For most of us, the dog days of winter are making their presence felt through cooped up kids who love to say the three dreaded words…I AM BORED!!! Being a mom to three kids, I have heard my share of “I am bored.” But how do we stop this and create engaging and active ways for them to play inside?
As parents, it’s our responsibility to come up with creative ways to fight the boredom and not just put a screen in front of them for the winter. According to the market research firm Childwise, “Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995" (http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32067158). This is unacceptable, but is definitely easy to do and I have been guilty of it as well.
There are lots of different types of toys you can buy for your kids, and there’s nothing worse than a closed-ended toy that they are done with after 10 minutes. Finding toys that are truly open-ended, giving them numerous ways to play and actually holding their attention for extended periods of time is extremely challenging. Here are some ideas we have...
- ROBOTS & PROGRAMMING: Dash & Dot
- Company Description: Kids define how they want to play. Whether you’re into hosting make-believe tea parties, having jousts at magical kingdoms, or adventuring with friends, Dash & Dot will be there every step of the way. Children ages 6 to 12 learn the foundations of problem solving and computer programming as they have fun with Dash & Dot. In addition to the robots and apps, their website offers a variety of fun activity ideas and challenges for you to take on with your new robot friends. Start with these and then invent your own uses for Dash & Dot.
- MOVIE MAKING: Stikbot Studio
- Company Description: You create. You animate. You SHARE! Stikbot is the social-sharing, easy to pose figurine Standing 3-inches tall, Stikbot's suction cup-tipped limbs will adhere to almost any flat surface allowing for easy posing for photographs and stop-animation filming. Stikbot Studio Pro comes with 2 figures and a green screen. Also includes a free app for iPhone and Android. Stikbot.
- BUILDING TOYS: Marble Genius Marble Run Toys
- At Marble Genius, we obviously have a little bias here, but we continually get positive feedback regarding the fact that not only is it fun to build our toys, but you actually get to play with them when you are done! Most building toys like Lego have a construction element, but once the toy is built there's not much else to do other than go build another one.
- We like to dump the box of marble run pieces out and let the creative thinking begin. My kids are still amazed at what they are creating and love to have races with the marbles, all without knowing they are developing hand-eye coordination, logical thinking, and problem-solving skills. This year, I’ve also enjoyed allowing my inner child to come out to help my children build forts, obstacle courses, and my personal favorite, Hot Lava. As an extra bonus, we enjoy using the marble runs within our obstacle course.
Sometimes, we avoid buying open-ended toys because we see our children stop playing with them after the novelty has worn off. The most frequent question about a toy: “Will my child continue to play with it or will it just collect dust?”
Let’s change our thinking here. If children stop playing with an item, parents may think that the failure lies with the toy. Really, no one is at fault. Perhaps the child is just not feeling inspired. They are human, and we can’t expect them to be creative all the time. When children—and even adults—feel this uninspired, they want to just buy more to fill the void again and again.
When I see that my children are becoming bored or ignoring their open-ended toys, I just start playing with the toys by myself. I do not invite them to join me, but they always end up joining. They’ll sit beside me and say, “Hey Mom, look what I made!” The inspiration returns, without any nudging or direction. All I had to do was sit down and play first. It works every time.
Winter might challenge families to stay active, but with the right toys and a little creativity, you can turn boredom into a fun family experience.