NEW YORK -- Many kids spend 10 months of the year waiting for their summer break from school. They know that once summer comes there are ice cream cones to be eaten, sprinklers to run through and bicycles to be ridden.
What children seem to forget, however, is that all of those activities can be accomplished in about an hour.
To keep boredom from setting in and minds from turning to mush, FamilyFun magazine has put 365 ideas in a book called "Boredom Busters" (Disney Enterprises).
"The goal of the activities is to spark (kids') imagination, and for (kids) to use their minds and hands and be engaged in something," says Deanna Cook, editor of the book and manager of creative development of FamilyFun.
With a little creativity and enthusiasm, even a daily chore can be turned into a good time.
Cook says her two children enjoy the "game" of finding all the washcloths in the laundry basket and folding them. Other purposeful tasks include having children wash the car or pick up all the toys in a room before a song is over.
The book also urges kids to do a random act of kindness. Trying to decide what to do is an activity in and of itself and making a get-well card for a sick friend or cleaning their old toys to donate to charity can be as entertaining as any game and more rewarding.
Some of the "boredom buster" games, crafts and projects take five minutes, such as spelling words on a calculator and penny basketball, and others can last days, including creating a neighborhood of decorated paper bags or starting a book club.
"Boredom doesn't have a specific time," says Cook, so there are suggestions for outdoor games for long, hot afternoons and ideas to spur pretend play indoors, including a "home-office" kit and a doll spa. When it's time to begin to wind down for the night, there are some quieter activities, such as playing with homemade clay.
Even mealtime can be playtime, especially if the book's "lunch guests," sandwiches dressed up with vegetables eyes and noses, and a tongue made of ham, are invited. And if children are restless just as a parent is preparing dinner, quick kitchen science experiments, such as testing the boundaries of a plastic bag with pencils, should tie everyone over.
Cook encourages group play -- whether it's with siblings, friends or parents -- but there are some single-person projects. "Ideally we want a parent to be involved. These are activities that make the most of 'together time,"' she says.
Children will get a boost from their accomplishments and so will parents. "Parents feel good doing these activities -- like they are doing a good job because the kids aren't sitting and watching TV. They're being creative," says Cook.
Each activity in the book is detailed in a "recipe" including a list of the necessary ingredients, but, in general, Cook says there are certain some basic supplies that are always a good starting point for fun.
If you can't find enough to spur some fun, try "The Boredom Bottle," which holds a stash of fortune-cookie-style pieces of paper with suggested activities.
To make this treasure trove, start with a clean, empty plastic bottle and have your children decorate it with stickers. With your kids, make a list of easy tasks ("bake chocolate chip cookies," for instance) and write each one on a small square of paper. Fold the paper and drop into the bottle.
When boredom strikes, "shake out" an idea.
Examples of "FamilyFun Boredom Busters" recipes:
Mayonnaise and mustard
Sliced raw vegetables
Softened cream cheese
Spread mayonnaise and mustard on the bottom half of a sandwich roll. Add a slice of ham or another cold cut. Then fold a second slice of meat so that it resembles a tongue and lay it across the bun so the end hangs over the edge.
Now create a face on the bun top using sliced raw vegetables, olives and cherry tomatoes. (One possible face includes cucumber eyes with olive pupils, arcs of celery for eyebrows, a cherry-tomato nose, and strips of green pepper -- pushed into the top of the bun -- for a spiky hairdo.)
Cream cheese can be used as the "glue." The cheese sticks best if the vegetables are blotted dry.
Plastic bag (no holes except for main opening)
Fill a plastic bag three quarters of the way with water and then knot the top.
With one hand, hold the bag over a sink. In one swift motion, use the other hand to push a pencil, point first, straight through one side of the bag and out the other.
No water should leak out.
See how many more pencils you can poke through without causing a leak. The explanation behind this mysterious feat involves the elasticity of plastic. When you pierce the bag, the plastic stretches and breaks open just enough for the pencil to fit through.