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9 School Holiday Boredom Busters

by

Sabrina Rogers-Anderson

Illustration of a child lying on a chair looking bored

Ahhhhh… school holidays. We all can’t wait to have a break from the constant rush of everyday life, but cries of ‘I’m bored!’ can start to ring through the house just a few days into the holidays. Not this year, proactive parents! With our expert tips, you’ll find the right balance between much-needed unstructured time and stimulating activities to keep boredom at bay.

Educational and Developmental Psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien notes that free time is important not only for the family budget, but also for children’s development and wellbeing. “Parents might think unstructured time isn’t exciting, but children have little of it during the school year, so they appreciate long stretches of time without structured activities,” she explains. “Being bored also has the potential to trigger creativity as children become more innovative and eager to work with their surroundings.”

So, how much time should be devoted to structured activities versus free play? “If parents have to work during school holidays, they may lock in some school holiday programs and have grandparents or other parents on the roster to help out,” says Dr Kimberley. “That might cover two days per week and parents might work from home the other three days if they can. When their children are at home, parents can create a loose schedule, such as crafts in the morning, cooking at lunchtime and games in the afternoon. They can let their children come up with activities or suggest ideas and help them get started.”

Need some school holiday activity inspiration? Here are nine inexpensive and stimulating school holiday boredom busters.

1. Create coupon books

“Ask your children to think of 10 different activities they’d like to do during the school holidays,” says Dr Kimberley. “They shouldn’t be fancy or expensive activities, but rather simple things like having a sleepover, a day at the beach or a family snowball fight if you live in a colder climate. They can then create a coupon book and write down each activity on a coupon.”

At dinnertime, ask each child to pick a coupon for the next day. You can then make a schedule and roster on different carers for each activity. Children will love being involved in planning each day and you’ll have some structure that will allow you to get other things done.

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2. Engage in entrepreneurial activities

It’s never too early to teach your children about entrepreneurship. “Aside from the traditional car washes and lemonade stands that are great fun, you can help your children set up a business walking dogs, taking neighbours’ bins out or shovelling snow,” says Dr Kimberley.

After helping them brainstorm all the steps they need to take to get set up - such as making flyers, placing them in mailboxes, creating a work calendar and so on - let your children do as many tasks as possible by themselves. Assist them only when they ask for help or when they need supervision for their safety. You’ll have savvy little businesspeople by the time school starts again!

3. Organise a toy swap

Out with the old, in with the new! Declutter your house by asking your children to choose 5 to 10 toys they have outgrown. They can either donate them to charity or organise a toy swap with their friends.

“Each child brings five toys that are in good condition and the children create a market and set up a shop front with their pre-loved toys,” explains Dr Kimberley. “They then take turns choosing items from the market until all the toys have new homes. It’s a great way to teach children to reduce waste by giving pre-loved items a new life.”

4. Conduct science experiments

Your children can still learn during the school holidays - but if you play your cards right, they won't even notice because they’ll be having so much fun!

“Science experiments allow children to learn while they’re creating something new and awe-inspiring,” says Kimberley. “There are plenty of YouTube channels, such as Fun Science and The Dad Lab, that feature step-by-step instructions using simple materials like magnets and paper. They’ll love it!”

5. Get into outdoor play

Children may resist going outside if they have unlimited access to their screens, so make a deal with them: for every hour they spend outdoors, they will earn 15 minutes of screen time. 

“If you live in a warm climate, you might pull out the sprinkler or Slip ‘n’ Slide for some water play,” says Dr Kimberley. “In cold weather, bundle the children up and send them outside to make a snowman or snow angels. The fresh air and physical activity will do wonders for their mood and wellbeing.”

6. Make a rainbow salad

“Children love to eat food they’ve made themselves, so this is the perfect opportunity to teach them how to make a healthy salad that’s packed with vitamins and nutrients,” says Dr Kimberley. “If they’re old enough, you can even start encouraging them to pack their own lunches when school starts again!”

Collect a rainbow of raw ingredients - green kale and spinach, purple cabbage, red and yellow capsicums, grated carrot, nuts and seeds, avocado and whatever else takes your children’s fancy. Have each child chop or grate some ingredients and place them in a bowl. They can then whip up a simple dressing (1 tbsp vinegar + 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil + 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard + a pinch of salt and pepper) and voila! They’ll even learn some math skills along the way as they measure the ingredients.

7. Make slime or playdough

If your child is a sensory seeker or simply likes the feeling of playing with different textures, there are plenty of easy and non-messy slime and playdough recipes they can make. Try this super-easy ooblek recipe, this fluffy slime recipe or this no-bake playdough recipe.

“Not only does playing with slime and ooblek develop children’s fine motor skills and provide an outlet for children who have hyperactivity or sensory issues, it’s such a simple and fun activity to pull off at home,” says Dr Kimberley. “If you’re worried about it being messy, set up a table outside and let your children go for it.”

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Flower in a Pot

8. Go for a daily walk

“A daily walk is a great way to bond as a family and get some exercise,” says Dr Kimberley. “Your children might take a little convincing at first, but they’ll probably come to look forward to the walk because it’s part of their school holiday routine.”

You might go out first thing in the morning and listen to the birds chirping or after dinner to enjoy the sights and sounds of the night. For an added element of adventure, bring a torch and search for animals, insects and birds.

9. Connect with your neighbours

“Ask your children to make small gifts for your neighbours, such as craft projects or bunches of flowers,” says Dr Kimberley. “Walk around the neighbourhood and pop the gifts in letterboxes or on doorsteps. You can even leave a note for elderly neighbours offering to help mow their lawns or do their grocery shopping. Your children will learn a lot from watching you reach out to and connect with people in your community.”

With these entertaining activities under your belt, you’ll be ready to bust school holiday boredom when it hits! You may even want to print this article and stick it on your fridge for easy reference. But remember that a little boredom is good for children and they should be given some unstructured time to do what they want. Enjoy your holidays!

Need help? We’re here for you

The Quirky Kid Clinic is a unique place for children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years. We work from the child’s perspective to help them find their own solutions.

If your child has lost interest in their regular activities or seems despondent, book a session with one of our experienced child psychologists.

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