This morning my 8-year-old is bored. It's ten am on the first day of summer. We have four kids (20, 18, 15, and 8). I should see summer coming but I'm always caught off-guard. I'm at my desk in my office (which is in my bedroom) and she's asking me what to do.
Out of desperation, I hand her my phone. I say, "Remember in the back of National Geographic Kids, there are those up close pictures of things and you have to guess what they are? Go take ten up-close pictures. Five inside. Five in the yard. Be really really thoughtful. Plan out each picture. Really think. And then come back and I'll guess."
At this point, I'm incredibly proud of myself. My kid is excited and runs off. I start to work and she's back. With ten pictures. None of which I can identify.
So, I won on the score of getting kids to engage in an artistic and observational endeavor. I lost on the score of having time to work.
But, honestly, it's a fun exercise. There's some mother of invention in the mix.
And an element of danger -- handing over a phone like that.
We also set a bunch of summer goals. We started this with the kids and then decided to do it ourselves. On day 1, my daughter marked off "walking on my hands." She got five hand-steps. Her list includes: boat, cooking, farm, hike, tent, look-book (fashion design), photo album (herself as the subject matter), friendship bracelets, lemonade stand, 100 French words, readathon, swim ...
As the daughter of a novelist, she refused to put down write a book or keep a diary, which, to be honest, I admire.
The 15 year old had to write an actual contract with us. No gaming until he decided what his summer would look like and the appropriate amount of time should be spent gaming as opposed to, say, living in the real world. He also has to be involved in a book.
For the younger kid, we set limits on screentime too, but be proactive on what they're watching. My daughter, on her own, googled best kid movies and wrote a list of the ones she wanted to see this summer. (The writing of the list takes time, too ,which is good.)
Here's my tip on getting young kids to clean up. Before and after pictures of their rooms.
Also good, scavenger hunts. I set these up for holidays and birthdays but the kids can make them too. Great use of brain power.
When in doubt, paint rocks.
When in serious doubt, crank the music and have a dance party.
When your kid tells you that they're bored, say, "Good. It's the first step to making, doing, creating, inventing, imagining ... "
Hope this offers a little help.
By the way, my phone is now filled with photos of unrecognizable objects.
[Interested in supporting the artist behind what you've just read,
click here for Julianna Baggott's latest novel.]