For some kids it takes two days. For others it doesn't happen for two weeks or more. But at some point, most children get over the initial excitement of school being out for the summer. Sooner or later, they utter the dreaded words, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do."
Looking for ideas guaranteed to help your children end summer boredom? Want to re-energize your children while providing low-cost, meaningful learning experiences? Consider encouraging them to make a mess!
Yes, that's right, make a mess.
Making a mess is fun. Making a mess is inexpensive. And making a mess leads to learning. Depriving children of the opportunity to make messes decreases their range of experience and limits their learning opportunities. Parents who allow children to make messes and hold them accountable for cleaning up extend opportunities that exceed those given to children who are required to be consistently neat, clean, and quiet.
Mess making also affords another important opportunity for parents—a chance to connect. Bonding occurs when you get down on the floor and get messy together. The mess is impermanent. It can be cleaned up and removed. The experience will stay with the children forever.
Here are several indoor and outdoor ideas you can use to make messes with your children this summer.
On rainy days, or for anytime indoor fun, try a mess of a different sort.
1. Clean Mud
Rip toilet paper into small strips. Grate Ivory soap. Mix together with water and you have "clean mud." Play with it on the kitchen floor or in a tub on the kitchen table. Clean mud is great for building, designing, and frolicking.
2. String Painting
Cut an 18-inch piece of string and dip it in children's paint. Then apply it to paper. Use different colors to be creative while painting pictures, making holiday cards, or designing your own wrapping paper.
3. Make Plastic
Use one cup of water to three packets of gelatin. Bring the water to a boil and mix in the gelatin. Add two or three drops of food coloring and stir for one minute. Then pour the mixture onto coffee can lids or Tupperware lids and let it stand for one hour. Remove from the lid and cut with cookie cutters or a dull knife. Dries hard in two to three days. The shapes dry unevenly. Watch how nature changes the shapes by twisting and turning them. The varying designs make creative tree ornaments.
4. Indoor Snowball Fight
Make "snowballs" out of crumpled paper and throw them at each other. The more balls you make, the more fun this activity becomes. This is a high-energy activity and is ideal for combating family boredom, depression, or lethargy.
5. Toilet Paper Adventure
Place two or three rolls of toilet paper on a dowel rod at one end of the house. Grab an end of one roll and take off running. Wrap the toilet paper around furniture and each other. Break through it, throw it, and roll it into huge balls. Laugh and be silly.
6. Paint a Mural
This activity is ideal for adolescents and teens. Brainstorm possible picture ideas for them to paint on their bedroom wall, then shop with them to buy the necessary paint. Move all the furniture in the bedroom to one side, freeing up one complete wall, and let them paint a huge picture. Be sure to include a lesson, instructions, carpet covering, old clothes, and cleanup materials.
7. Living Room Camping
Move furniture, set up "camp," and hold a family slumber party in the living room. Pitch a tent, make a fake campfire out of paper, eat hotdogs and s'mores, tell campfire stories.
8. No Manners Night
Have an evening meal where no manners are required. (Do not have spaghetti for this meal.) Discuss how the meal is the same and how it is different from other meals. Do more listening than talking.
For outdoor fun, put the following ideas on your children's summer agenda.
9. Sheet Painting
Hang an old sheet from a clothesline. Buy used or mismatched paint from Home Depot or your local paint store. (You can get colorful paint for less than five dollars per gallon.) Let the kids splatter, drip, and handprint paint designs. When the sheet is dry, they can make tents and forts out of it in the backyard or you can cut sections of it to mat and display in your home art gallery.
10. Body Painting
Put swimsuits on and head outside with some tempera paint. Let kids use their fingers or small brushes to paint their own bodies with a variety of designs, shapes, and colors. Tempera paint dries quickly and will flake off when rubbed. It is best not to paint faces. For additional fun, rinse off in a kiddy pool and watch the water change color.
11. Whipped Cream Romp
Spread a plastic tarp over a section of grass, put on swimsuits, and break out the whipped cream in a can. Use chocolate and vanilla whipped cream in a spray can to create fun shapes and designs. Whipped cream makes a slippery mess that is fun to eat as you play with it, and cleanup is easy. Use the garden hose to douse everything and everyone with water.
12. Packing-Peanut Play
Fill a small kiddy pool with biodegradable foam packing peanuts. (You can purchase large bags at an office supply store for a reasonable price.) The kids can sit in the "peanuts," get them stuck to their bodies, or chase them as they blow in a summer breeze. Cleanup is fun, too, as the peanuts will dissolve in water. The kids can chase them down with watering cans or a garden hose. Or simply wait for a rainy day and watch them dissolve like magic.
13. Pile of Sand
Instead of a sand box, create a sand pile. Order a truckload of sand and have it dumped in the middle of the backyard. One mountain of sand will make for hours of fun. Turn the garden hose on so the water comes out in a slow trickle and watch as small hands turn the sand into mud pies. The mountain will slowly shrink to a mound as the summer progresses. Every few years order another truckload.
14. Water Balloon and Shaving Cream
Fill a balloon with half water and half shaving cream. When the balloon bursts, a shower of shaving cream flies everywhere. We recommend wearing water goggles during this messy adventure, as shaving cream in the eyes burns. It's important to keep everyone safe while having fun making this mess.
Experience is indeed messy. As a parent, you get to choose the degree of mess you're willing to tolerate. It's your choice whether to use any or all of the messes listed above. Remember that while you're choosing whether to allow your children to make a mess, you're also choosing the range and depth of the learning experiences in which they will engage.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They also publish a FREE email newsletter for parents and another for educators. Subscribe to them when you visit http://www.chickmoorman.com/
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