Good morning! How about a problem to start off your day, yes?
Since arriving here, finding something for the kids to do has been an honest-to-goodness struggle. The social outings, which they enjoy, are usually limited to the weekend, and during the week, while there are routine chores, shopping sprees, and a bit of work on the jobsite, there’s not much else going on.
A few other factors that intensify the situation:
*There are no other children around. Our (calm and pleasant) neighborhood mostly consists of elderly folk … and a bunch of empty houses, thanks to Maria and the declining economy.
*The heat makes outside play unappealing. Plus, we are surrounded by concrete. Our property boasts no grass, as in, zilch, zero, nada, none.
*Houses are shut up to keep out the heat and, except for early morning and evening, the streets are devoid of pedestrians…which is kind of boring.
*The parks and ball field at the edge of our neighborhood are overgrown and in disrepair. (They’re probably perfectly safe, but they feel a little creepy.)
*They have no way to get around — no bike, no scooter, no skates — and besides, we’re in the city, hemmed in with interstates. Plus, the older two children, licensed drivers both, have had to relinquish their independence (and a good portion of their usefulness) since MDS policy requires drivers to be at least 19 years old.
*We have an extremely limited supply of reading material, art supplies, and games.
*Thanks to the language barrier, the children often don’t understand what’s going on, which adds a layer of tedium to what would otherwise be an engaging social experience.
Because of the nothing-to-do situation, technology has become a real issue. The older two have unlimited access (as they do at home), but here, without their normal involvements of work, friends, chores, and studies, their usage has increased dramatically. Our younger daughter has an ipod that she uses for texting (at home, she doesn’t have internet access so this is an unwelcome, though permissible, breach of our no-tech communication-until-age-16 rule). Both girls have kindles, and all three of the older children use their devices to listen to music.
Quite honestly, I don’t much mind the collective spiral into the technological abiss. I know it’s a temporary situation — once we start the build, the children will be working mostly full-time, and there will be state-side volunteers to host and relate to — and it’s actually nice that the kids aren’t pestering us (and each other).
However, for our younger son this whole situation — the boredom coupled with the zoned-out sibs — has been a tremendous source of frustration. He’s an active, relational kid: he wants things to do and people to do them with and NOW. It drives him absolutely bonkers when the other kids hole up in their rooms. And it doesn’t help matters that so much of our job requires my husband and me to use technology. I’m juggling two computers, and we both now have smartphones, often spending long periods of time learning how to drop pins and deposit checks, staring at Google maps, and painstakingly crafting messages in Spanish. It’s all work (or mostly all work), but to our younger son it looks like play.
I’ve taken some measures to counteract the pull of technology. We bought gel pens and a basketball. I aggressively encourage the older kids to find actual activities to do with their younger brother. I sometimes collect all devices and remove them from the equation. I’m trying to consolidate my “office” hours. When we’re home in the evening, I read out loud to my younger son before bed.
Still, I find myself constantly racking my brain for things for my younger son to do. He cooks (right now he’s making French toast for breakfast, and my older son is teaching him how to make coffee), assembles furniture, washes dishes, studies Spanish, runs to the colmado for milk, bananas, and bread.
But it’s not enough! We need more options, activities he can, when left to his own devices (ha!), easily and happily fall back on. Is there an engrossing game we should order from Amazon? A miracle toy? A new book series or a magazine subscription (that the other children would enjoy as well)? A yet-to-be-discovered project?
So, to summarize, WANTED: enjoyable pastime activities for a high-energy, twelve-year-old boy that:
1. Can be done in isolation and indoors.
2. Don’t include books.
3. Cost (almost) nothing.
4. Do not include technology.
5. Require no fancy supplies.
Please, weigh in. The boy needs something to do, and fast.