something planned every week for the kids to do all summer, otherwise they get bored and it makes both them and me CRAZY!" I will be completely honest with you, and many of the people I have heard say this are friends of mine- hearing people say that makes me CRAZY!
I know this is going to sound like crazy talk, but listen closely- boredom will not kill your children. Even crazier is the fact that it might actually be good for them. Children can learn a lot from being bored.
When the kids say, "I'm boooooored", don't be afraid to be a little vague. "Go outside." is a perfectly acceptable answer. You don't have to tell them to go in the garage, grab a football, carry it and walk to the back yard, hold it in their hand, bend their elbow, bring it backward then forward and let go at just the right moment to propel it forward with enough force for someone else to catch it. Some of you may laugh, but many parents out there spoon-feed their children activities with nearly that much detail. On a rainy day (or even another snow day like today where they don't have school), "Go find something to do" is equally okay.
My kids are guilty of it too sometimes. My oldest, a 9 year old, asked me earlier this morning, "What should I do?" My response- "Something interesting." Sure enough, he and his brother are doing a puzzle on the dining room table as I type this.
Is there not a single toy, book, or tree in or around your home? I'm willing to bet there is. How are your kids ever going to be able to learn how to independently occupy themselves and freely think if they have no unstructured time? Our minds are capable of incredibly imaginative thought, and that is also true of your children. What could they learn by digging in the dirt at a base of your trees? What bugs could they find? What textures could they explore with their fingers deep in the soil?
What do your children do at recess at school? They run. They play. They are fully capable of enjoying themselves in an unstructured environment, so I'm willing to bet that they can do it at home. Don't tell me they can't. The truth is that they won't probably because they know that if they whine enough you'll figure it out for them. Parents- only you can do something about that.
I will admit to being biased as an author, but books are amazing things. Keep books in your house, and when they say, "I'm bored", encourage them to read. Adventure, romance, science fiction, and hilarious humor are all found on the pages of a book. There is nothing boring about that! If your child complains that the book isn't interesting, find a better one.
Let your children get bored, and let them figure out how to do something about it. Not only will it make them more interesting, educated, free-thinking children, it will save two things;
Your sanity, and A LOT of money. Those summer camps aren't cheap.
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