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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

12 Boredom Busters for Stir-Crazy Kids

By Christina Katz 

This summer set the tone that a little learning is an important part of each day. Here is a roundup of 12 ways to keep your kids’ minds active.

1. Sign up for your library summer reading program. Set a minimum reading time each day of 30–60 minutes. Or break reading time into two 30-minute chunks—one for a parent-approved book and the other for whatever your child chooses to read. 

2. Plant a garden together. Consult illustrated gardening books by Sharon Lovejoy, and then think about what your family likes to eat and plant accordingly. If your family loves pizza, plant a pizza garden. If fresh salsa is your thing, plant a salsa garden.

3. Visit local nature centers, Audubon societies, and nearby gardens. Make a list and plan to hit all the regional natural destinations, such as the Mendocino Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg and the Environmental Discovery Center in Spring Lake Park in Santa Rosa. Then plan a weekly outing and bring along a picnic. On the way home, use a game of “I Spied” (instead of “I Spy”) to review what you have seen and learned. 

4. Research a future vacation. Let each child pick their own destination and figure out what it would cost for the family to spend one week there, including airfare, transportation, meals, hotels, and everything else. Have them present their proposed vacations to the whole family, showing the math writ large on poster board. Who knows, they just might talk you into a trip you hadn’t thought of yourself. 

5. Have a word of the day. Put the word in large letters at the top of a page with the definition just below. Hang the word on the fridge and make a game out of using it in sentences all day long. 

6. Keep a “How I Spent My Summer Scrapbook.” Choose a blank-page, over-sized book with ample pages for writing, collaging, collecting, and embellishing. Set aside time to work on “summer books” for a half hour every day at whatever time of day works best. Let kids decide whether or not to keep it private or share the results with the family. 

7. Sign up for BrainPop. This educational website has more than 1,000 short animated movies for kids ages 6–17, making it the perfect substitute teacher for your kids. Best of all, they can pursue topics that interest them. Check with your child’s school library to see if they have free access to BrainPop Jr. for K–third grade. Otherwise a subscription is money well spent on entertaining enrichment. 

8. Visit friends and family around the world. Start with a list of friends and family you know all over the globe. Then once a week, choose a destination and take an hour to really explore it via Google Earth and by researching online information. Expand your geographic horizons further by video-calling your friends or family and informally interviewing them about the area where they live. Post a map on the wall and stick a tack in each location you virtually visit. 

9. Think beyond the lemonade stand. Terrific lessons about business, sales, and marketing will be learned when you create your child’s version of the lemonade stand. Why not sell old toys, baked goods, or artwork as a lesson in entrepreneurism? 

10. Commit to a cause. If your child loves animals, see if you can spend some time volunteering at a local animal shelter. If she or he is a regular fashionista, why not throw a trashion show to raise money for a local charity? Even a trip to your local food bank or letting your kids come with you while you give blood is a life lesson that keeps on giving. 

11. Share your childhood favorites. Did you love to make friendship bracelets or collect comic books? Did your husband learn to play guitar or practice scouting skills in the backyard? Summer is the perfect time to share your favorite hobbies and summer pastimes with your kids. 

12. Admire intelligence. Find healthy and smart virtual role models for your tween or teen to study. For example, if your young lady loves entropy and dissecting frogs, she might enjoy trying some home experiments created by Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Learn more at Make a list of virtual summer tutors for each child and indulge in customized summer learning. 

Christina Katz is a mom and freelance writer at