Beating the 'I'm Bored' Blues
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Summertime holds the promise of many fun hours to children, who spend all year awaiting the end of school and the beginning of this magic time. Inevitably, however, they soon run out of things to do during summer vacation, and before long parents begin hearing endless choruses of “I’m bored.”

Since parents are still just as busy with work, etc., during the summer, finding time to take off on adventures can be tough. Here’s a week’s worth of ideas for fun activities to do right at home, taking advantage of longer days, no “school nights.” and kids’ time off :

  1. Let the kids make a family dinner! Help them make something simple like sub sandwiches and Jell-o -- great for hot weather. (For sub sandwiches, simply slice a long loaf of French bread in half lengthwise, fill with the usual fixin’s, and cut into manageable sections.)

  2. Roast marshmallows under the stars. Fire up the BBQ (or toss a few extra coals on after a BBQ dinner) and supervise a marshmallow roast. Have the kids find and whittle their own roasting sticks from the yard (with more or less help from you, depending on age) or use long wooden skewers. Supervise cooking closely -- a spray bottle filled with water is handy for any flame-ups.

  3. Have a campout at home! Too busy for a camping trip? Dust some gear off from the garage and set up the tents in your backyard -- or your living room. Turn off the lights and have flashlights, tell stories, play cards, and serve “camping food” like trail mix. No fair watching television! The BBQ grill can even become your makeshift campfire (outdoors of course!).

  4. Have a summer luau! Great as a pool party but doable anywhere. You can buy plastic leis and grass skirts at party or novelty shops, but it’s more fun for the kids to make their own grass skirts out of large kitchen trash bags cut into strips and tied onto lengths of yarn or twine cut long enough to go around the child’s waist and tie in a bow. (Plastic bags can be hazardous to small children: please supervise closely.) Play Hawaiian music, and have the kids give a hula show. Serve pineapple chunks and cheese chunks on toothpicks, cook or BBQ chicken marinated in teriyaki sauce, rice, and have Hawaiian shaved ice for dessert! To make, use your snow cone machine or whirl crushed ice (not cubes!) in your food processor till shaved fine. Scoop into cups and drizzle with Hawaiian punch concentrate or melted frozen juice concentrate.

  5. Movie Night. A family mainstay! Rent a couple of DVDs or videos, pop popcorn (microwave is easy but Jiffy Pop is so much more fun for the kids!), and lay out the kids’ sleeping bags. It’s fun to have an “Intermission” like they did in the olden days to grab fresh snacks or drinks, run to the restroom, etc. When the movie is over, have a Siskel and Ebert style movie review session so everyone can say what they liked and didn’t like.

  6. Puppet Show. The kids can make puppets out of brown paper bags, socks, construction paper pasted onto popsicle sticks (great way to recycle those sticks from the pops the kids have been eating all summer), etc. They can make up their own play entirely, or you can help them along a bit by giving them a basic scenario (like “the sheep puppet gets lost and, along the way to find his shepherd, meets the clown puppet”). Ideas for making the stage: have them hide behind a couch or loveseat, a large cardboard box turned sideways, or drape a sheet on an extension cord or wire that you string up.

  7. Host a “murder mystery.” (Kids 8 and up) Best with a group of about six to eight people, so this is a good one to have the kids invite a friend or two over. Have the kids cut up enough slips of paper to have one for each person playing. On one slip the kids write “Detective” and on another “Killer.” The rest they leave blank. Fold the slips in half and put into a detective style hat, bowl, or whatever. Mix them up and have everyone choose one. No one tells what slip they got except the detective, who then must leave the room for a minute. Now, the remaining people wander around with their eyes shut (no fair peeking!) except the killer, who can look but should pretend they are just another player. The killer picks someone and taps him or her on the shoulder twice. That is the signal for the tapped player to fall down (carefully!) and lie on the ground. Everyone else opens their eyes. Then the detective is summoned back and questions the players to try and figure out whodunit. No one is allowed to lie except the killer. The slips can be returned to the hat and the game played over and over. Lots of fun and all the rage these days!

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