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7 Ideas for Filling Your Kids’ Spare Time

7 Ideas for Filling Your Kids’ Spare Time


There is never an excuse for home schooled children to be bored. This column outlines some healthy, fun, and educational activities to keep your children occupied after school!

There is never an excuse for home schooled children to be bored.

This column outlines some healthy, fun, and educational activities to keep your children occupied after school!

One of the biggest perks to home education is the efficiency of the method. Think of all the time wasted in school: lining up to use the bathroom, lining up for lunch, lining up to go out for recess, and then lining up again to come in, and finally lining up to leave the classroom at the end of the day. This does not even count the time spent going to and from the school building.

It is easy for home schooling families to do better than that. While kids in brick and mortar schools hang up their coats in the locker room and wait until everyone is seated to start lessons, our students need only pick up their pencils and open the first book. So, what to do when your children finish their work with time to spare?

7. Fresh Air and Sunshine!

American children need to play more, lots more. In nice weather, all youngsters, from preschool to high school, should spend no less than an hour a day in vigorous exercise in fresh air. Fence in a portion of your yard so the children can play in relative safety.

Save money by doing without Wii and video games, and purchase bikes, swing sets, badminton sets, and a basketball hoop. If you worry about safety, consider purchasing an outside video monitor so you can keep an eye on things. If you live in an apartment, take a daily walk, or go to a park.

6. Join Teams

As the kids get older, many ask to join organized sports. This is often a good choice as students benefit from the structure and discipline as they increase physical coordination and learn skills. Outside the family, I prefer kids socializing on teams, where everyone shares a purpose, rather than just “hanging around” with friends.

On the other hand, some families cannot afford the hefty sign-up fees, or to purchase the necessary equipment.

Also, moms with big families do not always have the time to drive children to team practices and games. Although modern parents often view team sports as a must, do not worry if your family cannot fit them in. Most generations of children grew up playing with their siblings and neighbors in the yard, and they turned out just fine.

5. Play Inside!

Although I am famous for sending my children outside to play in the snow, some days are just too cold, or too hot, or windy, or rainy, or dark to allow outside play. The solution to this dilemma is NOT to turn on the TV or the video games.

Younger children love to play with toys that stimulate the imagination such as doll houses, kitchen sets, and army guys.

They learn spatial relationships and improve small motor coordination playing with with Duplos and Lincoln Logs. When they are older, Lego-type toys have loads of plans that are both fun and educational.

School age kids enjoy board games and nothing is as thrifty, or as fun, as a deck of cards. Playing together builds close relationships among siblings.

4. Enrich Education

Seton’s Art for Young Catholics series has several books with great ideas for home projects especially relating to the liturgical year. They also sell coloring books for the younger children and instructional DVD’s for the eager artists. Other grades in the series teach art appreciation and can be reinforced with books on loan from your local library.

After school hours are often devoted to music practice, but do not despair if your family cannot afford pricey lessons. Seton has a nifty music program that involves learning to play the piano on a keyboard hooked up to the computer.

That’s computer time even I can get behind. If that is too much for the family purse, the recorder is an inexpensive musical instrument that can be mastered easily by almost anyone.

3. Learn a New Language

Experts agree that learning a second language during the early years offers multiple benefits. In addition to the obvious advantage of increased communication ability, bi-lingual students perform better on standardized tests, especially math, and develop a stronger grasp of English itself.

These students gain a greater appreciation of cultural diversity and down the road are very attractive job applicants.

The Seton catalog lists a variety of foreign language products suitable for school age children, and lots of audio programs for preschoolers are available online.

It is especially nice if your child can learn your family’s ancestral language, perhaps assisted by Grandma or Grandpa.

If that is not possible, many Americans have bilingual friends or neighbors who might be willing to give your children some time.

2. Read! Read! Read!

Without question, the very best students are recreational readers, and many parents insist on an hour of recreational reading everyday. It is the best possible use of those hours after school. Nothing, absolutely nothing, brings a bigger educational bang for your buck than a well-worn library card.

Some moms wonder what to get for younger children who are not yet ready to tackle even the easiest readers? Little kids love non-fiction picture books and will often spend hours of quiet time pouring over them. Which ones specifically? Follow the children’s interests.

If your daughter received a dollhouse for Christmas, find a book with lots of pictures of famous dollhouses. Do the little ones miss the zoo this time of year? Find books with glossy pictures of exotic animals. Most children love dinosaur picture books. One of my grandsons was interested in planes and spent hours looking at pictures of fighter jets.

Once a student is a fluent reader, a vast world of books opens up. A good place to begin your search for great titles is the supplemental reading list found at the back of your reading lesson plans and also available in the “parent resources” section of the Seton website.

All children love mystery and adventure books, especially historical fiction, and in addition to enhancing reading skills, many novels stimulate curiosity about real events.

When searching for juvenile fiction, it is prudent to look for books written before 1970. That is not to say that many fine children’s books have not been published since then; they most certainly have.

Sadly though, standards have changed, and more recent children’s literature may contain graphic themes or images, and ideas that question our Catholic values. Before 1970, you will almost always be assured of wholesome and uplifting stories. Parents need to be more vigilant with books published since then. Seton sells many fiction titles for children.

Insist that at least some student reading comes from the non-fiction section. Historical periods, characters and events come alive in biographies. A short chapter in a science book becomes serious study when supplemented with related books. In my house, field trips were always preceded by some study of what we were going to see.

1. Electronics

The electronic option is dead last because most American children spend too much time plugged in. But some days, when the weather is extreme, or mom has morning sickness, they can fill a need. Properly used, electronic media offer our students options not readily available elsewhere.

They can tour the Louvre or visit the moon online. Your local librarian can find CD’s and DVD’s to teach classical music to students of all ages. Others let students visit the Serengeti or go inside a beehive.

Caution is in order concerning some otherwise very high quality educational videos. Sensitive little ones may be distressed by graphic images of a cheetah attacking and lunching on a cute little baby gazelle that was prancing about moments before. Also, some nature videos certainly move the “birds and bees” talk to the front burner.

There is never an excuse for home schooled children to be bored.

When all else fails, I’m sure there are some undone chores around the house.

What do you think?

About Ginny Seuffert

Ginny Seuffert has been a leading writer and speaker about homeschooling and Catholic family life for more than two decades. She has given hundreds of talks at conferences and written three books. Meet Ginny | Ginny's Books
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