Boredom. That dreaded situation that can exasperate any mother, create the Bored Antics Disease (more on that in a moment) in children, and will quickly dissolve what could have otherwise been, a rather lovely day.
Having faltered through more "I'm bored" statements than I care to remember, I can say that in 21 years of motherhood-I still haven't found a perfect solution. But what I can tell you is that you need to get your "mom radar" out the second you hear those shuddering words. Are they bored due to the lack of engaging activities, or are they just so used to doing something-anything, that when they have a moment of silence they panic and call it bored? Being able to decipher the difference will save you valuable hairs on your head (since too much of the "I'm bored" will make you want to pull it all out!) and shorten the response time. Which, I have found, is the key to quickly changing the situation.
So, what can a savvy mom do? Well, if it is the latter of the situations-that is a sign that perhaps it is time to evaluate what is going on in your home. This isn't a bad thing-as we all need to do some spring cleaning now and again. I try to do it at least 4 times per year, and have found that by doing so-our "bored times" have become a lot less. Mind you it means I need to add things, change the way we spend our day and so on. I have never been one of those folks who support the "Marsha Brady Syndrome" (the episode where Marsha felt it necessary to sign up for every single club to fit in, and to be doing something). My brain just cannot handle all that activity, and it really does lead to melt downs, more stress and fatigue. So I started early with integrating more quiet time, non-carnival situations to help teach my children that it is good to have time frames in their day, where they are quiet; or just doing a project that involves "me, myself and I" and something thought provoking. And I also have worked hard (still doing so) to help them become self-disciplined to spend time just doing nothing. Yes, that scares a lot of people-but boy, I remember just laying in the grass and looking up at the clouds configuring different shapes and animals out of them. I enjoyed that, and by doing so, I think it really contributed to my creativity. Simple things like that are good, and should be sprinkled in throughout the day between busier activities. Strolling through the library in search of books which list quiet time activities, is one way to come up with some of this stuff (esp. if you are like me and your brain has a few cobwebs in it). Or try asking older generations what they did as kids-they may remind you of the fact they only had sticks and rocks to keep them entertained, or they may give you some helpful ideas and maybe even help you implement them.
What it comes down to is that you, your spouse,the TV or video games should not be the source of entertainment for your child(ren) all day long. They need to learn the habit of self-entertainment (of course this needs to be wholesome), so that when they become adults they are not on the treadmill of never-ending Marsha Brady Syndrome.
Now for the situation where they simply do not have engaging activities around to "stimulate" their brains and bodies. This is a toughy. Sometimes it is just a matter of reorganizing and straightening the toy collections, arts and crafts box or could even include rearranging an entire room just to freshen up the home. I have a boat load of things scattered around the old homestead, and yet-I will still see boredom come like a thief in the night and steal the family's peace. With the first signs (and each child is different; but with my youngest, for example, it is notable by the way he "wanders" to and fro looking forlorn and lost), so my mind does a quick "what do I suggest" and hopefully, out pops something he will like. I have some goodies that only come out for these very moments. Little arts and crafts projects, certain games or baking projects that he doesn't have access to every day. I may hornswaggle an older sibling to "assist" the boy with something too, if I simply cannot help out at that time. Sometimes, I find that a good dose of physical activity is all he needs and then he is off to some forgotten activity there after. I plan to pre-package some "First Aid" activities for just such occasions this summer (esp. since we'll be traveling to the East Coast). Ziplocks and I are best buds. I plan to load them with dollar store finds like word searches and pencils, coloring books and crayons, little army men and trucks, puzzles and games, playdough and cookie cutters, lists of "go find" such and such which is really a treasure hunt...I just need to remember to hide the given treasure first-LOL, and so forth. I will be going thru all those eBooks and craft books, science books and nature study guides too.
What is comes down to is this-all though at times it feels like I need to have the wisdom of King Solomon, the grace of Mother Theresa and the Patience and Peace of Christ, I know that if I just examine the situation surrounding the dreadful claim of being bored, I can quickly find the real source of it. I can see if it is because I am too wrapped in my own undies (as of late) and have not given the child the one on one they need, if they are being somewhat selfish and greedy (so this is really an issue of the heart and calls for immediate attention) with mine or other family members' time, if they are at a loss because we have been living too much like circus people, or if we simply have been forgetting to enjoy those hands on, delightful activities that cause one to ponder, explore or navigate the recesses of one's own environment. And hey, if all else fails-toss em a buck or two and tell them to stand at the end of the driveway to wait for the ice cream truck (even if it is 8 in the morning and the dude doesn't usually come til 3)! (OK, now I was being totally funny there, not serious-I would never do that, nor do I seriously propose that you do it either).
Some most helpful resources I love to use:
Mrs. Sharp's Family Traditions-I love this book, it is written by Mrs. Sharp who is like several hundred years old, has Victorian-era activities, and is centered around each month's theme. These projects are usually cheap and or easy to create. This is out of print-but you can find many available thru Amazon. I bought a hard back edition that was in excellent shape for under $15.
Homeschool Freebie of the Day-this site is awesome, as each day you get a free download of something that can be used by you and the fam to avoid the summer doldrums. Go to their home page and sign up for their e-letter/site at Homeschool Freebie of the Day. I have tons of eBooks I can print activities from-in fact, they recently offered one just for summer boredom busters.
The American Girls Handy Book (not to be confused with American Dolls stuff-this is different) by Lina and Adelia Beard, and the American Boys Handy Book by D.C. Beard. I believe I found it thru Rainbow Resources, but am sure Amazon carries it as well. These little babies are loaded-loaded with old time activities and projects that could easily keep your kids so busy they would scarcely have time to sleep.
Summer is an awesome time to do all those science experiments that just cannot be done indoors. The Rocket is one that comes to mind (the old 2 liter pop bottle one) and those oozy, slimy ones that one would rather not have exploding in their kitchen!
I highly recommend reading books about nature study activities, as this is such an awesome way to use God's classroom to learn of his creatures and creation. Hit the dollar store for bug catchers, butterfly nets, magnifying glasses, baskets to collect the goodies and so forth. Don't forget the squito spray, sunscreen and tick repellent.
I could go on and on, but here is one activity that is rather fun:
Take a box, bag or bowl and place index cards with the color names written on them (for the littles: have a few extra ones with the actual color on them-easy to do-just grab a marker and color a spot of each color-then when the color is called, hand them the appropriate card and they can match the colors to what they are finding), a stop watch, a basket or bag per child, a large sheet or blanket, camera (digital is best) and some little drinks/snacks. Head outdoors. Find a spot that is comfy for you, spread out the sheet. Give the kids the usual safety, and stay away from poisonous plants lecture first-then tell them that each one will be given the opportunity to draw a card out. When that color (or texture [shiny, rough, smooth, etc.] shape or what have you) is drawn, they have 5-8 mins (you decide, children with disabilities may need longer time frames) to run around collecting the said colored items. Tell them to be on the look out for unique and fun things. Then when time is up, they come to the sheet, dump out their loot, look it over and then another card is drawn. Go on as long as the kids can do it. For the bigger kids, have them go on a camera shoot for those items. They will not only feel more grown-up, but will hone their photography skills as well. If you have only one camera, then the kids will need to take turns. In order to keep each kid's finds separate from the others, take a pic of the kid whose turn it is..then they take the pics they need. When it is the next child's turn-take their picture and so on. That way you know everything after that child's pic is their work-up to the next kid's pic. Enjoy a mini picnic after, whilst looking through all the goodies they found. This should eat up a big segment of time, get everyone outdoors, let you lounge a tad while watching the children scatter about like bees on a mission.
Well if you made it to this point in this rather longish post-congratulations to you and I do so hope you were able to get something out of this besides dry eyes!