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How can I navigate summer break boredom vs. overscheduling?

Dear Mama Drama:

My kids are getting out for the summer and I’m dreading the constant running them here and there and that I’m never able to get anything done. If I don’t schlep them to play dates or other activities they complain that they’re bored. I feel exhausted after these crazy days and then end up staying up late to get the things I need done completed.

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I’d like a different summer experience this year. Any help you can offer would be great!

~Dreading Mama

Dear Dreading:

A change of pace sounds like it is definitely in order for your family this summer. Finding a balance between activities and down time is critical to create an enjoyable experience for all – including you!

Are you doing too much? Start by looking at the activities you have the kids signed up for. Is it a reasonable amount or is there something you/they can let go of? Organize a carpool to sports practices or other daily/weekly activities so you and the other moms aren’t all driving around town to the same places.

Create Mom time. Develop play date schedules that builds in time for you. Arrange for all the kids to be with friends at the same time once a week. Even if it is just a couple of hours, you can relax or run a few of those errands that are quick on your own and take forever when you’ve got a carload of kids. Offer to provide the same opportunity for other moms, so everyone gets a little time off.

Institute F.O.B. When I went to camp as a kid F.O.B. time stood for Flat On Back. This meant we were all in our bunks reading, writing letters, or taking a snooze. We always thought the adults were treating us like babies by making us rest. We didn’t understand it was for them to have some quiet time so they could continue to be patient with us the rest of the day!

Another alternative is D.E.A.R. time. Many schools use Drop Everything And Read as a time to help kids settle down and have the opportunity to read. Your kids’ teachers will love this as it helps keep their literacy skills sharp.

You can also be creative and come up with another version of down time that fits your family. If you do, share it with us!

Let them get bored. Boredom is a great opportunity to be creative and silly.  Here are a few ideas for tackling the boredom beast that I’ve gathered over the years.  Pull out the recycling bin, tape, and glue and let them create building, boats, or anything else they can think of. They can float or race them in the kiddie pool, too, if you’d like. (A similar idea is to pull out the art supplies and see what develops). Gather all of the sports and outdoor play equipment and have them create an obstacle course. And a favorite from an OT we worked with is to have a safari. The kids pull out all of their stuffed animals and then go into one room while you hide the animals all over the house. While they hunt, you get to sit and drink a cup of tea or read the paper. It’s lovely and they’ll want to do it over an over. Last but not least, if they don’t like any of your ideas, offer the opportunity to do chores. This has an amazing effect on their creativity and they are suddenly able to think of something extremely interesting to do… and if not, your floors are swept and the dishes are washed.

Finally, if you are all going stir crazy and really do need to get out of the house, JoAnn and Amber compiled a phenomenal list of 100+ things to do around Denver. Whatever the weather and the interests of your kids, you are sure to find something here.

Remember that you don’t have to entertain your kids. Summer is an opportunity for less structure and more creativity. Let them use their imaginations and invent their own fun – within reason of course. 🙂

Please share your ideas for navigating the summer break blues.

-Lisa Vratny-Smith

A brush with art colors kids happy

The Denver Art Museum on one of its dozen free days a year is about what you’d expect: wall-to-wall families and happy young faces.

The difference between this kids’ scene and many others around town is that here, family fun involves making, or learning about, art.

James and Becca Dwyer of Englewood recently visited the museum with their families two weekends in a row. While James, 7, was fiddling with shells matched to artwork in the museum, Becca, 3½, was gluing colors to a drawing of a camel. “Then I’m going to color some black on a teapot,” she explained, not looking up from her work.

Here is a sampling of similar family destinations where kids can learn to make art — or simply revel in art- related fun.

1. The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

The center offers classes called Creative Play Group, Mini Picassos and Kinder Clay for kids as young as 18 months, said center spokesman Jerry Cunningham.

It also offers drawing and cartooning classes for older kids, as well as the chance to view the museum’s galleries as part of some of the classes. Instructors all are artists or art educators. Some discounts are available for center members.

The goal, said Cunningham, is to expose children to a variety of art experiences in this multidisciplinary venue. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org

2. Foothills Art Center

This nonprofit housed in two historic buildings offers classes in several age-based groupings for kids 3 to 12. The instructors, all trained teachers and artists, focus on the basics of drawing, painting, mixed media and jewelry design, said Michael Chavez, curator of exhibitions and education.

Days and times vary depending on the demand for classes. There are discounts for