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Friday, May 6, 2016

Musings on things for kids to do

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's a parent to do when the first flush of summer vacation wears off? Boredom, summer heat, close proximity to siblings and lack of structure can have repercussions for the entire family.

When I was a child, I remember long days spent outside reading under my favorite tree, or climbing into that tree to get away from my brothers. Chores were done and the days stretched endlessly with plenty of time to come up with ideas of what to do for fun.

Back then, we were smart enough not to ever tell our parents that we were bored, or that there wasn't anything to do. You know the drill. The next words out of my parent's mouth would've been, "I'll find you something to do." This usually meant some distasteful chore that everyone had been putting off doing.

I didn't have video games, well, not until we got that Atari set with the Frogger game.

We didn't have cable TV, we had three channels, ABC, CBS, and NBC. If it was clear outside, sometimes we could get PBS, but that was boring and for preschoolers.

Sleepover's were great, but my brother always had to bug my friends and me, and then I would get into trouble for trying to get rid of him.

My family went on a vacation every year, by car, and while fun and interesting, I was still stuck being around the people that drove me insane.

We had to stay home while my parents worked, we didn't get to cruise around town on bikes or skateboards. We couldn't have friends over while the adults were gone.

And somehow, I managed to survive not having a computer to surf video web sites, or play games. I didn't even have a myspace website. I had a diary, and I sure didn't want anyone reading all my private thoughts.

My kids are unlucky. Because I'm fascinated with all the latest toys, the endless choices that we are expected to provide for our children since we didn't have them when we were young, they have video games, a computer, cable TV, and, according to them are still bored, bored, bored.

Technology has advanced so much in the last 25 years, from cassette tapes to MP3 players, from toys that didn't need a disclaimer on the advertisements about not actually flying to robots that obey voice commands, we have completely lost our ability to pretend and imagine.

I can give my kids chores, ideas and options, but I can't make them imagine or invent their own activities. I think somewhere along the way, we, as a society, have bled the imagination right out of our children.

A box is just a box, not a car, a castle or a secret hide-out. A piece of cloth isn't a cape that helps you fly. Kids don't want Legos or erector sets, Play-doh or art sets, they want toys that sing, talk, or entertain them without their input.

Lack of imagination makes you ordinary. Ordinary is boring. Bored kids who lack imagination don't channel impulses in productive ways, they turn destructive. Throwing rocks, breaking branches and that behavior can escalate.

Thank goodness that summer vacation does end, and they return to school.

They miss the freedom of summer, quickly forget that they didn't have anything to do, and slide back into a routine that challenges their minds.

Maybe that's the key, that challenging routine. Maybe, that's what is needed today. Forget all-day kindergarten, and let's all vote for year-round school.