Boredom busters can include a little learning

The hype and festivities of Christmas are over, the New Year has been rung in and children across Australia have been on school holidays for weeks – boredom is starting to bite.

With kids eager to keep their minds and bodies active over the holidays parents can struggle with finding activities and events to keep them entertained, engaged and happy.

Western Sydney University Mathematics Education Professor Catherine Attard says calls of boredom from holidaying children should signal to parents that their sons and daughters need some “physical or mental activity to keep them occupied and to vent energy, just like needing food to satisfy feelings of hunger.”

In an article for the Conversation, A/Prof. Attard says there are many problems with children complaining about boredom, from nagging to bad behaviour but most importantly “learning loss”.

Learning loss involves children literally losing skills and knowledge learnt during the school term while on school holidays through a lack of physical and mental activity.

A/Prof. Attard says at best children may learn nothing new over the holiday break, however, at worst they may lose weeks of learning from the previous year, according to many research studies. She says parents can play a key role in helping their children enjoy their holidays and maintain mental and physical stimulation by initiating activities.

Her tips to avoid boredom complaints include;

Encourage your child to read a book.

Research has proven that reading for pleasure improves reading attainment and writing as well as general knowledge, and community participation. Reading also provides insight into human nature and decision-making. If you don’t have books at home your child is interested in, take a trip to the local library and let them choose.

Play games with your children.

If you want to help maintain your child’s mathematical learning and keep them having fun, there are lots of simple games you can play. All you need is a deck of cards, a set of dominoes or some traditional board games such as Monopoly, Guess Who or Yahtzee.

If you want to help with spelling, try playing Scrabble or teach your child to do simple crossword puzzles. For those who like a challenge, chess promotes important problem-solving skills.

Get messy with some creative art.

If your child is feeling creative and you don’t mind a mess, let him or her paint, build, sculpt, design or invent. Creative art has been found to assist in children’s learning and promote well-being.

Play fun and educational video games.

If traditional activities don’t do the trick, there are always the digital alternatives. Research has found playing video games can have cognitive, emotional and social benefits. But it’s important to choose carefully.

Rather than choosing games that promote mindless violence or require little or no thinking, there are many educational games and apps that can help your child continue learning over the holidays such as Minecraft, Pick-a-Path, or MathDoodles. Many good apps are free and even if they’re not designed to be educational, they often involve problem-solving skills important in developing critical and creative thinking.

Take your children to the local park or playground.

The benefits of outdoor play during the summer holidays are significant. Science says holidays often result in weight gain among adults and children but there are also social benefits like improved self-confidence to be gained from interacting with other children.

If you want to add educational benefits to outdoor activities, play games that involve keeping score to help children maintain their mathematics skills. Younger children could go on “shape hunts” or “number hunts”, or you could play a game of I Spy to ensure there is mental and physical activity happening.

There are lots of other low-cost activities to support your children’s education. Going shopping can help your kids learn about financial literacy. Going to a museum or going hiking can teach children about history and nature.

Most importantly, all of these activities will keep your kids’ minds and bodies active, keep you sane and stress free, and stop the kids from saying “I’m bored”.