Summer Boredom Beaters

photo credit: 
GoneApey on flickr
What to do when the kids say there's nothing to do

Need ideas for the "I'm bored!" blues? There are tons of things that you and your children can do that require little or no additional expense, and that will get all of you away from the TV and video games. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Fun activities
I Spy: This is a classic car trip game. To play this game simply choose an object within eyeshot and state the letter that it begins with. For example, if your object is a candle you say "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C." Each family member takes turns guessing what object you spied. Whoever guesses the object gets to go next.

Coloring: It is quite possible that there is not a child on this planet that does not enjoy coloring with crayons and markers. Pick up coloring books at the dollar store and keep them up high for special "boredom days."

Hide It: Hide an object in an obvious place. For example, place your portable telephone on top of the television. The first person to find the telephone gets to pick the next object and hide it. The only rule is that the object cannot actually be "hidden"; it must be in a visible place and not hidden from view.

Puzzles: What a great way for the family to spend some relaxing time together. Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, different age ranges and difficulty levels.

Outdoor activities
Picnic at Home: Have a picnic on the front lawn. Spread a blanket out and enjoy some sandwiches, fresh fruit and chips. Don't forget the fruit juice! If the weather does not permit for such outdoor festivities, you can enjoy your picnic in the living room (which some kids think is a lot more fun anyway!).

Backyard Camping: Who says you have to travel and pay for camping space? Set up your tent in the backyard, roast marshmallows on the grill, and sit around and tell ghost stories. In The Kids Campfire Book you will find a variety of stories, songs, games, and outdoor activities.

Gardening: If possible, allow your children to have their very own planting area. If space does not allow for it, let the kids help you plant flowers and potted herbs. Be sure to explain the importance of sunshine and water for proper growth of your garden.

Indoor activities
Family Movie Night: Rent a movie from the video store, or if you have cable, order a pay per view movie where appropriate. Make popcorn and snuggle up on the couch with blankets and pillows. If your diet allows for it, include soda pop as a special family night treat.

Hot Potato: Or Hot Beanie Baby, or whatever you have to toss around. Beanies actually work really well if you aren't a serious collector and worry about their condition. (If you are, use a knockoff.) Have everyone sit in a circle and toss the beanie from one person to another, never knowing where it's going to end up. It's a lot of fun for all the kids and keeps them occupied for absolutely no money.

Mystery Bag: Place an object inside of a black plastic garbage bag. First allow the children to feel the object from outside of the bag. If they are unable to guess what's inside, allow them to reach into the bag and feel the object. If they still don't know the answer, provide fun clues. For example, if the object is a framed photo of Mom, give hints such as "who puts bandages on your scraped knees?" or "Daddy thinks she's picture perfect."

Fun crafts

Paper Bag Puppets: Nothing could be easier than taking a brown paper lunch sack and drawing on a face. Voila, instant puppet. You can add some color and creativity by bringing out the glue, scissors, yarn, glitter, markers and buttons. Use buttons for eyes, yarn for hair and markers to decorate the face.

Paper Loop Caterpillar: You will need colored construction paper, paper hole punch, glue, and scissors. Cut 1-inch-wide strips of colored construction paper. Cut and glue the strips into various sized loops. Glue together small paper loops. Attach paper-punch dots to decorate. Add eyes, mouth and antennae.

Sidewalk Chalk: This recipe is for sidewalks only. Do not use this chalk on any other surface. You will need 4-5 eggshells, 1 teaspoon flour, 1 teaspoon very hot tap water, and food coloring (optional). Wash & dry eggshells. Put into bowl and grind into a powder. A mortar and pestle works fine for this. Discard any large pieces. Place flour and hot water in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon eggshell powder & mix until a paste forms. Add food coloring if desired. Shape & press mixture firmly into the shape of a chalk stick, and roll up tightly in a strip of paper towel. Allow to dry approximately 3 days until hard. Remove paper towel and you've got chalk. Remember--sidewalks only!

Fun food
Ice Cream in a Baggie: You can make your own sundaes with this fun ice cream project:
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sandwich size Ziploc bags
1 one gallon size Ziploc bag
2 cups ice
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Put one small Ziploc bag inside the other and add the milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla extract to the inside bag. Seal both bags securely, removing excess air. Add ice and salt to larger bag and place smaller bag inside. Seal firmly. Let the kids shake themselves silly -- shaking, tossing, and turning the bag. Ice cream will be soft and ready to eat in 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Top this off with chocolate syrup made from scratch:
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
1 tbsp vanilla

Mix together cocoa and sugar; blend until cocoa is smooth and lumps are gone. Add water and salt; mix thoroughly. Cook over medium heat, bring to a boil. Boil until thick, keep stirring so that it doesn't burn or overflow! Remove from heat; let cool. After the mixture has cooled, add the vanilla.

For another refreshing summer treat, try these icy cool drinks.

1 package of unsweetened Kool-Aid drink mix, any flavor
2 cups of water
1/2: 3/4 cup sugar
4 cups ice

In a blender, combine Kool-Aid, water and sugar. Blend. Add all the ice and blend. That's it! Pour into cups, add a straw and enjoy on those hot summer days. Great for Mom and Dad too. For Coca Cola, simply add one can of Coke and enough ice to cover and blend.

Here's a great recipe for your family picnic or just snacking after lunch!

Granola Fruit Kabobs
1 cup granola
1 medium apple, cut into chunks
1 small banana, cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup fruit flavored yogurt

Place granola in shallow bowl. Toss fruit with a small amount of lemon juice to deter browning. Insert toothpicks into each piece of fruit. To serve, dip fruit in yogurt, coat all sides. Roll in granola. When bringing these kabobs to a picnic, pack the granola, yogurt and fruit separately in tightly covered plastic containers. Keep cold in a cooler until ready to serve.

There are so many things that you can do with your kids. Go to the park, enjoy a nature walk in your own neighborhood, inspect the insects that live in your yard, identify the different types of flowers blooming on your street. Kids love word gamefss, brain teasers, math puzzles and much more. Take advantage of your knowledge and share it with them.

Amanda Formaro is the mother of four children. She and her husband live in southeastern Wisconsin. She is the owner of The Family website.