Beat kids' boredom this summer

Tara McClellan McAndrew

Two words many parents dread this time of year: “I’m BORED!”

By this point of summer, parents have heard that refrain more than they can count. What was fun for kids at the start of the season, has become repetitive, even dull.


Break up the routine and engage your precious ones with these 10 boredom bashers.

1. Write a book

“My kids liked to ‘write’ books,” says Carolyn Harmon, the mother of two grown boys and director of Parents as Teachers in Springfield. When her kids were little, Harmon wrote down the stories they invented as they dictated.

As her boys grew older, “They’d hear or read a story and then write a version or make up something based on their summer adventures. They drew pictures and wrote the story when they were old enough. There are lots of ways to make books, it gets them back in the school mode a little. Actual photos could be used, too.”

2. Make ice cream

Making ice cream can be really easy and fun. You don’t even need special equipment.

Ice Cream in a Bag

Family Fun magazine

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup milk or half & half

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons rock salt (not table salt)

1 pint-size plastic Ziploc bag

1 gallon-size Ziploc bag

Ice cubes

Put the rock salt in the gallon baggie, fill it halfway with ice and close it.

Put the remaining ingredients (sugar, milk or half & half and vanilla) into the small bag and seal tightly. 

Put the small bag into the big bag; seal the gallon bag tightly.

Have your kids shake the bags for five to 10 minutes, until the mixture’s consistency is like soft-serve ice cream. They also can gently toss the bags to each other. Open the small bag, mix in extra yummies like M&Ms or chocolate chips if you like, and eat up!

3. Hunt for treasure

“I have always encouraged ‘treasure hunts’ to practice reading skills,” says Vachel Lindsay Elementary School teacher Amy Pyle.

An adult may have to coordinate the first hunt, but older kids can arrange simpler ones.

Pick a treasure (a new book, candy, a “kidnapped” toy, certificate for a special treat, etc.) and hide it. Adjust your clues to the age of the children and their ability to read.

Each clue should lead the child to the location of the next clue, with the last clue leading to the treasure.

If the kids can’t read, cut out pictures for clues (like pictures of a TV or bed). If they can read, have the clue tell them where the next clue is, or make it a riddle so they’ll have to guess the location.

Pyle recommends this Web site to learn about different types of treasure hunts:

4. Play with water

Tug of war (use a jump rope) is a great hot-weather game when you set a sprinkler in the middle of the teams. As they pull back and forth, everybody gets wet. Or try “Duck, Duck, Soak!” This is basically “Duck, Duck, Goose” played with a drenched sponge or water squirter. The person who is “it” walks around the circle, saying “Duck” to each kid as he drips water on them. But when he gets to one child he says “Soak!” and drenches that person, who then has to tag him before he makes it back to his original spot in the circle; otherwise, the person who was soaked becomes “it.”

5. Make a zoo

Older kids can make paper animals, like lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), by downloading the materials from this Web site: It will take patience to cut and assemble the models, but the results will be worth it.

6. Use some sense

Play a game that relies on your sense of touch. Put several objects in a bag. Have the kids close their eyes, put their hand in the bag, and identify each object by feel. Make it more difficult by putting similar items in the bag.

7. Be one with nature

Take a walk in a park or your backyard and gather specimens, like plants and bugs, to study later, recommends Carolyn Harmon. “My kids loved to collect stuff.”

Or, have a camp out in the backyard (or in the house with a blanket over some chairs or a table) and eat camp foods. S’mores, anyone?

8. Get your game face on

Arrange games of three-legged races, where kids pair up in teams and each team has a pillowcase. Each child puts the leg next to their teammate in the pillowcase and practices hopping or running together. The team that reaches the finish line first wins.

Obstacle courses also are fun to run and create. Use items like lawn chairs and water hoses to create obstacles kids have to crawl under or hop over. Add other challenges, like stations where they have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

9. Put on a show

Turn bored babes into puppeteers with just a small paper bag and markers.

“Puppets are fun to make and build language skills and fluency,” says teacher Amy Pyle. Put your hand in the bag and its bottom becomes the puppet’s face. Use markers or other craft materials, like pom poms, googlie eyes, and yarn to add hair and details.

“Enchanted Learning Web site offers fun paper bag puppet ideas,” Pyle says. Visit

10.  Use our resources

Head to your local library — many offer special kids’ activities, especially in the summer, along with tons of great books, CDs, DVDs, and videos to check out.

Visit a local museum, zoo or park.

The Springfield area has so much history here, soak it up by visiting Lincoln’s Home or tomb, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Capitol (old and new), the Dana-Thomas House or New Salem.

Go hiking at Lincoln Memorial Gardens, where you might spy deer, turtles or other wildlife.

Visit the farmers market downtown or at the state fairgrounds and enlist your child’s help to make a dish from the ingredients you buy.

Overall, encourage kids to use their imagination to create new ways to have fun. And if all else fails, remember that they’ll be back to school before you know it!

Tara McClellan McAndrew is a freelance writer who can be reached through the features desk at 788-1512.