My good friend, Jessica, is the queen of the outdoors. She is a high adventure enthusiast, blogger, mom of 3, crafter, still finds time to garden, and is a great cook! AND, her kids are always active! So I had to ask her. How did she accomplish all those things, and yet still maintain her sanity?! Especially since we all know simply taking care of 3 kids can be 3 full time jobs! She had some awesome advice for me, so I begged her to share it with all of you! Take it away, Jess!
For us there are only 37 more days of school left this year. That’s followed by 100 days of summer vacation. 100 days of “I’m BORED” which translates to “Mom, I’ve turned my brain off, so I’ll dump all the toys into the floor, hit my siblings relentlessly, and do every possible thing I can think of to make your blood boil.”
Are you scared yet?
In case you haven’t noticed, summer vacation is really anything but that for a Mom. It’s 24/7 Mom-duty with no breaks for school, field trips, or after school clubs, where your kids want YOU to do the entertaining. Sadly, you can only stand on your head and juggle flaming torches (all while making dinner) for a few minutes before someone’s going to lose an eye.
So, how do you keep your kids boredom-free this summer without all the shenanigans? Luckily, the secret (that doesn’t involve you putting on tap shoes) is right in your own backyard.
Let’s face it, gals, times are changing. While we used to play outside all day, today’s kids spend nearly 7 hours in front of a screen a day and less than 10 minutes just playing outside (info here). Sad, eh? Kids, being little screen junkies, simply don’t know how to head outside for the day and play. all. day.
Well it’s time to throw things back to our childhoods and get our kids outside for some good ol’ unstructured play. I’m not talking about soccer practice. I mean just going outside and doing whatever your heart desires, having a great time, learning to explore the world around you, and getting dirty.
Start now. Take some baby steps and get out and train your kids to play outside NOW, so that when June rolls around, they’ll be good to go and you’ll have a boredom free summer. Pretty soon you’ll be having as much fun as they are.
Here are some “training tips” to do just that:
1. Set a few ground rules. Make sure they know where they are and aren’t allowed to play, what things they can take outside (I suggest a designated outside toy box), and general behavior expectations. (Like no trying to fly off of the garage or stab your sister with a “sword”).
2. Put the ball in their court. Ask your kids what they want to do and really let them figure it out. At first it will take them a while to figure something out, but once they do, praise their good ideas and creativity. You are there to observe not instruct. You’ll be amazed at the great ideas they have, and the crazy stuff they come up with!
3. Leave the time unstructured. This is not the time to have 10 minutes of jump rope followed by 15 minutes of hopscotch followed by a 3 minute water break. This is the time for kids to be kids, which means being outside doing whatever they want, for however long they want. Put away your watch (aka the iPhone) and be flexible to allow their imaginations to flow.
4. Play is work. Remember that a kid’s job is to play. Chores, summer reading, and music lessons are nice, but they should supplement play, not the other way around. The work of childhood is play – value it!
5. Create a kid friendly backyard. Think beyond the typical swing set and create a magical world that is just waiting to be explored. Think about secret hideouts, fairy gardens, and mud pie kitchens. Check out my Backyard Adventure Playscapes board on pinterest for some great inspiration. When in doubt, just provide dirt or water – your kids can figure it out from there!
Ultimately, if you want your kids to learn to be independent, responsible, problem solving adults, it starts now with giving them opportunities.
Watching National Geographic on TV is no replacement for making your own discoveries. Be brave, embrace it! Instead of getting mad that your son got mud all over his cute Gap outfit, go check out the cool bugs that he caught while digging around. Be okay with letting them explore, be independent, and getting dirty -yes, dirt is actually a good thing. Get excited about it (‘cuz moms are masters at talking things up) and they’ll love it too!
Let go of any helicopter parent tendencies you may have (we all have some), and just let your kids play. It’s easy to say “don’t do that” or come up with excuses about why your kids should stay inside, but turn the tables and come up with reasons why they should be outside! Your mom was really onto something when she told you to go outside and not come in until dinner. Don’t just lock the doors, join them when you can!
Your kids will be boredom free and I promise you’ll be a happier mom if you do.
Thank you so much Jess! You can find lots more tips on getting your kids to love the outdoors on her blog, Bring The Kids. I highly recommend it!