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Boredom Busters

February 11, 2019

Host:  Dr. Jennifer Hunter, Assistant Director for Family and Consumer Sciences Extension, University of Kentucky

Guest: Dr. David Weisenhorn, Extension Specialist for Parenting and Child Development

Episode 35

0:00 Welcome to Talking FACS; what you need to know about family, food, finance and fitness. Hosted by the University of Kentucky Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Program, our educators share research knowledge with individuals, families and communities to improve quality of life.

0:21 Dr. Hunter: Hello and welcome to Talking FACS. This is your host, Dr. Jennifer Hunter, Assistant Director for Family Consumer Sciences Extension at the University of Kentucky.

Today, I'm pleased to be joined by Dr. David Weisenhorn, Extension Specialist for Parenting and Child Development. Thanks so much for joining us today.

0:37 Dr. Weisenhorn: So good to be here.

0:37 Dr. Hunter: So, David, I love this topic because sitting in my seat, and I know it makes you nervous when I do this, but I love it when they're topics that relate so much to my life. So, help a momma out here. And we're talking about Boredom Busters– that really and truly the winter months.

We're in this time of year where we're dealing with snow days or this year there's been a tremendous amount of rain that we can't get the kiddos out as much. We may not have as many extracurricular activities because they are outdoor activities and everyone is home a lot.

And typically, what everyone is home a lot, it can lead to some boredom, it can lead to maybe some spats between the kiddos; that type thing.

1:19 Dr. Weisenhorn: Oh, yeah.

1:20 Dr. Hunter: So, help us out today and let's talk Boredom Busters.

0:37 Dr. Weisenhorn: I love the topic, but had I had to tell you, I got a little nervous because I know we've got some scientists that listen. And one of the things that we know is that psychologists have defined that the best path to learning and happiness unfold from moments of boredom.

So, not to step on anybody's feet, but to go along with what that research says, this path is known as Flow or a process known as Flow. And flow is the intense concentration and absorption in an activity.

Jennifer, I'm sure you've done something and these activities are the kind that when we're in them, we completely forget the world around us exists; we lose track of time, maybe even days, and you can see oftentimes children enter into that as well. And early research on children learning and happiness has shown that the most meaningful and satisfying moments in life come from this experience of flow.

But one of the keys to the flow process is that the child is challenged at the level just above his or her skill so that activities and projects are hard enough to stretch the ability, but not so hard that they cause frustration.

And so, there's a Russian or Soviet psychologist called Lev Vygotsky that calls this The Zone of Proximal Development. This is where children really do their best.

And so, when I talk about the boredom busters today, I'm not just talking about helping your child out and bailing them out when they say, “Oh, mom, I'm bored”, but really, it will be a spark to get that flow going.

So, I hope the things that I'll share with you today should involve that zone of proximal development that Lev Vygotsky is talking about.

2:40 Dr. Hunter: So, David, I'm just going to say that the next time one of my kiddos looks up and says, “Mommy, I'm bored”, I'm going to say, “Okay, moments of boredom is going to lead to happiness inflow”.

3:15 Dr. Weisenhorn: I love it.

3:16 Dr. Hunter: That’s exactly what I'm going to say at home.

3:19 Dr. Weisenhorn: That’s exactly. And you will be 100 percent correct by doing that.

3:22 Dr. Hunter: I can’t even explain that concept to my children.

3:24 Dr. Weisenhorn: And if that doesn't work, I would suggest is your next step being a couple of different activities. And one of my favorites, and I go to this one the best because I think it's really scalable, and that's The Scavenger Hunt. Jennifer, I don't know if you've had this before, but this can be really fun.

The premise of this is just that you send a child or multiple children with a list of objects to go and find and retrieve. So, it can be as easy as sending them outside, which is my favorite thing to do.

5:54 Dr. Hunter: Weather permitting definitely.

5:55 Dr. Weisenhorn: That's right. And even if it's a little wet, you can put them in a rain jacket; they can find wet stones. But just to give them something to find in the yard, maybe it's a red leaf or a shiny or a round rock or maybe it's the fall and you want him to look for an acorn or something of that nature. But to get them outside. If it's inside and it's too bad outside, you can get them to find a red dish towel or a dirty sock. The idea is to–

4:20 Dr. Hunter: Can we give them a list of toys that are randomly spread around the house that need to be picked up as their scavenger hunt?

5:26 Dr. Weisenhorn: I love this. Yes, this is clean up. Yes, this can be disguised as the parents get creative. I like that. You can make this activity a timed event, if you want; you can make it a race, if you're like my kids, who just absolutely have to compete at everything; or it can be a must-complete before moving on, you've got to find this before you do the other.

And as, you know, just in mind with this idea of keeping it within the level of the child, like to challenge them.

4:55 Dr. Hunter: Right.

4:56 Dr. Weisenhorn: You can begin to add– instead of just having a list of things to find and retrieve, you can actually use each item that they find, you can put in there a clue that provides them to where they might find the next one.

5:08 Dr. Hunter: Fun.

5:09 Dr. Weisenhorn: Yes. I mean, it can be a lot of fun and you can use a lot of time with this exercise, which is really good.

5:15 Dr. Hunter: And not only that, but you're allowing them to build– they're using logic to figure out the clues. So, they're really building skills at the same time that they're playing.

5:24 Dr. Weisenhorn: Absolutely, and I don't know if you're children are like mine. Right now, on this American Ninja Warrior is on so they love anything that presents a physical challenge.

So, for me, you can put things up high in a tree or down low or under something they've got to crawl under. They really enjoy that sort of challenge. So, you can always get creative and add a lot of that to it as well.

5:44 Dr. Hunter: Yes. So, I will say that this is probably where you're a better or more adventuresome parent than what I am. We have a ban on anything that’s a high-risk-ninja-warrior-type activity at our house.

5:56 Dr. Weisenhorn: Boring.

5:58 Dr. Hunter: We don't jump down the staircase and anything that they might think is a ninja warrior obstacle course. We just have a rule against it.

6:08 Dr. Weisenhorn: Well, this one maybe it. Then here I've got one for you. And this is called Story Time. So, this may be more your speed. This is a good one.

My children, again, I've mentioned this several times in the podcast, are young and so the way that I use these may be much different for you as you have older children; especially, in the tweens or teenage years.

But one of my favorite things is to talk about stories and I make up some really elaborate stories. And soon, I'm going to have to begin to tell my son, who has told this story to several people about me working as a top secret mission for the president, and he's going to soon find out this is all fabricated. It's just good fun.

6:48 Dr. Hunter: It's all of  good fun.

6:49 Dr. Weisenhorn: But as they get older, you can make it really silly and fun. Or what I've liked to do is now begin to involve my 8-year old daughter to tell part of the story. So, I’ll begin the story and then allow her to then tell the second chapter or the next part of the story.

And if you have multiple children of different ages, they can all be a part of this; mom, dad, the whole family can get involved in telling a section of the story.

And you talk about making a really silly story. When you have four people that all have some very creative minds, you can come up with quite the adventurous story.

7:23 Dr. Hunter: That reminds me, and I don't remember the exact name, of when we were in grade school, if they were mad libs; of where you would just provide a series of words and then it would go into the story. And I always thought that was neat. And again, just encouraging creativity and an imagination.

And just a little side note, because we tend to divert when we chat, but when I think about storytelling is my dad's. He’s a storyteller; he likes to tell stories. And I could just repeat them all because I've heard them so many times, but he tells a lot of stories. Sometimes, I think maybe he stretched them a little, but about family history.

7:59 Dr. Weisenhorn: Yes.

8:00 Dr. Hunter: But now are our teenager, he knows them because he's heard them so much. And sometimes he'll say to our little one, because she is significantly younger, he'll say, “Well, you know, Papa’s story about” and he'll share the story. And well, they truly are our family stories.

I think that that's neat that he has just pick that up over the years. And so, now he has that knowledge that unfortunately, could one day be lost with my dad, but our teenagers picked it up.

And so, now even our little girl, sometimes my dad would start to tell her stories, she would say, “Papa, Riley has already told me your story”. So, I always think that that's neat too with storytelling.

8:39 Dr. Weisenhorn: It is and I think it can be fun. You know, my children, and just because you've told it once, gosh, they seem to like it the more and more they hear it. And so, my children now will be like, “Oh, tell the story about the time when you were in the army and the guy poured the water in his boots”. And so, they actually identify what story they want me to tell, although they already know it.

So, story time is a really fun time. It's a great way to bust some bored children and have them create a story too. So, having them tell it back to you can be a new twist as well.

The third thing I would say, another idea, would be this a dance party. Again, I have to say I'm revealing a lot of the things that we do at home. So, this may not be your gig, but this is a good way to bust that boredom, to incorporate some physical activity, and really to change the mood and get that heart rate going. You could put on some of your favorite jams and begin to dance about.

And one of the ways that we have begun to tailor this a little bit; it used to be just turn on the Disney Channel and we would all jump around and have a good time and let them jump on the couches, but now it's gotten into more of my daughter is in dance, so she choreographs now.

9:49 Dr. Hunter: Okay.

9:50 Dr. Weisenhorn: So, you know, it's everybody's got their own dance and dad and Eve have a dance, and dad and Elijah have a dance and mom's got a dance. And as it progresses, now you can even say, “Okay, now we assigned dances. Okay, mom's up. Alright, Mom, you get Eve's dance and we're going to grade you on how well you do it according to how well Eve does it”. And so, it can be a lot of fun; kind of charade-ish.

10:13 Dr. Hunter: And music makes people happy. Just playing the music can change the mood. And like you said, the physical activity component is huge, especially for not getting as much of that in the winter months, but allowing them to burn off some energy. Because sometimes, they can be bored because they just have so much energy that they need to get out in some way, shape or form.

10:34 Dr. Weisenhorn: Yes. Yeah, and it's great. And what better way to do that, especially on the rainy, gray days that we've been having lately.

The last thing I'll share with you is this idea of cooking together. I mean, with all the extension cooking, this is for all you agents that love to cook.

This is one of my favorite things to do with the kids is to get them cooking or baking. My daughter has turned into this little baker. Most of it is because she likes the sweets that are the result of our efforts.

But again, just a great opportunity to allow our children to have a hands-on activity educates them about the importance of meal preparation, measurement; that’s the one thing that all of our–

11:14 Dr. Hunter: There are so many skills that go into cooking.

11:16 Dr. Weisenhorn: Yes.

11:16 Dr. Hunter: So many skills.

11:17 Dr. Weisenhorn: And just the opportunities that it has to then be able to give that to somebody. So, at the end, instead of eating it, if sweets are just way too much and we're doing it too much, an opportunity to give it to maybe people in need, it can be a neighbor, it could be family and friends; just a really neat opportunity to spend time together to bust that boredom, get a little bit of education, and then have some fruits of your labor that you can either enjoy together as a family or provide in the giving nature to others.

11:47 Dr. Hunter: Cooking is one of those things that I often incorporate at home because when I get home from work, there's a limited amount of time between when we walk in the door, we have all these things that have to be done and then especially for our little one, she has to go to bed.

And so, for me to really be able to get any type of time with her, cooking is one way that we can do that. That she could come and she can help me in the kitchen. And I will fully admit that there are some nights that it's so much quicker if I do it myself; right?

12:15 Dr. Weisenhorn: Yeah.

12:16 Dr. Hunter: But there's also that she is learning so much that she's learning to measure, she's learning to read a recipe, she's learning how to pick recipes, what foods go together. So, that meal planning that you're talking about.

And again, as we have such a large gap, I can really see it in our older son that he really demonstrates skills now that I feel he's going to be well prepared when he goes off to college in a few years and has to fend for himself that he does know he's not a great cook, but he does know how to cook some dishes.

And actually asked for a waffle maker for his birthday, which I thought was hilarious.

12:53 Dr. Weisenhorn: Wow.

12:56 Dr. Hunter: And my mom got it for him and then for Christmas, she's like, “What other kitchen appliance would you like? Because I don't have room. My counters are full”.

13:04 Dr. Weisenhorn: I love it.

13:05 Dr. Hunter: But cooking together really is fun; it's so engaging to them and it just really is a neat way to interact as a family.

13:12 Dr. Weisenhorn: It is. And I love the fact that your family has done that for a while and now your son is beginning to ask for her birthday presents and Christmas presents that involve the cooking nature. What a great story.

13:24 Dr. Hunter: Yeah, that one took me off guard a little bit. It did.

This has been fun, David. Thanks so much for joining us today and sharing some great tips that I think can help parents get kind of through these last few winter months and dreary days and just really liven things up at home.

13:40 Dr. Weisenhorn: Such a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

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