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Not only is Lisa the Director of the Summit Ridge Summer Day Camp at the Henderson International School, she is also the mother of three busy boys ages 7, 5 and 2 years old.  Her teaching experience gave her some insight on how to keep her boys busy during Summer Break, and she has graciously offered to share with us!

Last summer I sent my son to a half-day camp, with the 2nd half of the day at    “Camp Mom, I’m bored,” so I made a “menu” of activities for him to do.  I had gotten the idea from a GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Conference back when I was teaching 5th grade in California.  I titled it “I Have Nothing to Do”.  Every afternoon while his brothers napped, he could pick any activity from the menu.  There were 20 different options and I told him he could pick the same one everyday……or not.  He could do just one activity the entire time or choose several.  But it was his 1.5 hours to fill by doing something alone, which did not involve electronics or me.  (If I had to play one more game of UNO, I knew I would snap!)

It started out with the usual….

1. Take a nap or just rest.

2.  Read a book.

3.  Do some pages in a workbook.

4.  Write in a journal (I bought him one with a space for illustrations and gave him a list of fun topic ideas taped to the inside cover).

But then my teacher juices started to flow, and I came up with some fun activities.  Well, at least I thought they were fun, but more importantly, they did not involve me.  It started as 90-minutes of needed “Mommy Peace & Quiet”, but it became about him and his choices of what he could do by himself.  These activities were academic, creative, and time consuming.   I tried to think of assignments I knew he would enjoy and others I thought he should try.

5.  Make a map of our neighborhood.

6.  Draw and label our family tree.

7.  Design a racecar with super powers. Label its parts.

8.  Use a ruler to measure 20 items in your. Document your findings.

9.  List 25 of your friends in alphabetical order.

10.  Make a menu for a make-believe restaurant with all your favorite foods.

11.  Use old magazines/catalogues and cut out pictures of your favorite things and saying to make a collage.

12.  Write a letter to a family member in another state.

13.  Review your math facts using flash cards and test yourself.

14. Use Lego’s to build your dream house.

15. Complete a 100 piece puzzle by yourself and glue it together.

We made it a part of our summer routine….not an option, but one with options.  He had a box with all the materials he might need and we kept it on a shelf that only he could reach.  I didn’t make him stay in his room, but he couldn’t ask me for help until the 90 minutes were up.  (We used an egg timer to help.) By the time school started, he had memorized all of his addition and subtraction facts,  made a collection of amazing collages and drawings, and now has a treasured illustrated journal (Thank you Diary of a Wimpy Kid for making journals somewhat hip!) that he loves to look back on and read even today.  Most activities he didn’t even try, but I think it was all the choices he liked most.    And the few activities he loved, he will still do today on a rainy day.

This post was submitted by Lisa Bienstock.



To find out more about the Summit Ridge Day Camp at the Henderson International School, check out their page here, and you can also like their FaceBook page.