Most children can’t wait for summer to begin.
But Angie Michel, a Lee’s Summit mother of three ages 12, 10 and 8, has found that boredom sets in quickly. Her 8-year old didn’t take long to begin the “I’m bored” refrain. “I thought, ‘Oh my, here we go already.’”
Michel’s first response is often “Clean your room” or “Go outdoors.”
“If I list too many chores, they will typically find something to do on their own,” she said.
However, she discovered planning something as simple as getting a slushie can be a game changer on a hot afternoon. “If we do at least one thing, it will make the day go much smoother.” Playing catch, riding bikes, or just talking is sometimes all that’s needed, Michel said. “Spending time with them means so much and will put a smile on both of our faces.”
Jane Thompson, who has two grown children, recalls her best boredom buster. When her son and daughter were in middle school, the Kansas City, North, mother launched a summer routine that not only fostered cooperation, but debunked the notion that only mothers cook.
One night a week she turned over the chore of planning and preparing dinner, as well as cleaning up, to her children.
“They were in charge of the whole nine yards,” she said. “I would go upstairs, shut the door, put on headphones, listen to music or read. That kept me from hearing all the commotion in the kitchen.”
Initially they pieced together simple dishes, but by the second summer their culinary skills blossomed. Once they started thumbing through cook books and graduated to gourmet meals, budgetary limits were set. Menus were even designed for the multi-course dinners that ranged from exotic Polynesian fare to Chinese cuisine eaten with chop-sticks.
They still joke about the recipe for chilled banana bisque that served a dozen even though they were only a family of four. “We had banana bisque for a good long time,” Thompson laughs.
That summer ritual, she explained, not only gave her some leisure time, but instilled a lot of pride and confidence. “Today they are both excellent cooks.”
Angie Schreck, a Kansas City mother of two sons, believes kids sometimes confuse being tired with boredom. If spirits plunge in the evening, her remedy is occasionally, “Then let’s just go to bed.” After a good night’s rest, she said, they realize Mom may have been right.
Schreck also uses consequences to reward her 9- and 11-year-old.
“I suggest they help unload the dishwasher, put clothes away, vacuum, and when done we will go do something like swim, go to the park, meet friends.” This is a true test of how bored they are, she said. “If they revert back to the Xbox or roaming outside, they have obviously found a way to entertain themselves.”
Parent educator Nancy Daugherty with Parents as Teachers in Liberty says parents can offer ideas, but allowing children to say they’re bored can be dangerous. “There’s too many interesting things in the world to do. We need to turn it back to them.”
She suggests that families volunteer time, like delivering meals on wheels, so children think about others, not just themselves.
When her children were young and pleaded boredom, Daugherty would tell them to sift through their toys and the boring ones would be given away. That put a screeching halt to the boredom.