“I’m bored.” How is it that these are the first words your child utters after snacks and homework? Little ones rely on you for entertainment, but children who no longer need constant supervision can come up with fun activities for themselves…right? Some are strong self-starters and will resume a complicated Lego build or dive back into their Harry Potter book, but after a long day at school many children need a little nudge. If they don’t have an after-school activity or a playdate, here are four ways to get them started.
1. Comic Relief
Ask them to draw a comic strip or write a wacky story about a fictional character of their own creation. If your child finds it difficult to think in an abstract way, lay out some guidelines– i.e., Who is this character? Are they human, animal, alien…? Do they have superpowers? Ask them to describe something crazy that could happen to this character while they’re traveling somewhere exotic. Prompts like these can get the creative juices flowing. Provide a special notebook just for this task so that they can return to it the next time they’re bored.
2. An Act of Kindness
Is there someone in your lives going through a rough time? If it is information you can share with your child, suggest that they make something for this person. It could be a card, an origami bird, a pipe-cleaner flower, anything really. When it’s done, package it and bring it to the post office together. Projects like these can help your child think empathetically (because let’s face it, most kids need help in that department!) and understand the virtues of even the smallest acts of kindness.
3. Dumpster Diving
Dig into your paper-recycling bin and present your child with a selection of clean boxes and other paper items, along with some tape and a box of markers. Challenge them to create something out of it—model buildings, containers for their toys, a robot… Your kids will astound you with their imaginations.
4. Tell it to the Journal
If your child is getting to an age where they are no longer sharing secrets with you, give them a journal for a private place to process their thoughts. Journaling will help them clear their heads, give them something to do for a little while after school and help them brush up on their writing skills! Keep trying to connect with them, though. Check in regularly and let then know you are available to talk or just listen.