Help! It's only the beginning of summer and I've run out of things to do with my kids that don't make me crazy, and yet keeps them entertained while I clean house and/or catch up on email. They seem to be crafted out, and the backyard is not holding much interest anymore. What can I do??? I can only take so much museum time with a 9- and 10-year-old, so please don't make me educate them (too much) in this quest to have an enjoyable, low-stress summer.
You may be tempted to pilot even more love in this direction after reading my advice which is, in essence, to do less. Nine- and 10-year-olds with a backyard!? You are almost making me feel sorry for my own kids, ages 6 and 9, who are now required to entertain themselves for multiple hours at a time while I do my work—and they are stuck on the sixth floor of an apartment building.
Not long ago, I sounded just like you—working like a maniac to keep my girls charmed throughout every last moment of their summer. Those seemingly endless days that my kids weren’t in camp, I was forever schlepping to the playground, the pool, Bounce U (indoor bouncy castle hell), the toy stores and various playdates. It was exhausting, annoying and expensive. All of this changed when I endeavored to “get French” with my family, inspiring me to land my inner helicopter and let my kids try to figure a few things out for themselves. During the research phase of my project, I was especially motivated by the sight of little Frenchies chilling on their own, without a frantic mother always at their side, curating an epic schedule to ensure fun.
The more I back off, though, the better my kids become at occupying themselves.
The truth is, when really forced to, your kids will have better ideas about what to do than you ever would. There’s no way I could have invented the game going down in my house for a loooooong time this morning, that involved a gaggle of Barbies, some sort of obstacle course, and a large, stuffed toy owl (that, if I overheard correctly, “guards the gates to the Doll Underworld.” I’m guessing it’s like Barbie Hades—I hope so, anyway.)
If you decide to go this more minimal route for summer, it’ll take some time to adjust. Not infrequently, I still find myself spouting choice irritating phrases echoing out of my own childhood summers, like “only boring people get bored.” (God, how I hated that one. And man, do I love it now.)
The more I back off, though, the better my kids become at occupying themselves. Occasionally—I swear—I will announce that I’m finished working and ready to go to the pool (Brooklyn has its fair share of public pools to go with its scorching summer weather), and my kids will request another half hour to finish their game. Yes!
We do plenty of fun stuff besides the pool, even intermittent visits to a museum—just not all the dang time. I don’t think my kids would say that this summer is any less fun than previous ones. They might even give it a higher score simply because it’s less stressful.
Maybe this isn’t the kind of advice you were hoping for. In the long run, however, it’ll be easier than if I gave you a list of activities to prepare. (Also, I’m totally incapable of doing that). Direct those kids of yours back to the yard. If you don’t give in to their whines of boredom and misery, they’ll eventually come up with something cool to do.
And who doesn’t want to be cooler these days?
Enjoy the dog days,
P.S. I’m a pushover, so here’s a quickie game my kids adore when we really need something to do: Play “Chopped.” Let your kids forage the kitchen for a collection of ingredients and have them separate out equal portions to themselves. Recently, we did graham crackers, half of a banana, six chocolate chips, a spoonful of peanut better, and raspberries. Then, give them 15 minutes to assemble a creation using the ingredients. When they’ve finished—you judge! If you’ve got a clipboard, I strongly suggest using it. Your scorecard could include things like taste, presentation and originality. Now let’s get chopping!