Monday, August 20, 2012

{The Gift of an Hour}

My children aren't allowed to use the "b" word in our home. Therefore, the minute it's uttered, the violating child is put to work. Because there's plenty to do around here, that's for sure.

This doesn't always prevent them from finding ways around it, however. Sometimes, rather than saying it outright, "I'm bored!" They cloak it a bit differently: "I don't know what to do . . . " Whine, whine.

Ah, the burden of pint-sized ennui. 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

I find myself getting offended and actually kind of angry when my children exhibit this behavior. As though I have failed them and they haven't enough imagination to fill the burden of an empty hour. (Oh, to have such a burden.) What is wrong with these people?

It recently occurred to me that anger isn't the best solution. (Light bulb.)

When my children are whining for something to do, this is my opportunity to share with them the many ways in which they can fill an hour. They might not necessarily like all of the options, but here again is an opportunity: sometimes we just need to do what needs to be done. And it feels so good when we accomplish it, too.

My response in these moments is key. When my kids whine at me, my instinct is to whine back. But they're much more likely to see the gift that an hour can be when I help them meet it with anticipation. Think of all that could be done in this moment!

I try to bear in mind a line that I picked up from Charlotte Mason's writing years ago. Each day, our children should have “Something to love, something to do and something to think about.” It's a great responsibility as a parent to provide such opportunities, but if we are meeting those needs in our own lives then we are much more likely to set a healthy example for our children.

I've found that the simple diversion of a chore frequently leads to creativity. Children (and adults!) just need that productive space of time to get the ideas flowing.

For example, the bored child will be asked to put away the LEGOs all over his bedroom floor while we think of an activity. This chore invariably leads to the creation of many LEGO spaceships. Voila! The child is no longer bored. As long as the original chore is performed, mama is thrilled to let the creations continue.

My older children have greater responsibility in their day. I appeal to this when they hint at boredom. They are old enough to understand that lounging about with a lolling tongue is less than desirable. I still give them options, but here again when they get started on a chore it usually leads to creativity and the discovery that there's so much to enjoy.

When I sense that ennui is en route (you know, that pesky afternoon hour), I often have the kids rest in their rooms with books. An hour of quiet is sure to perk them up, and soon they're bursting to do anything and everything under the sun.

One way that I encourage my kids' creativity is to suggest activities that I did with my own siblings (puppet shows, bike races, dressing up the dog . . .). There's something kind of cool about doing what mom or dad did as a kid. (I'm reluctant to have Daddy share his childhood ideas. Someone's bound to get injured, I just know it.)

Pinterest is also a great resource! I've seen tons of ideas that can be written on popsicle sticks and placed in a jar on the counter top. The burdened child need only grab a stick to find inspiration. Imagine that.

Now. At this point I must state the obvious: we are not perfect. My kids still whine from time to time and I still whine . . . a lot. We have plenty of regrettable "Oh just stick them in front of the TV!" kinds of days. But we are learning. Which is a pretty great thing to do.

That said, here's a list of 20 diversions that we often turn to. They can all be done at home, indoors. Which is quite practical if you live in a Very Rainy State. Maybe our list will help add a little spark to your day, too.

1. Find "dollar jobs" around the house for your child to complete. A job well done and the kids add a buck to their piggy bank. (My mom did this with us. My kids love it, too.)

2. Make cookies, muffins, etc. I've never yet met a kid who doesn't like to make (and devour) cookies.

3. Have a game relay. Set up three or four board games. Rotate from one game to the next, setting a timer for three minutes. Every time the buzzer goes off, move to the next game. Continue playing each game, three minutes at a time. This one's a hoot.

4. Make a blanket fort.

5. Have an indoor relay race. Cotton balls on spoons, jumping with a ball between the knees, etc.

6. Play library. The kids take turns being the librarian and get to read books aloud to "the class."

7. Turn the kitchen into a diner, complete with menus.

8. Take pictures of each other.

9. Write a letter to a grandparent or cousin.

10. Perform a skit or puppet show.

11. Host a living room circus, complete with stuffed animals and beautiful ladies.

12. Make play dough.

13. Let them take a bath in the middle of the day. (This is a great diversion for especially little ones.)

14. Have a fashion show. (This is not limited to girls in dresses. Boys may desire to create and display Star Wars garb. You never know.) 

15. Freeze dance party! Turn the music up. Hit pause every once in a while and everyone freezes.

16. Whip up a picnic lunch or tea party. Enjoy it in the back yard or on a blanket in your living room.

17. Make a magazine doll house. A manilla folder decorated on the inside with cut-out furniture pasted in a homey arrangement is a lovely place for a paper doll to play.

18. Write, shoot and edit a mini-movie. Older kids will enjoy running this operation.

19. Make a book for a younger relative or friend. The kids can write and illustrate an original picture book to give as a special gift.

20. Host a concert. Wee hooligans love to lip sync. And it's pretty hilarious to watch, too.  

What can you add to our list? My kids (and their mother) thank you in advance.

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  1. The next time someone hints at b---dom, please DO suggest number 9 ;D



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