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bored kids

Tips for dealing with bored kids in a summer like no other

It's not too late to make summer more fun, healthy and even educational.

Let’s be real: This has been a summer like no other.

As virtual school looms on the horizon, our kids are experiencing the all-too-familiar “I’m bored.”

Of course they are: We have been home for nearly half a year! How can we make the most out of the summer that’s left, stay positive about school and the months ahead, and keep physically active? In other words, how do we balance it all?

Every child has different needs, but they all benefit from time learning and time outside. Kids need a combination of both to stay healthy, happy and growing. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not too late to create a structured summer plan. In fact, a little structure may be the key to helping your kiddos get over the summertime boredom hump while getting into a rhythm ahead of the school year.

How can we help our kids back on the path of balanced diet, regular exercise, normal bedtimes and reasonable screen time? Like most things in life, it’s all about moderation.

Summer learning

Even though school hasn’t started, a little structured learning can be a good thing. Daily reading or tackling a new skill like cooking, robotics or art through an online tutorial can be fun. Kids are also finding new ways to connect with friends while learning by forming virtual book clubs, debate clubs or discussion groups with friends. These new and creative ways to learn may form lifelong habits that are an unexpected positive from this unusual time.

Staying active

Just like we want to support learning and help our kids’ minds continue to grow, we need to find ways to stay physically active. Getting that 60 minutes a day of exercise helps in so many ways: better sleep, decreased anxiety and balanced behavior.

Outdoor sports where it is easy to maintain a 6-foot distance are great options. These include kicking a soccer ball, hiking, biking, running and walking. For families looking for ideas outside the box, there are plenty of creative and unique options to choose from. Some kids love geocaching, an outdoor activity known as “the world’s largest treasure hunt” where players download and follow a set of clues describing the location of a hidden “cache” containing a logbook, and sometimes, small tokens like stickers or trinkets.

For other outdoor activities, a little creativity can go a long way. Homemade backyard obstacle courses, squirt-bottle “tag,” playing with sidewalk chalk or gardening are fun alternatives as well.

Taking time to develop new skills

For better or worse, the pandemic has forced us all to slow down. Having a less-scheduled life is an opportunity to create new activities. Make a dream list of things your kids would like to learn or do in the remaining days of summer and assign one thing for each remaining week. You may be surprised to hear their ideas: invent fancy popsicles, draw unicorns, become a face-paint artist, learn to cartwheel, take up photography … The list goes on and on.

Across all these ideas, it’s helpful to teach kids to frame thoughts to focus on the positive. This is a long-term and ongoing process, one that can help us stay mentally and physically healthy. Remind them of the many things we can do, while acknowledging that because of COVID-19 it’s OK that this summer is different than others.

Ultimately, all activities should put safety first. As our communities slowly open up, we still need key tools to reduce COVID-19 risk while finding new ways of going about our daily routines. This means continuing to maintain social distance, wear a face mask in public, wash your hands frequently, keep hand sanitizer nearby, cough or sneeze into your elbow, and stay home if you’re not feeling well.

We are strong and we will get through this.

We got this, Washington!


More COVID content from Kaiser Permanente experts

Dr. Block’s advice for helping kids cope as COVID drags on

Your kids should see their doctor; here’s how that will look

Tips for supporting young kids during coronavirus

Check in with your teen; they may need you more than you know


About the Author

Susanna Block

Dr. Susanna Block, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Seattle and lives with her family in Queen Anne.