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5 creative ways to fight summer boredom

Published On: Apr 10 2012 02:08:41 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 09 2013 08:55:24 AM CDT
Bored teenage girl on couch

iStock / Samlyn_Studio

Summer is nearly here and you know That Moment is coming. Sure, you can keep it at bay by signing your kids up for summer band, softball and art camp. But they are always drawn back to the television. Or computer. Or that text-filled phone.

And then it happens. You can't stop it. The acidy question spews forth uncontrolled from the bile in your belly, even though you already know the dreadful answer.
"Why don't you get off the couch and go do something with your summer? It's beautiful outside!"
"Eh. Everything's boring."
Sigh. But take heart -- this scene can be avoided. It's not too late to get your kids out into the world this summer to learn a little something about their neighbors, the environment -- and themselves. All it takes is a little planning and dash of creativity. Really!
Here are five ideas to get your own brainstorming started ...

Girl gardening vegetables

No. 5: Kids meet food

Research suggests children are getting further from understanding what real food is. In Jaime Oliver's TV show "Food Revolution," first-graders couldn't identify fruits and vegetables that included tomatoes and potatoes.

So make an introduction: Kids, meet food! It's a good time to start a life-long friendship.

The eat-local movement is spreading fast and Michelle Obama is even making it ... cool. There is a fast-growing library of resources available that show parents how to teach children important life lessons about the food chain, the food industry and nutrition.
Start by making a weekly trip to the local farmer's market. Then plan your own garden. Or find a community garden or school yard with a willing principal. A few basic garden tools, seed packets and a tomato plant or two are not expensive. Organize a gardening bash -- invite your kid's friends and parents for an afternoon of getting really muddy.

Lemonade stand for charity

No. 4: Save the world

Think back to questions your children have asked over the years. Why does that man live on the sidewalk? How does trash get in the ocean? Why are they closing the library?
Kids reawaken parents' social consciousness. Make this the summer you find a solution together for a neighborhood or world problem, even a small solution.

To get started, brainstorm some issues and do a little research together. Then get creative and outline some projects that would make your children feel like they made a difference.
A few ideas: Devise an innovative way to help a local nonprofit raise money. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Launch a benefit for Haiti.

Map out a plan for saving energy in your home and track the results on bills. Join an effort to build a school overseas. Organize a protest of government budget cuts that hurt families. Form a kid-driven group to save that library.

Family running together

No. 3: Get fit -- together

You're thinking: ugh, I'll skip this one -- click. But wait! If you are thinking that, your kids probably would, too.
The trick here is finding something new and unusual. Try brainstorming 10 ideas together.

Pick up your city's park and recreation summer catalog. Look for something offbeat, like a rowing class, archery or training for a kids triathlon. Buy an outdoor ping-pong table. String up a badminton net. Buy your own RipStik (your kids know what this is) and ask them for a lesson.
If they are old enough, empower them to be your fitness trainer, work out together and shoot for an end-of-summer race. Look for a way to make it wacky or cool -- vow to jog along every street on your side of town and map it out after each run.
If you do this right -- working up a red-faced sweat, showing discomfort, traces of vulnerability -- your kids might find that even more compelling than TV.

Mother, daughter using laptop computer

No. 2: Find your roots

If your kids have been planted in front of the tube they might know the show "Who Do You Think You Are?" The genealogy program demonstrates that sleuthing your family's ancestral history can be an emotional adventure and that geography and history aren't boring.

It also reinforces that anyone can do a little family research.
A number of online resources, some of them free, help the budding genealogist get started and make a daunting task seem doable. Many communities have genealogy clubs.
Another way to get to know your family members is to ... talk to them. The nonprofit group StoryCorps encourages people to record interviews with family members to learn more about them and preserve their stories for future generations.

You can hear compelling stories at the StoryCorps website, which is also a guide for anyone who wants to undertake their own project.

Family doing fireworks

No. 1: Get to know your neighbors

Last year, 36 million people celebrated National Night Out in all 50 states. Millions organized block parties and family activities with their neighbors for the annual August event. Organize your own this year.
Block parties are a great way to finally talk to people you've merely swapped hellos with for years, and they offer you and your children a fun opportunity to party plan.

One suggestion: print out a block map and have your neighbors write their names on their house. Then mail everyone a copy.
Other ideas: Organize street-painting parties where kids brighten up intersections with multicolored designs (check with the city first). Organize a neighborhood scavenger hunt that ends with a barbecue in your back yard.

Or sit out on the front porch or steps with blowing bubbles, sidewalk chalk -- and a cooler of cold drinks for passersby. Help a neighbor with yardwork. Host a backyard campout.