It could be the age, a backfire of school year over scheduling, or he may truly need more stimulation than I can (willingly) provide? I do encourage independent play, reading, and chores if I'm completely fed up, but he seems happier and more well adjusted when he is in school or camp. Is anyone else having a difficult summer with their kiddo? Are structured summer camps the way to go? Wisdom from parents whose children manage to occupy themselves without flooding the bathroom or requiring a list of productive activiies from their mother?
I've worked hard to help my kids learn to solve their own aimlessness. When they were little, I'd ask them simple either-or questions: do you feel like doing something inside or outside? by yourself or with someone? active or quiet? And if they could answer those questions I'd then direct them to the appropriate section on a fridge-list of possible activities that we had brainstormed together. If they couldn't answer those questions, then I'd get to decide, and that usually meant housework or a walk outside. Or they could just deal with their boredom, but I'd ask them not to complain to me about it.
I think that learning to solve your own aimlessness is a really good life skill. In the medium- to long-term, allowing fallow time tends to lead to inspiration and creativity. Although in the short-term, it can be tough on parents -- and kids -- to endure. Still, without opportunities to learn how to self-start, I don't think kids will tend to get much better at it.
So I guess my suggestion would be to actively teach him strategies for solving his own boredom ... and if that fails, put him to work on housework, or go for a hike. Meaningful work alongside a parent, or time outdoors in the natural world, those things count for a lot too.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
My youngest (now 12) doesn't handle longs breaks too well. He's extroverted and craves a huge amount of social interaction. We don't live in a neighborhood with kids. His closest friends live 20-30 minutes away so it takes planning to get them together. His sister is an active teenager and busy.... she, like me, is also introverted and we go a little bonkers with the rather manic chatter that often takes him over when he's feeling isolated. DH works his longest hours in the summer because that's busy time in his field. DS can only really handle a week or two at a time of "summer." After that, he gets depressed and lethargic. A 6 week block would be pretty miserable for him.
We have learned to break up the summer.... sprinkle about the activity. He gets 11 weeks of vacation. He generally does 3 weeks of camp (2 weeks in July and 1 in August.) He often does a show that rehearses through June and performs weekends in July. He chooses to continue with piano and tae kwon do year round. He's added league basketball to the mix (rec ball... not the uber intense club sports.) This still leaves him with lots of hours to fill on his own, plenty of days with "nothing", even some weeks with only 3 or 4 hours planned out but keeps him feeling energized and happy.
Just because you have unstructured time and are not over scheduled, doesn't mean you should stop a routine. In our house, regression and rudeness come out when the structure of the day falls by the wayside.
I spend my summers working from home with my kids doing half camps and half unscheduled. I don't stack the unscheduled weeks several on end, but instead intersperse them throughout. They must entertain themselves for several hours at a stretch so I can work.
Chores, independent play, and reading aren't something for when you're at the end of your rope or when your child complains of boredom, but instead should be part of the day. When my kids have 100% unscheduled weeks, they still must get dressed in the morning, do their chores, read, and play together nicely. They go to bed at their bedtime. They also must get a significant amount of physical activity daily (thankfully we have a public pool a few blocks away that does a free, low key swim team that accepts all kids that can either swim 1 length of the pool or at least can touch in the 4' "deep" end), eat meals at regular times (minimal snacking), and invite friends over regularly.
Thank you for thoughtful responses. One of the reasons I have him home with me for the first half of summer is to work with him on structuring his own time. It could be some growing pains on both our parts. I appreciate the advice- we do stick with a routine (agree, very important). I like the "activities on the refrigerator door" suggestion. My son is prone to power struggles and if he has his own list of activities that he may choose from, it may help (i.e. the irony is that he is bored, he wants me to solve the problem but doesn't want me to "choose" for him- sigh:).
I absolutely agree that he needs to learn to solve "aimlessness." Constantly providing (or being) entertainment for kids can't be good for them in the long run. I do think that I can do a better job next summer of sprinkling some 1/2 day camps during June. Large, full day, day camps aggravate his anxiety (another reason I thought to limit camps this summer). We are lucky to have some smaller camps for gifted kids in our area, and some hands on art and science camps.
Do any of your kids have mild social anxiety? (off topic, but curious). He acts ridiculously silly and immature when he first goes into a social situation with new kids/adults.
Yes, whatnextmom, I can relate- my son went on a short reading strike and substituted it by talking constantly (more than usual). I am literally waking up to him speaking into my ear every morning. I am an introvert, and the persistent talking has been a source of friction- I love hearing what he has to say, but I need quiet time to recharge.
I have noticed the change from school to holidays is really hard on dd.
as she got older she wanted more company.
she is very social and needs to be around people. nowadays more her type of people.
I think its a good idea to sign up for some sort of camp. dd mostly has been doing camp from age 7 onwards - sometimes just one week, this year its 3 weeks.
mostly though since most of my friends work I have their kids over for sleepovers. dd loves that. the kids unfortunately have moved away from the area.
if dd had other kids in the neighborhood to play with then summers have never been a problem.
with camps one thing I have found - I sign dd up at least 3 or 4 weeks after school ends. except for this year, other years dd has needed that time to get school out of her system. I learnt my mistake signing her up for camp a week after school was over. a half day camp and she struggled to sit through it. even though it was acting camp.
at 9 dd went away 2 hours flight away to a camp which she enjoyed thoroughly a week after school. because it was so far away and so different and full of activities that she never missed home and had a great time. I have found she has much more fun at overnight camps rather than half day camps.
Well, our were our lists were specific to the child and to our home and our available options. Stuff like throw sticks for dog, play violin review repertoire, collect kindling and pinecones (fire starter), picnic in treehouse, rake the bike trail, play with chickens, pick wildflower bouquet, tree swing...
But I think part of the value of such a list is in the process of creating it with your child, by brainstorming and adding ideas as you live your days, sorting through possibilities.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
I gave in a bit and am letting him read the Percy Jackson series. I'm not crazy about his choice, but promised him more autonomy in his reading selections (as long as it isn't too inappropriate). He is enthralled (spent two hours of quiet reading time today) which contributed to a calming atmosphere at our house:)
Personally, I would love to have him reading sweet younger children's classics like Paddington Bear - he wants to read Calvin and Hobbes and Percy Jackson! I sense this will be an ongoing theme in our mom/son relationship;)
Oh, gotcha. I guess we have different philosophies on reading material. My kids were not particularly sensitive and they seemed to self-censor just fine.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
thanks Miranda, that was helpful. I think we shall create a fridge list for afternoon and weekends. Our summer vacations are much shorter and we shall be away for half the time anyway (mostly seaside) so I hope that longer term projects aren't needed.
I think dd was 5 when I no longer could guess what would scare her and what wouldn't. when she started K. mostly where movies were concerned. I was sheltering her when I discovered she had watched HP, March of the Penguins with her dad and was fine. the goblins in the spiderwick chronicles frightened her about 6 months after she read them.
I thought hunger games would be inappropriate for her in 4th grade because of the moral issues (and she hones in to those kinds of issues) and she begged me to read them since half her class had already read the series. so she read them and it was no big deal.
so I stopped guessing at K what dd could and couldn't read/watch.
some are obvious though. for instance in movies what scares her are Alfred hitchcocky type of movies or books - like coralline for instance. yet she can sit through HP, LOTR (books and movie).
however I am also the kind that does not censor. I offer suggestions but its up to her to take it or not. however I was mighty glad when she picked up Twilight in second grade and after a couple of pages decided it wasn't interesting enough for her.
Kids are different - nothing seems to scare my son, but if he hears one bad word or disrespectful phrase he will repeat it anywhere and everywhere for six months.
Maybe work with him on building a reading nook of some kind? (PVC pipe in the garden draped with sheets, sofa cushions in a corner with all the pillows in the house...) purposeful physical activity that creates a space for calm time sometimes works for us.
DS at a little older liked some of the Odyssey and Iliad and Greek myth retellings. Very exciting, but lots of picture books out there with gorgeous illustrations and language. Also lots of King Arthur and Robin Hood, if you're looking for something alongside Percy Jackson.
Crafty Crow has some fun summer idea links. The Long Thread has a nice list of summer crafts:
I have signed up my two boys for 3 weeks of camp, spread throughout the summer. I realized a few years ago that it's kind of a sanity must for us, even though we can hardly afford it. In between, they do have each other to play with, which lasts for varying amounts of time before things get too rambunctious or dangerous... sometimes very short amounts of time.
Anyway, they do rotate between some different kinds of activities throughout the day, among "stations" that I have set up over time. There is a reading nook with bookshelf in a quiet corner of the house, and another bunch of books and reading area in the living room (the playroom), which they use throughout the day. The thing that keeps them most busy though is the craft table - stocked with paper, scissors, markers, crayons, tape, leftover cardboard, etc. Endless projects happen there, making books, pictures, games, charts, codes, everything. When we're at the library I try to pick up a crafty book that I think will grab one of the boys, in addition to what they pick for themselves, to provide a bit of an activity. Like a yo-yo how-to book, or simple science experiments with household objects, simple origami, that sort of thing. For outside - we got a pitchback this spring, to get some practice throwing balls and catching. Great to have. Sidewalk chalk gets lots of use - The 3D glasses that come with some sets are fun to play with.
I like the idea of a list of ideas posted somewhere. I haven't tried it yet. And one idea for routine might be to schedule in a mom-time every day, so he can know that at 10:30 or whatever, you'll cook something together, or play a game, etc. Breaks up the day and might help pre-empt some of the need to go to you for ideas, "filling his cup" so to speak.
I don't know, as I feel I spend plenty of time directing mine (often just telling them IT'S OUTSIDE TIME!!!), and we do an outing every day to a playground, etc., and I'm still needed much of the time. The start of summer especially can be hard. I think they get into the rhythm of it eventually though? And yes, the lack of school/camp is hard.
I work so there's no option of staying home, DD goes to camps. She is an only and an extrovert and there are few kids in our neighborhood, so it's a challenge to keep her in kids.
But I also appreciate the idea of dealing with aimlessness. I do try to give her unstructured time on the weekends to get creative with her time. I can't stand to hear "I'm bored" and her choices are do chores or find something to do. She will usually find something to do, or the chore will lead to something creative.