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Today's Family Magazine

Create lasting summer memories with UNprogrammed activities

Aug 01, 2016 12:42PM ● By Today's Family
By Stacy Turner

While I’m probably as guilty as the next mom of trying to squeeze in as much fun into the remaining days before my kids go back to school, I’m trying to be mindful not to over-program my kids’ days.  While they’ve each participated in sports and camp activities and have had their share of sleepovers with friends, we’ve also made sure they’ve had plenty of unstructured time at home.  Initially they complained of being bored, but eventually their imaginations kicked in and the results have been pretty entertaining -- both for them and for my husband and me.

My youngest, a lover of all creatures great and small, has discovered the secret life of the squirrels who dine under our backyard bird feeder. (Think ‘Meerkat Manor’ northern Ohio edition.)  During mealtimes, she watches out the window and regales us with tales of the antics of Rusty Bucket (a mutant black squirrel with a red-tipped tail) and his family, Mr. and Mrs. Bucket and his sister, Loretta.  Luckily, the little family has escaped the notice of our critter-hunting cat, Big Red, whose focus is on reducing the local rabbit population.  With Rusty Bucket and the ever-present circle of life being played out, it’s a little like a live version of the Animal Planet at our house.

In addition to observing wildlife, my girls also have time to invent new games.  They’ve got one they’ve named “splash test.”  While it seems like self-administered water-boarding to me, it keeps them cool and busy during the sticky, humid late summer days.  The detainee, I mean participant, sits in a lawn chair in front of a five-gallon bucket filled with ice cold hose water.  The other person asks a series of questions, and if the participant answers incorrectly, they have to dunk their head in the bucket.  If they get the correct answer, they stay dry.  The topics range from favorite foods to questions about TV shows and movies.  As far as I know, no state secrets have been revealed.  The game continues for five questions, but if the participant gets the fifth question wrong, no matter how many others they’ve answered correctly, they have to dunk their head in the bucket for five full seconds.  Interestingly enough, while neither child knows what they want to be when they grow up, something tells me they may have a future in the CIA.  Amazingly, they both want a turn in the chair, which tells me either it’s a really fun game, or I need to turn up the air conditioner.

But it can’t be all fun and games. Sometimes my kids need to go with me to do boring things like shopping.  And even though they’re totally bored at the grocery store, they learned that coming along and not whining means they may get to pick out the fun cereals and frozen treats.  They also need to come along to shop for socks and underwear, since they’re too old to like anything I’d choose for them on my own. 

Recently, I enlisted their help to choose a new bathing suit for myself that would be appropriate for the local water park.  After refusing what they referred to as old lady suits, they chose several kid-approved options.  My youngest joined me in the dressing room where, giggling, she informed me that the two-piece options they chose offered “a little too much show and tell.”  Eventually, we agreed on a modest tank, and our shopping trip reached a merciful end.

But no matter when your summer ends, give your kids the chance to stretch their imaginations.  Who knows what feats of imagination can be found inside a simple (Rusty) bucket or during a mundane shopping trip.  So as August arrives, don’t give in to the pressure to try and pack fun and exciting adventures into every last minute.  Give your kids the chance to be bored -- that’s where some of the best memories can happen.

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