Do you have a child who struggles to interact with other people? One who hides indoors with a book or electronics rather than enjoying the fun going on outside with other kids? There's nothing wrong with enjoying a good book and some alone time, but social skills are important, too. Being alone with a book all the time can get depressing. Here are some ideas to get your introverted or shy child outside this Summer.
Tips for your Introverted or Shy Child
Open the blinds and windows
Okay, this sounds kind of silly and simple, but there's something about letting in the light and fresh air that just makes everyone happier. When you can see what's going on outside, you're much more likely to want to get up, get going, and get outside.
Think about it. If the blinds are closed, aren't you more likely to stay in your jammies and get nothing done? So are your kids.
Set aside a day or two each week (or a block of time each day) when electronics are all turned off. This includes parents. If your child (or you) is consumed by books, maybe this means putting books aside, too. (I never thought I'd ever tell a kid it was time to put away a book, but everyone needs balance, and kids do need to do other things besides read.) If kids have a hard time thinking of things to do when they are unplugged, be prepared with some ideas the first few times you try this. After a while, they'll be used to it and have their own ideas.
Give Choices, not Ultimatums
Instead of saying things like, "You need to go outside and play or else . . ." try giving choices. Say things like, "It's time to put the book down for a while. You can (insert something to do), or (insert another choice). Which would you like to do?" Or, "I have a few things that I need help with, or you can call a friend."
Or, how about "I thought it might be fun to invite a friend over and try _____ or _____. Which would you like to do?"
Update your Outdoor Furniture
This one might cost you a little money (or you could shop at a thrift store). Create some areas outside that are fun to spend time in. This will differ depending on the age of your kids. For teens, a nice place to sit outside alone or gather with friends and family might be all the encouragement needed to step outside instead of hanging out inside all day. For younger children, you might try a sandbox, a simple swing set, or a trampoline.
We recently got a fire pit and some chairs so that we could hang out and talk outside as a family. This will be a fun place for supervised teens to gather, too.
Even if your child chooses to sit outside with a book, they might just see a friend outside and choose to put the book down. They get to spend time with a friend, and they didn't have to go out of their comfort zone to do any inviting. Bonus.
Take Snacks Outside
Make snack time outside time. Hey, you might even save yourself some kitchen cleaning work with this idea! Time for a snack? Grab one and take it outside. Don't come back in until it's all gone.
Pull out the Old Fashioned Toys
Nothing brings on a smile (and out the neighborhood kids) like vintage toys. When I say "vintage" I mean the oldies, but goodies. They still make them today, but they've been around forever. Pull out the frisbees, the pogo sticks, the jump ropes, the hula hoops, and the sidewalk chalk.
Sure, they seem boring compared to electronics, but guess what? They're tons of fun for all ages. Whenever our pogo stick comes out, kids of all ages come over to try it out, and then they stay to play and visit.
Want to make your own vintage toy? Try these tin can stilts! Remember them?
Go Fly a Kite!
In the famous words of Mary Poppins (or whichever character actually said it--Mr. Banks?), "Go fly a kite!" Even better, make your own kites, and then go fly them.
Plan Family Activities
Plan some family activities (and don't forget to join in yourself!). Get the whole family outside this summer by planning some fun outings. Big or small, just go somewhere.
Take a picnic to a local park, visit a splash pad, go to a local swimming pool, try out a museum, etc. Or, get creative and create a family skit or do a talent show. Be sure to video tape it! (If your teen is reluctant to get involved, let them be the director or choreographer.)
Often kids are homebodies until they are invited by a friend to do something. Suddenly, their eyes light up, and they're ready for action. Help them share that joy with someone else by helping them plan a simple activity and then call to invite a friend.
Here are some great ideas for busting boredom with teens and tweens this summer. Most are perfect for doing with friends.
Put them to Work-Yes, Work!
If all else fails, yard work is always a great way to get your kids outside. It's a great way to teach discipline, service, etc, and it cures boredom instantly. Get outside and work together as a family, or give your teen a paying job in the yard.
Some of these ideas are silly, some are serious, but all hopefully will help those teens get outside and maybe -- just maybe -- socialize a bit!