There’s a saying that “only boring people get bored,” but don’t even try explaining that to a kid. For one, kids might not be able to understand what that even means, and even if they do understand, they still probably won’t agree. Even adults require different levels of stimulation to stay engaged. One of the trickiest things about having a kid is not just entertaining them; it’s entertaining them in a way that also helps them be able to entertain themselves as they grow older and become more independent. The need for entertainment is especially glaring in the summer, but it’s something most parents will have to think about all year-round. There are options, and plenty of them allow you to have fun with your kid. Sitting your child down in front of the TV or iPad is fine sometimes, and every parent has done it, but there are other options available as well.
When You Have a Big Budget
There are a few days every year that most kids look forward to. We’re talking about days like Christmas, the last day of school, and, perhaps most importantly, their birthday. If you have enough money and want to throw your kid a party that they’ll remember well into adulthood, then their birthday is a great time for it. Talk to a local business that specializes in party packages for children, and make sure you have a good idea of what kind of party your kid will want. If you live in an apartment or don’t have your own backyard, it may be helpful to look for a event rental company for your child’s special day. Some children adore clowns; others are incredibly freaked out by the merest sight of one. If your kid enjoys playing video games, then you can use their birthday party to bring in some arcade game rentals. Pick from relatively recent games like Dance Dance Revolution and classics like Ms. Pacman and Street Fighter. If you were a pinball machine whiz as a kid, then you can call on that experience to show your child how it’s done.
Is your child more into artistic stuff? Then bring a face painter to the party. If your kid loves animals, you can even hire a team to set up a makeshift petting zoo right in your backyard. And while you may not be able to buy your child a pony for their birthday (because ponies are expensive and hard to store), you may very well be able to buy them a pony ride.
The thing about parties though, is that they aren’t very special if they’re something routine that happens once a month or so. Big parties should happen once or maybe twice a year. You don’t want your kid to feel like they’re entitled to a major party every time they do something worthy of praise. If they make an A on a difficult test at school, that’s great, and you should lavish them with praise or maybe even take them out for a scoop of ice cream. But don’t throw them a big party. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, the only academic parties should be for really major milestones like graduating high school. Teach them what’s called an “attitude of gratitude.” Believe it or not, children do best when they have clear boundaries.
When Money Is Tight
That all sounds good, but what do you do when it’s raining and you’ve told the kids going to the movies is too expensive right now? If possible, keep a running list of cheap activities that you can refer to when you’re in a tight spot. Things like leftover bubble wrap and cut-up sponges can be surprisingly great sources of fun if you use them properly. Pitching a tent in the living room and having an indoor “campout” is also a tried-and-true source of entertainment when the weather won’t cooperate. If you’re doing a messy activity, make sure the kids help clean up afterward. A 6-year-old will obviously be able to do more than a 3-year-old, but even a toddler can pitch in a little bit. They may whine, but you’re teaching them that civilized people clean up after themselves.