Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
The kids say, “I’m bored.” With a sly grin on your face, you reply, “I have just the thing for you to do!” Then you set them to the task of organizing their toys in their closet by color. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but you know exactly what I mean. The kids are supposed to be the ones with the imagination but they come to you for answers instead of using those amazing minds of theirs.
We all know how long organizing the toys by color will last. About 10 minutes at which time they will be arguing about who the toys belong to or playing with something they forgot they had.
So how do you get them to use their minds and come up with activities on their own? Challenge them.
On a rainy when they can’t go outside, ask them a simple question and let them answer it in any way except by verbally telling you the answer. For example, where do the birds go when it rains? They can draw you a picture; they can write you a story. Okay, for the littlest ones, they may have to tell you the story, but tell them they must take five minutes to think about it first.
If you need to keep them busy for a longer space of time, have them work together to create a play showing where the birds go and what they do when it rains.
Another idea is to keep simple craft supplies handy, preferably in a designated space in or near where you want them to be used, so they can get creative on their own when they are bored. Old shirt (t-shirts or button-up shirts will do) can be used to protect their clothes. Make sure they know to always put one on before they begin their craft project. Many craft supplies for children can be found at the “dollar store.” I find construction paper, watercolors, paint brushes, plain paper, crayons, markers, stickers, colored pencils, and modeling clay (ever thought about why it is modeling clay versus molding clay?).
At the grocery store, ask for a couple of empty boxes that you can flatten out for the kids to lay on the floor underneath where they work with their craft supplies. If something spills, it is much easier to clean up (or throw away) the cardboard than to scrub the floor.
Coffee cans (not the ones with the inner sharp edges) with the plastic lids are great for storing crayons, beads, and other embellishments for projects. Glue sticks are much more effective than they used to be and are still much less messy than liquid glue or paste. For one of their projects, have the kids decorate the small bins they use to store their different craft supplies. One of my favorite projects one summer was decorating the cigar boxes we used to store our craft supplies. We glued old corks to the top of the lid for an easy-open lifter after the box had been spray painted by my aunt. We decorated with old buttons and ric-rac, along with some glitter. Whatever your kids like to work with can be used!
Craft sessions can turn into educational excursions! Your kids start off making bugs with pipe cleaners, wiggly eyes, and construction paper. Then you take them on a walk outdoor to look for bugs that are similar to the ones they created. You can talk about the different parts of an insect, why some are able to fly and some aren’t, how they use their coloring or shape for protection, etc. I used to find clear, lidded buckets with air holes and butterfly nets at the discount stores for under $5. They were perfect for catching butterflies, lighting bugs, roly polies, or any insect and the clear sides made observation easy and fun. Additionally, the kids were taught that it was important to let your specimens go at the end of the day because wild creatures are designed to live in the wild and cannot live long in captivity. Even insects.
Track the weather! The dollar stores always have cheap calendars with big blocks for each date that can be taped to the door. Each day the kids should draw in the box what the weather is like that day. Maybe they want to watch the weather on the morning news and keep track of how often the weatherman is right! Maybe they want to make their own predictions and track how often they are right!
Grow something! All you need is a small “pot” (maybe a coffee cup with a crack in it), some dirt and a seed. Try different kinds of seeds! Dry out a few tomato seeds from the tomato in last night’s salad. Show your kids how to find the seeds in fresh vegetables, dry them and then try to grow them. Do you eat avocadoes? Save the seed and suspend it over a cup of water by toothpicks stuck in the sides, letting the end of the seed sit in the water. Watch as it sprouts roots! When it has a good root bundle, transfer it to dirt. Will you soon have a mini-garden? Probably not, but the experience for seeing how seeds grow is fun and educational. If you want a garden but are short on space, start one in pots! The kids are more likely to eat their veggies if they are ones they grew themselves!
Enjoy the time when the kids are out of school by keeping their bodies and their minds occupied!