Winter Break Boredom Busters
Avoid hearing "I'm bored" with some planning and new ideas.
Your kids may be looking forward to no school over the holidays, but past experience tells you that they’ll be complaining and begging for entertainment in no time. Avoid the frustration by preparing, and then enjoy the lazy days of winter break!
First, Kick Your Guilt to the Curb
Do not feel guilty when your kids are bored. In fact, feel proud that you are providing this critical opportunity for their brains and imaginations to develop. Kids need boredom to develop their creativity, and in this age of constant sources of entertainment (read: screens), down time for kids is less and less frequent. You are giving your child a gift when you allow them to be bored and to build up their ability to reflect and let their imaginations work.
Next, Prepare Your Response
Your kids need practice being bored. Start small. Pick a specific time period (start with an hour or two) that they need to pick something to do on their own, and offer to talk about a few ideas ahead of time. Then, as parent coach and Washington Post columnist Meghan Leahy says, “hold on for dear life.” They will complain and follow you around, but if you stand firm, they will eventually find something to do. And the next time it will be easier. (Read Meghan’s article about kids and boredom here.)
You can take some steps before school closes to make a lazy winter break enjoyable for your whole family. Take a fresh look at the play spaces in your house. Are there too many toys? Are the toys organized and accessible? Many parenting experts feel that lots of toys can actually hinder kids’ ability to play: they become overwhelmed, or the toys are so numerous that it’s difficult to see what’s available.
If your play space is bursting at the seams, consider donating toys that your family no longer needs (Cradles to Crayons is a great place to donate toys and games) or rotate some toys out of the room for a short period. Rotating toys can make toys you own seem new again! (You could even rotate each day during winter break!) Get more information here for specific steps for rotating toys. Make sure your toys are easily visible and reach-able for your children and that the organization simple, so kids can find what they want and clean-up is easy.
During winter break, periodically take out a toy or two your kids haven’t played with in a while and set it up in the middle of the room. While they may not take it out on their own, if it’s right there for them, they’ll probably start playing with it.
A few new items at home can help spice things up. Borrow games or toys from neighbors who are traveling, and/or purchase a few inexpensive items such as puzzles or art supplies. If snow is expected, arm yourself with a few new snow activities to suggest and make sure your snow gear is ready.
Put together some “creative table prompts” for your kids. This can be as simple as clearing a table (or if you don’t have a table in your space, lay out an oilcloth or just some newspaper on the floor) and setting out scissors, colored paper and glue or it can be something more involved like wooden frames with glue, gems, feathers, etc. The only rules are that materials are set out with no real directions, so kids can use them as they wish. Click here for twelve ideas.
Kick Winter Break Off Right
Setting the tone for a winter break with a lot of downtime can make all the difference. Sit down with your family to set out expectations and rules for the week. Brainstorm some fun activities to do both at home and out, and make a list to hang on the refrigerator. Consider a movie marathon, a carpet picnic, cooking or art projects, or a read-aloud book at home.
For easy, local outings think about bowling, the library or a winter hike, or even a totally new activity, like a climbing gym. After the meeting, think of a few surprises to incorporate — these can be simple departures from routine such as breakfast for dinner, a game night with friends or backyard star-gazing on a clear night.
Also talk about the rules for the week. When will children need to play on their own? How much screen time will be allowed? Suspending some of your normal rules can make winter break at home exciting! One of the best to suspend is cleanup time. Your kids will make their play more involved if they know that they can leave the fort, block city, art project or doll tea party set up and return to it later.
With some forethought, preparation and, most importantly, a positive attitude, a winter break at home can mean sweet family memories and traditions, with minimal complaining!
Lead photograph by Pamela Badolato.