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How to Keep Playtime Fun This Summer

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How many “ors” are there in bored? “Mooom, I’m boorrreeed,” your kids chant like they’re annoying little monks who seek summer playtime enlightenment. If only they were as neat. You suggest several this or that activities, but nothing sticks.

Ruts happen to playtime, too. Kids don’t like doing the same old thing every summer.

Hack playtime, and keep your kid engaged and occupied while you have fun, too. Playtime should incorporate imagination and discovery into the mix to keep it exciting. Who knows? Your kid might secretly learn something new — you sneaky parent, you!

1. Stop Buying Toys — Kidnap One Instead

It never fails. Your kid possesses stellar toy radar. It doesn’t matter how quickly, quietly and deftly you move through the store.

Those slippery fingers sneak a toy into the cart, and those eyes move from an innocent “How did that get in there?” to a pitiful “I’ll die of boredom, and if you love me, you’ll save my life by buying this now.” It’s hard to deny those eyes, and kids know it.

Your first step to beating the playtime rut is to stop buying toys on every outing. How often does your kid drop one toy to move onto the next? One day, a toy tsunami will eat you all.

Until then, stop the influx and stealthily pull something out from the back of their toy chest. They’ll eye you with suspicion and reclaim the kidnapped toy in triumph and adventure — if they dare answer your ransom note.

2. Reading Before or After the Movie

Do you have a budding literary genius in your family? Is your kid addicted to movies? Wherever they fall on the reading-movie spectrum, kids always want more when a movie ends.

As soon as they see the trailer, they want to see the movie NOW. Check to see if there’s a book, comic or manga series surrounding the movie. Engage your child in the world of the film to keep them occupied. Read about the characters and the adventures of the actors on set. Keep up with the world after the movie ends.

3. Rules Build Trust and Fun on the Playground

Learning and following playground rules reduces bullying, roughhousing, teasing and injury — of playground injuries, 40 percent result from inadequate supervision. Keeping an eye on your child lets them know you’re around to lend a hand if they have trouble navigating physical, social or emotional situations. Teaching rules surrounding sharing, taking turns and open communication build trust and fun on the playground.

You can’t watch your kid all the time, and your child will learn more about when to stick up for themselves and how to communicate effectively while making the most of their imaginings and adventures with their peers.

4. Bring Back Pretend Play

What happened to the days a cardboard box and helmet were all you needed for a great day of pretend play? Probably that time your mom caught you bobsledding down the stairs. Oops. At least you wore a helmet.

Pretend play engages children in emotional and social life roles, and the ability to use imagination to explore these roles opens up areas of creative thought, rationalization and empathy in the brain. When a child plays pretend with their toys, they often narrate or have conversations, which builds language skills.

Bring back pretend play by creating a dress-up area for your child. Fill a chest or storage box with old costumes, clothes, accessories, uniforms, shoes and accessories. Add puppets and other fun items to engage their imagination.

5. Go Outside

Get your hands dirty and plant new flowers together. When they encounter bugs, take a photo and learn about each bug together. Talk about which ones are good for the soil and how bees and butterflies get their food.

Go to the park or bike around the local lake. Create a scavenger hunt in the backyard. Hike a nature trail nearby with the whole family. Nature is good for you, and a change of scenery livens up summer adventures.

6. Cook Together

Kids may appreciate your efforts in the kitchen and eat a wider variety of the food when they participate in making snacks and meals. Kids of all ages can help, from washing produce to using the masher to mash the potatoes.

Kids get to learn measurements and practice their reading skills when they learn to follow a recipe. With experience, they learn to experiment by thinking outside the recipe.

7. Get Crafty

Working on crafts together is a great way to build hand and eye coordination and pass the time. Make sock puppets together. Use paper plates to create masks. Build a fort out of cardboard. Make jewelry with macaroni and buttons.

If you head to the craft store, let your child pick out some of their own supplies. This will make them feel more excited about what they create.

Use these tips to keep playtime fun this summer. Most of the boredom results from doing the same thing until it gets old. That means it’s time to flex those imagination muscles by engaging in pretend play and getting out and about.

This summer, your child will never see cardboard or macaroni the same way again. If you sneak a little learning in, then you achieve several parenting wins. Most of all, you and your kid spend fun and engaging quality time together.

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