It’s that time of summer where we are finally in Atlanta visiting Naano, Khala, and Mamoo (the Urdu words for maternal grandmother, maternal aunt and maternal uncle respectively). I look forward to this time obviously because I miss my family and enjoy hanging out with them, but also because I genuinely love seeing them bond with my girl squad. The one thing I don’t look forward to? Figuring out how to keep my kids entertained away from home.
Yes, this is totally a helicopter-parent-generation problem.
Before children, the idea of boredom was simply that of being a small nuisance. I didn’t particularly look forward to boring dinner parties as a child or weekends with no plans as a young adult. But now, the idea of bored toddlers is down right terrifying. I just shuddered from even writing about it! Bored children means a lot more nagging, a lot more clinging, a lot more tantrums, a lot more sibling fights, a lot more messes, and a lot more headaches. (another shudder). And even though I’m not one of those parents that enrolls her kids in tons of summer activities and has their life planned out all summer long, it’s different when you’re at home base. At home we have a routine. We have our structured meal times, nap times, and play times and play materials. We have a set of grandparents 5 minutes away for a change of scenery. We have birthday parties and occasional playdates.
When we’re in Atlanta, all those comforts are gone… and suddenly you’re tripping over tots who are fussing at your feet all day long.
So what’s a mom to do?
In football, defense may be the key to winning championships, but in motherhood, it’s all about the offense. All those lovely parents out there who say “let them be little” and “unstructured play leads to brain development” have completely forgotten that outside of fancy pants parental quotations and scholarly journals, what this all really translates to is “let them be little monsters” and “unstructured play leads to brain cell degeneration in mothers“!
I’m obviously exaggerating a bit. Unstructured play actually is important – it fosters creativity, self-sufficiency, problem-solving skills etc. Yadda yadda. It doesn’t mean that it’s a crime to plan ahead for situations where you know your children will be endlessly bored and can act out like the hoodlums they secretly are.
While the hubs suggested a summer camp as a solution, I didn’t think dealing with them was such a big ordeal that I wanted to send them away…I obviously want them to spend as much time with my family as possible during this short time. And since ignoring them until they’ve exhausted all their whining didn’t work within the first hour of arrival, I decided to get out my trusty planner and get to work.
The goal was one fun activity or outing a day. Here were the first five days:
Day 1: Swimming at the beach area at Lake Lanier
Day 2: Play area in Mall of Georgia and a dance party at home
Day 3: Playground at Piedmont Park and ice cream
Day 4: Toddler story time at LegoLand
Day 5: Home Day
Somewhere in the process of executing these simple outings, I stumbled upon a magic formula:
Keep the plan simple and then hype it up.
Kids don’t need expensive things or break-the-bank activities to make them happy. They’ll be just as happy at a neighborhood splash pad versus a water park at a fancy resort. For toddlers, it’s all about how YOU frame the activity. Their perception of what is exciting is based on how much excitement we show for an activity.
So we spent the first half of our days prepping for the fun: changing into appropriate clothes, talking about our game plan, packing up a bag to take with us, eating a meal or snack that will help us be strong enough for the activity, etc. And then the other half of the day we would talk about how awesome the experience was. We might have even FaceTimed each of our grandparents and cousins and friends and anyone who would answer their phone to tell them how awesome it was. And we waited in anticipation for abba (dad) to get home so we could re-hash with him how awesome it was too!
It got to a point that by the end of the day, even I would be genuinely convinced that forming a human-train while rolling the garbage can to the curb was just so awesome. Like, wow, I’m good, I’ve got this.
Anyway, I know this entire charade is a bit nuts and a bit controlling, BUT IT WORKS! Since this kind of boredom is usually only a summer/holiday problem when kids aren’t in their usual routine, it’s okay to take the offense and plan ahead a little – for your sanity and theirs! I know for a fact that the anticipation of the “fun” we had planned for each day prevented many fights, meltdowns, and nagging sessions that are usually inevitable with three toddlers ages 4 and under. And this allowed all of us to have a little bit more fun together.
If you’re curious, the day at home was eventful too because we did coloring books, made funny videos on Snapchat (ooooooooooohh), and hunted for treasure in Naano’s basement (my mom wanted me to sort through all my crap from college and you know what they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure!).
See how my attitude and framing just changed the perspective on a regular day at home? 🙂
Would love to know what others do to keep their tots busy during summertime…and if you also feel that keeping the kiddos busy and/or getting them out of the house once a day helps the day flow more smoothly! Feel free to share below in the comments!