Photo: Sergey Novikov (Shutterstock)
Every parent has been there: You need a few minutes to relax and cook dinner, but your kids are looking to you for something fun to occupy their time. It’s so easy to hand them an iPad or gaming system, but when it’s time to eat, they don’t want to pull their eyes away from the screen, which can lead to meltdowns. You start to feel like they’ve lost some of their imagination (and maybe some of their eyesight) by getting sucked into whatever game they’re playing.
Luckily, there are some easy (and fun) ways to break this all-too-familiar routine. Here are seven ideas to help you ignite your child’s creative fire.
Give them something to draw
Both my boys love to draw, but they tend to run out of ideas after a while (There are only so many Captain Underpants and Cat Kid Comic Club books to inspire them). I stay prepared with an artistic prompt or two should their creative wells run dry, such as something they could invent or a scene from their favorite movie or video game.
Let your kids lead the way
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Bluey, you know that the games the Heeler family plays are often instigated by the cartoon’s titular character and her sister, Bingo. While this often turns out rather badly for their dad, Bandit, this doesn’t have to be the same for you. If your kids want to play with you, let them lead the way and tell them you’ll follow all their rules. You might be amazed by where things go.
Change the rules
Games can be fun, but sometimes my kids want to climb up the chutes and slide down the ladders. If you want to shake up your board game routine, throw out the instruction manual and let your kids make up their own rules. Who knows? You might like the new way to play even better.
Take them to the theater
We’re not saying you should take them to The Lion King on Broadway—you can stay home for this one. Both my sons have somehow managed to transform opened mail envelopes, socks, and other things around the house into compelling characters in some improvised avant-garde play that would confuse surreal auteurs like David Lynch. All they want is an audience, and I enjoy every moment of their performances. If they’re really into it, most cities have a theater troupe aimed toward families and typically offer fun crafts and games to take home.
Teach them to recycle
I see an empty box that once contained 12 cans of Coke Zero, but my sons see another spire for a castle they have constructed for an imaginary dragon. This structure, assembled from styrofoam and cardboard boxes, gives them more joy than anything they received from Santa this year, and they built it themselves. Bottom line: Think twice before putting everything in the recycle bin, and let your kids practice becoming the next Frank Lloyd Wright.
Have them help with dinner—and switch up the recipe
Instead of leaving them alone while you make dinner, ask them to help you prepare their favorite meal. Not only will it teach them to be self-sufficient, but it also teaches them where their meals come from and to take pride in what they make (especially the picky eaters). And for an extra creative twist, you both can find ways to change the recipe by adding a new ingredient or substituting another.
Or just let them be bored
It’s the two words every parent doesn’t want to hear from their kids on a calm Saturday afternoon: “I’m bored!” Recently, when my boys told me this, I replied: “I’m sorry to hear that.” That is because I finally realized what they were trying to say: “We don’t want to find something to do for ourselves.” By letting them find their own thing to do, I’m teaching them to become self-sufficient and to use their imagination to find fun on their own.