Archive for Sunday, June 23, 2002

Book offers quick fun for long, hot summer

June 23, 2002

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— Many kids spend 10 months of the year waiting for their summer break from school. They know that once summer comes there are ice cream cones to be eaten, sprinklers to run through and bicycles to be ridden.

What children seem to forget, however, is that all of those activities can be accomplished in about an hour.

To keep boredom from setting in and minds from turning to mush, FamilyFun magazine has put 365 ideas in a book called "Boredom Busters" (Disney Enterprises).

"The goal of the activities is to spark (kids') imagination, and for (kids) to use their minds and hands and be engaged in something," says Deanna Cook, editor of the book and manager of creative development of FamilyFun.

With a little creativity and enthusiasm, even a daily chore can be turned into a good time.

Cook says her two children enjoy the "game" of finding all the washcloths in the laundry basket and folding them. Other purposeful tasks include having children wash the car or pick up all the toys in a room before a song is over.

The book also urges kids to do a random act of kindness. Trying to decide what to do is an activity in and of itself and making a get-well card for a sick friend or cleaning their old toys to donate to charity can be as entertaining as any game and more rewarding.

Some of the "boredom buster" games, crafts and projects take five minutes, such as spelling words on a calculator and penny basketball, and others can last days, including creating a neighborhood of decorated paper bags or starting a book club.

"Boredom doesn't have a specific time," says Cook, so there are suggestions for outdoor games for long, hot afternoons and ideas to spur pretend play indoors, including a "home-office" kit and a doll spa. When it's time to begin to wind down for the night, there are some quieter activities, such as playing with homemade clay.

Even mealtime can be playtime, especially if the book's "lunch guests," sandwiches dressed up with vegetables eyes and noses, and a tongue made of ham, are invited. And if children are restless just as a parent is preparing dinner, quick kitchen science experiments, such as testing the boundaries of a plastic bag with pencils, should tie everyone over.

Cook encourages group play whether it's with siblings, friends or parents but there are some single-person projects. "Ideally we want a parent to be involved. These are activities that make the most of 'together time,"' she says.

Children will get a boost from their accomplishments and so will parents. "Parents feel good doing these activities like they are doing a good job because the kids aren't sitting and watching TV. They're being creative," says Cook.

Each activity in the book is detailed in a "recipe" including a list of the necessary ingredients, but, in general, Cook says there are some basic supplies that are always a good starting point for fun.

The supplies include a large roll of newsprint, construction paper, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, craft foam, balls, colored chalk, playing cards, wooden blocks, a tape recorder, a magnifying glass and a butterfly net.

If those items aren't enough to spur some fun, try "The Boredom Bottle," which holds a stash of fortune-cookie-style pieces of paper with suggested activities.

To make this treasure trove, start with a clean, empty plastic bottle and have your children decorate it with stickers. With your kids, make a list of easy tasks ("bake chocolate chip cookies," for instance) and write each one on a small square of paper. Fold the paper and drop into the bottle.

When boredom strikes, "shake out" an idea.

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