Monday, January 4, 2010

Boredom Busters

Have your kids used the "b" word yet? You know the one they tend to trot out a week or so into the holidays: b-o-r-e-d. My brother and I were never game to say it, because it always brought on an attack of "Go and tidy your rooms, and later you can polish the wooden floors."

But those were the days when I found Lost in Space and its papier mache rocks pretty exciting stuff. This generation has come to expect entertainment the likes of Avatar - WOW! So what are some ideas that might engage our kids, and give them little time to dwell on boredom?

I've said before that kids are hardwired for play. I believe we're all hardwired to learn too. The problem is, sometimes we are not ready or interested in learning what people are trying to teach us. Really observe and listen to your kids to see if you can discover what fascinates them.

Do they love to draw? How about a trip to an art gallery, an artist's studio or craft classes? Some real world art places have online sites that might intrigue your child too, like The US
National Gallery of Art, or Tate Kids. There are books to borrow in your local library on all sorts of artistic techniques. Or how about scrounging around and finding all your paints, markers, crayons, play-do, modelling clay, scraps of paper and material, glue, scissors, bits and pieces - and having an art-a-thon. Start your kids off, then sneak away to read your latest novel.

Do they spend time firing missiles at, or sword fighting with other family members? Perhaps they would be interested in a medieval fair, a trip to a War Memorial, or a Science Museum? Many museums have great hands-on activities for kids, including some (if you're lucky) about how weapons work. If you're feeling particularly brave, why not help your youngster check out web sites like Instructables, where he can learn how to construct functioning models of ancient weapons like trebuchets? (That was actually a rhetorical question. I can think of 20 reasons why not, all of them involving broken glass!) Here's a link to instructions on
how to make a trebuchet out of Knex, or a safe but realistic battle axe. If those are too violent, how about paper aeroplanes? (If good English is important to you, you might want to re-write some Instructable directions yourself, and I strongly advise parental supervision on Instructables.) Or try these designs on a paper aeroplane site. (Thank you Jeanne for helping me spell aeroplane correctly.) Again, your local library will have books on famous battles, model soldier making, guns, bombs and all sorts of exploding delights.

Are they charmed by fairies? Imaginative little people might like to build a special fairy dell in your garden, or invent fairy homes from twigs, flowers and leaves. There are many stories about fairies in your local store or library. The Flower Fairies website has a nice game where you have to
dress your fairy for the ball, and other activities. Be aware that it seems biased toward northern hemisphere fairies.

Sometimes siblings can get on each other's nerves, and use colourful language you don't want to encourage. Maybe they would like to learn a new language! There are a zillion resources on the internet for language users, like
Kids Playground, and Open Culture, or you might find a beginners' class in your neighbourhood. I love Youtube as a quick and fun way to immerse myself in a language. Here is a catchy French song that will help kids learn articles of clothing, and a simple Indonesian song I love, called Potong Bebek Angsa. If your children are not beginners, the BBC site, Ma France, has wonderful interactive lessons, including videos where you can see both French and English subtitles, or remove them to test your listening. Libraries not only have books, they have audio tapes, videos and language kits you can borrow.

If learning a foreign language seems too big a goal, maybe your children would like to learn Pig Latin, or delve into codes and cyphers.
America's CryptoKids is a wonderful introduction to such cryptic communications, and you can refresh your knowledge of Pig Latin here.

Some kids might be stressing about school coming up soon. They might be feeling the pressure of a new grade, or have a school subject nagging at them. I struggled with Maths all my student life, and only began to understand it when I had to teach it to kids! If you have a child who is concerned about Math, the internet may be able to help. I found a nice practice tool at Mathplayground that helps with
algebraic reasoning, and they have lots of games that give brains a workout, like Sudoku and Mancala. You can find a huge list of maths and other activities, according to grade level and available from various sites, via Internet4Classrooms. Next Vista has many educational videos - would your child like to teach others how to solve a maths problem and post it there?

I'm truly not advocating that kids spend their holidays doing homework. Holidays should be a break for children, parents and teachers! But if your youngsters have exhausted all their books, board games and toys, if you've been on all the visits you can stand, if they are having trouble coming up with their own ideas for stuff to do, tap into what interests them. It might very well start a great holiday project. The fact that they'll be developing all sorts of wonderful literacy, thinking and communication skills is just a bonus!

I have one mean suggestion. Send your kids an email (from yourself, so they know it's safe), with this message: "Psst! Hey Kids, Chipmunk Yourselves!" Include
this link. Then ask someone else to mind them while you go out for coffee. I guarantee you won't want to hear the results, but kids will love it. Here's a sample. Anyone who takes their kids to see the associated movie deserves a medal.

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