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Ten realistic ways you can keep your kids busy this summer

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It’s August so we’ve reached peak holiday season and with that comes the realisation that the phrase ‘Endless Summer’ really can be taken two ways. In all likelihood, your choice of whether to go for the positive or negative connotation will depend on whether you have school age children to entertain in the coming weeks.


Let’s take it as a given that you’re happy to have them at home, that you know that these are the precious days and that they should be savoured and probably documented to death on Instagram.


But real life is not always like that is it? Yes, we’ve all read endless articles telling us boredom is good for a child’s imagination but sometimes they are just Bored with a capital B and no amount of stories about Winnie the Pooh style childhoods will drag them out of their self-defeating funk.


So, here are ten realistic and inexpensive ways to keep your kids busy this summer.


I’m Bored Jar

1. I’m Bored Jar

Famously, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Don’t pretend to your child that boredom doesn’t exist, instead, be realistic and tell them that they are likely to encounter the ‘Big B’ at some point during the holidays. Make it their job to plan ahead. They can write down some emergency activities they’d like to do in the event of a boredom. Then, fold them up and put them in an I’m Bored Jar so, when the dreaded moment comes, they can do a lucky dip and get active with something of their own choosing. They like being in control. Plus, if you’re canny, you can make the creation of the jar a boredom activity in itself.


Chores

2. Chores

It’s never too early to encourage your child to do start doing some chores. The list of reasons why is endless – independence, responsibility, life skills, teamwork, respect, work ethic, time management. Basically, you want your child to grow into a fully functioning adult other people will want to spend time with. It’s hard to explain this to your child, though, without sounding like a complete dullard and sending them further into their boredom sulk. Perhaps a role play game could make it more appealing? For instance, lots of kids like to play schools with their toys so getting them to tidy the classroom (bedroom) so the teacher (them) has room for all their books (to walk across the carpet without standing on a painful piece of Lego).


Library visit/reading

3. Library visit/reading

“Go and read a book”. The familiar cry of the frustrated parent. The problem is, it makes reading sound like a punishment and a last resort. If your child isn’t naturally inclined to pick up a book without encouragement, then it may be that you’ll have to make doing so seem a little more attractive to them. This is exactly what the summer reading schemes at local libraries aim to do – they quite often run themed reading challenges over the holidays. If yours does not, or if you can’t get out to the library for whatever reason, why not create your own book related adventures, quizzes and treasure hunts with the titles you already have at home?


Board games and quizzes

4. Board games and quizzes

Board games, unless they are interactive or involve the production of some kind of bodily fluid inspired goo, are definitely ‘old fashioned’. You can play on that, though, with the “this is what we used to get up to in the olden days” shtick. It’s not only a chance for them to gleefully ridicule you for being so old and out of date, it’s a chance for them to burn off some of that competitive energy. Obviously, there’s the danger of a meltdown if they don’t win (Snakes and Ladders can be particularly soul destroying for the competitive player) but a good old fashioned barney over a family board game should be in everyone’s childhood memory bank so hey ho. In a similar vein, basic quizzes are a good way to pass the time. There are endless options online, on a dazzlingly varied array of subjects.


Back garden camping/dens

5. Back garden camping/dens

The key here is in the planning. Not yours, but theirs. As with many kids’ games, it’s more about the setting up than the actual playing. Get them to plan out an overnight back garden camping trip or a sleepover in an indoor den. They can look at where they want to set it up, what they’ll need from around the house to do it, a timetable for what they’re going to do once they’re set up and in. They’ll come up with very complicated scribbled plans and discuss endlessly where they’re going to put a particular cushion or toy and when they should have snacks. They’ll build it and, inevitably, they’ll end up abandoning it for the comfort of their own bed. It’ll have been great fun though.


TV and video games

6. TV and video games

Parents do feel a lot of guilt about screen time but, really, there’s a lot of good content out there and sometimes everyone just needs a nice sit down. If in doubt, and depending on your child’s age, head for CBeebies or CBBC – you’ll be surprised at how much you learn and lots of it will make you laugh out loud. Shows like Class Dismissed and Horrible Histories are actually hilarious. When it comes to gaming, you’ll probably just have to get over your own prejudice if you don’t want to come across like a stereotypical out-of-touch parent in a 1950s movie about teen culture. All the kids are doing it.


Make a movie

7. Make a movie

Children are essentially narcissists – tell them they can produce, direct and star in a movie about themselves and they’ll be all over it. They will find their own little corner of the world so much more fascinating than you could ever believe. Just be prepared to lose your iPhone for a while and to have your answer ready for the moment they ask you if they can have their own YouTube channel. To be honest, their content can’t be worse than most of the self-involved guff passing itself off as entertainment on YouTube so who knows, you may have the next JoJo Siwa on your hands?


Nature cam

8. Nature cam

It’s another screen-related activity but this one is both fascinating and educational. Organise a ‘virtual safari’ for your child by taking advantage of some of the amazing nature cams set up by universities and organisations across the globe. A quick Google search reveals some real gems such as Africam, which has several cameras set up to capture the continent’s teeming natural wildlife. There’s also explore.org, capturing everything from the Aurora Borealis in Manitoba to Alaskan rivers. And, for the cute factor, there’s the Monterey Bay Sea Otter Cam, which is trained on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sea otter exhibit.


Small business

9. Small business

Money can be a great motivator, especially when your child absolutely has to have the latest slime kit/Lego set/phone case or they’ll just expire. And the lesson that you have to work for your money (birthdays, Christmas and special treats excluded) will stand them in good stead in the real world. But barking about the real world to a child is one sure fire way of taking the fun out of something and ensuring they don’t want to play. On the other hand, setting up a small business over the summer may spark their interest. They could plan for a car boot sale, for instance, to sell the clothes and toys they no longer need. This will have the added bonus of prompting a room clear out. Why not go for more than one car boot sale and set them up a little savings account to bank their proceeds (if the proceeds make it past the toy shop on the way to the bank that is)?


Play dates

10. Play dates

As many as possible. You cannot have enough. Either at your house or at someone else’s. The whole thing is a huge adventure and, for the first time in what will seem like weeks, you won’t have to put yourself into the shoes of a child and get down to that level because, quite simply, an actual child will be doing that with them. You can’t always be the playmate because, shock horror, you have a life of your own and, believe it or not, you’re not actually that much fun anyway. Or at least not as much fun as another child. So, as with screen time, drop the guilt and let someone else do the heavy lifting for a while!