A popular line of thought these days is to “let your kids get bored” because that’s when they get creative.

In reality, bored kids just whine a lot. Then they get into fights with their siblings. Nothing spoils a lovely summer day like bored kids.

What I think this misdirected idea is trying to say is, “Give your kids mental space to be creative.”

I consider summer to be one big span of “mental space.” Without the pressure of lesson plans, classes, and schoolwork, we have enough time to let our thoughts ramble, research interesting topics, look up easy crafts, and try out new recipes. This year, Darren and I had each child choose a couple of summer projects to keep in reserve for times when they need something to do—namely, the soul-wracking time of day known as “Electronics Cutoff.”

Summer is winding down, but there’s still empty space to be enjoyed. Here are some of the summer projects we’ve worked on, in no particular order:

1. Make this easy cat out of a sock craft.

Sparkler and the cat formerly known as a sock.

Sparkler and the cat formerly known as a sock.

2. For a month, draw your OC (that’s “original character” in fan-fiction terms) wearing different clothes or in a different setting (look up “drawing challenge” or “draw for a month” to find prompts).

3. Spray-paint porch light fixtures to make them look new.

4. Spray-paint rocks.

Spray-painted rocks. It’s a thing.

Spray-painted rocks. It’s a thing.

5. Spray-paint an entire step ladder.

5a. Run out of spray paint.

6. Ride a bike at least a mile a day.

7. Explore neighborhood and surrounding areas. Bookgirl found a safe route to the nearby CVS store, and now buys Doritos for any sibling with enough money to send with her.

8. Learn to cook three new foods. So far, Gamerboy has learned to cook rice, sausage, and lamb stew.

9. Plant and take care of a cactus.

10. Eat supper outside. Okay, technically we haven’t done this yet, because 20 minutes before I was going to build the fire, a great deluge fell from the sky and postponed our plans.

11. Cook a meal from a different country. Darren has cooked us meals from Mexico, Italy, and Germany.

12. Fix up the back yard with hammock, solar lamps, and a fire pit.

Bookgirl enjoying the hammock and solar lamps.

Bookgirl enjoying the hammock and solar lamps.

13. Lead/attend a monthly writer’s group meeting.

14. Play board games in the evenings. Since our youngest is now 8, we can play as a family now. We’ve particularly enjoyed these games: Eye Know, 7 Wonders, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Settlers of Catan.

15. Write a science-fiction story involving characters from two different planets in the Trappist-1 planetary system.

16. Learn about something new. For my new novel, I’ve researched a lot about quilting. Check out Ann’s blog for an anthropologist and quilt-restorer’s perspective on history, fabrics, and techniques.

17. Provide and serve a meal to Salvation Army Center residents once a month.

18. Visit with friends as the moon rises over the back yard.

Your family would probably add to or alter this list. More museums or camping… “Actually, we homeschool through the summer…” “Seriously, what is summer without sports?” But whether you do school through the summer or take a complete break, spend it at the ballfield or in the back yard—don’t look for ways to get your kids “bored.” Instead, find empty space to let the whole family relax, think, and create.

(The Jones kids highly recommend spray paint.)


Photo Credit: iStock; all other images courtesy of author.