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Keep your kids from getting bored this summer

July 01, 1999

We're bored."

"It's too hot."

"There's nothing to do."

Summertime - and the whining is easy. Are your kids squandering yet another summer vacation, slumped in front of the TV or video screen? Can't afford to pack them off for costly camps or trips? Reader's Digest magazine offers these tips on making those lazy, hazy days more enriching for the entire family.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Keep them thinking

For too many kids, summer is an intellectual dead zone - they actually lose knowledge from the previous school year and are at a competitive disadvantage when the new term rolls around. For parents, the answer is not to become a substitute teacher, but to find new ways to keep young minds active. Comparing grocery prices or taking measurements for a new treehouse can sharpen math skills. Car trips are an opportunity to study maps and geography.

Get a recommended reading list or other materials to help prepare for next fall. Look into summer programs at local colleges, zoos, museums or libraries - but make sure that they truly fit your youngster's interests and abilities.

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Make family fun a priority

A picnic dinner, a game of catch or tag, a half-hour gazing at the stars can help a busy family build the bonds that will car

ry kids through the hectic school year ahead. An afternoon rest time can help young children stay up later for more time with working parents.

It's the daily doses of stimulation - intellectual, creative, esteem-building - that can have the greatest impact.

One study found that, compared with troubled teenagers, successful college students had enjoyed more spontaneous playful activities with their parents through the years. The poorly adjusted teens had spent more time alone, with TV or video games their only companions.

Establish responsibilities

Whether it's pitching in with kitchen or garden chores, community volunteer work or mowing an elderly neighbor's lawn, responsibility builds maturity and self-esteem - the qualities that can help young people succeed and stay out of trouble.

Where parents fail, experts warn, is in presenting these responsibilities as punishments instead of challenges. Don't nag about chores and tasks, first try simply setting a deadline, and let your child decide when and how to meet it.

Don't overschedule

Summer camp, piano lessons, Little League they're all great - but loading up on too many structured activities can prevent youngsters from learning how to manage free time for themselves.

A reasonable amount of unstructured time allows them to use their initiative and develop creative outlets. And think back to your own childhood - spontaneous family activities often produce the warmest summer memories of all.

Summer vacation may be the biggest block of time you'll ever have with your children. A little prodding, planning and creativity can make those months a rewarding time for everyone.

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