Bored 10-Year-old at Home for Summer

Updated on June 28, 2019
W.W. asks from Los Angeles, CA
19 answers

My 10-year-old has always been at the Y for the summer but this is the first summer that he's going to be home with no planned activities to keep him occupied. I do have him enrolled in summer camps for a couple weeks of the summer but can't afford more than that, so it's basically him left to his own devices. We've limited his screentime to no more than 3 hrs/day - it's his first day today and I've already gotten 10 text messages from him asking what I'm doing at work, can I come home for lunch to hang out with him, what should he do - he's so bored. Obviously, we have books on hand for him, but that's about it, Board games won't cut it since there's noone for him to play them with. I'd like to stock up on supplies that he can access when he's bored - drawing pads, colored pens (he likes to draw), and am wondering if you all have any other suggestions to help him learn how to entertain himself? Also, he's recently gotten into coding but given the 3-hr screen time limit, he saves those hours for fortnite instead of coding. I'm thinking an hour of coding a day that doesn't count towards the 3 hrs? Thoughts? Thanks!!

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ETA: I should clarify he's not home alone - my husband is home with him, but he has things he needs to do and won't be able to play with him all day. So he will have human interaction - just not 24/7. Thank you for the ideas!

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answers from Boston on

ETA: Just read your update that your husband is home but has stuff he needs to get done. Yet your son is texting you 10 times a day and wants you to come hang out with him. Don't you have stuff you need to get done? I'd nip that in the bud right now. He needs to grow out of the notion that child care (and child entertainment) are women's work, and that your paid job is somehow less important than what his father is doing. I know that's society's message, but it needs to stop. We need to raise more enlightened boys and men who see us as equals and not people whose work and value can be dismissed. A good 30% (maybe more) of our Mamapedia posts are about women feeling overwhelmed by the unequal division of roles at home.

Original: You've discovered the down side of all the planned "enrichment" activities that so many parents struggle to provide - kids don't know what to do when there isn't one. So they become sort of paralyzed with the idea that true enrichment comes not from someone else creating and supervising and directing the activity - but from being the one who does that.

I would go to the library and talk to the librarian (see if there is someone who specializes in the tween/teen years, but if not, go with the children's librarian). One of the best things we did for our son's birthday parties (which we limited to 6-8 kids tops) was providing much simpler entertainment that his friends' parents did. While they brought in petting zoos and bounce houses, or rented out gymnastics places - all of which cost a fortune - we got a book of party game from the 50s. The kids had a blast with potato races and other low-tech or no-tech options: 4 potatoes, 4 wooden spoons and a couple of broomsticks to mark the start and finish lines - well, that was a party. And we had other games just like it, plus scavenger hunts with silly clues. So I think, if you found a book of classic camp activities that use everyday household objects with maybe a few purchases, you'd have a hit on your hands.

You might also get a book on Rube Goldberg-type inventions - those elaborate set ups that use a mish-mash of simple objects to create something that does a simple task - like turn on a light or pour a glass of water. Let him have free rein to build something at home. You can find some amazing videos on these things as well, with university students creating incredible set-ups. It's not a kid thing at all.

I would say you may have to limit screen time more, frankly, because he's too locked into it and really feels the lack of it. I think you have to have a much firmer limit on text messages. Maybe 2 a day are okay, but otherwise nothing more unless someone is bleeding or something is on fire. That was our rule with our kid - even if I was on the phone (no interruptions except for blood and flames! With uninterrupted time, he built so many things by combining Legos and K'nex and other toys (half a day with a leftover helium balloon to try to get it to fly over the house with different weights suspended from it) that he became a civil engineer and went into project management at a construction company. I don't know what your living arrangements are, but we had a basement space he could take over, and some sections of the backyard he turned into his experimentation zone. He also had basic tools - hammers, screw driver, a bunch of nails and tacks, you name it. Your kid could start a garden (flowers or vegetables or both), make birdhouses or feeders to give to family or to a local nursing home that allows residents to have something outside their window. Our son took scrap lumber and some hex nuts and some nails and wood glue, and made us a Hanukkah menorah. Maybe yours could make Christmas ornaments for your family, his grandparents or the local homeless shelter. Maybe he could learn to cook and you could make a meal for a local shelter or take something yummy to the fire fighters or police officers, particularly the overnight shift. Maybe he could find out what the food pantry needs, and figure out a few healthy foods you could buy every week and put together a nice nutritious drop-off carton. Maybe he can enlist a few neighbors to help out too, or put together a list for your office or friends - "if everyone gave one thing, we could feed a family..." to encourage the small steps toward a larger goal...which is also what you are trying to teach him.

My kid is extremely social and has always has a great crowd of friends, but he's content with his own company. And that only happened because we informed him pretty early on that we were not his personal entertainment committee.

So, I'd give him a list of chores he can do if he's really hard up for fun, and tell him he can sit on his bed and ponder his terrible lot in life. You could also give him a library book or 3 of fun activities he has never tried, and help him understand that borrowing is fine - we don't always have to buy new. The library is the greatest underutilized resource in most communities. I'd cut him back to 2 texts per day. Extra texts? He loses screen time. But I'd put more emphasis on his ability to be up to the challenge, saying you have faith in his ingenuity if he just gives himself a chance. Creativity is hard at first, but his favorite baseball player or scientist didn't become an expert on the first day either. You could have a big goal he could work toward at the end of the summer, but make sure it's cumulative. He can't complain for half the summer, do a little work for a week, and wind up with a trip to the expensive amusement park, you know?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm a little taken aback at the 'only' 3 hours per day.

stop answering his text messages, or limit your responses to 'i don't know what you should do. figure it out.'

you don't *teach* a child to entertain himself. you *allow* him to.

yes, drawing supplies are great. but he's got a house full of stuff to use, doesn't he?

it's great that he's bored. stop looking at it as a problem for you to fix.

it's a golden opportunity for him to figure out what billions of kids before him, most of whom had no screens, art supplies, materials or even toys, have discovered.

a child's best creative tool is his brain. it's something we've denied an entire generation of children.

give it back to him.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Your husband "has things he needs to do" - unlike you when you are at WORK?! lol!!

Come on Mom, tell Dad to "dad up". Your son should not be texting you at work!! If you were home you'd be doing everything 200%, please do not give hubby a free pass to be selfish in a way that you would not be.

Coding is a great skill/hobby for your son to develop. I agree with you about carving out time for that.

Drawing is also a great skill/hobby, good to encourage that. Can he draw outside..."nature drawings"? As a way to encourage him to be outside if possible?

Also, as others say below, where are his friends? He has at least one friend nearby, right?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I hate to say this because maybe you really have no choice, but I think that this is a lot to ask of a 10 year old - to be home alone all day every day. If he had an older sibling to play with or a pool that he could walk to where his friends are or friends in the neighborhood to ride bikes with or SOMETHING, it would be different. I'm guessing that he's not just bored, he's lonely. Is there any way to rethink the plan for the summer? Maybe the mom of a friend of his who would take an extra kid for a even half of the day (maybe just afternoons) for a reasonable price?

I know that it's good for kids to learn to entertain themselves, but asking a just-turned 10 year old to self-direct for 40-50 hours per week while being completely alone for all that time is asking a lot.

ETA: I didn't realize that your husband at home, although it doesn't significantly change my answer with respect to your son - he's still being asked to self-direct for 40+ hours per week every week without any playmates. Yes, my mom sent me out to play all day when I was that age but I had siblings and a neighborhood full of kids who were in the same boat to play with all day. Your son's situation sounds quite different.

Your SWH does make me W. though: I know your husband is working, but presumably he eats lunch and takes some short breaks. Why isn't he having lunch with your son each day? If your son sets up some time with friends, your husband could even use a quick break and/or a lunch break to run your son to a friends house for a few hours. I don't think that more screen time is the answer here - I think it's a combination of talking with the parents of your son's friends and your husband stepping up.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ouch. Your son doesn't have friends in the neighborhood that you trust to come over and play board games or bike riding? I'm not sure where in LA you live - but there's got to be something for him to do - a skate park that he's allowed to go to??

Why can't he go to the Y and do stuff there in the pool and such??

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Your husband needs to step up here and help your son out. Is he working? Is he tied to his computer/phone/can’t leave the house?

If not, he should have your son on a schedule. Example: breakfast, clean room, clothes out of the washer into the dryer (it’s not too early to have him learn how to dry clothes and hang them up/put them away), work on summer bridge activities. Has he learned his multiplication tables? If not, summer is perfect for teaching this! States and their capitals too! If you can find out if this is in the curriculum, it will help you know what to focus on. Fun ways to learn this are important - your husband needs to commit to being a fun parent with this and not just stick a book in his hand...he doesn’t have to spend hours - 15 minutes at a time will teach your son and give him some good memories.

Can your son swim? I used to take my kids to the pool for summer swim meet practice, and go down Starbucks and read before picking them up 2 hours later. We’d go home for lunch and then go to the library. Some libraries have reading competitions which my kids loved.

Outside time is important in the summer, lots of water and indoor breaks depending on the heat. Yes, computer time is fun, but you are allowing too much screen time for a 9 year old. The computer shouldn’t be a babysitter.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

My kids always do work in the summer for upcoming year. I get books from amazon or from Barnes ( company I like is spectrum) I get math, reading, science, language arts.. and have my kids do about 3 pages of each a day. This way their brain doesn’t “rot” lol. And they are ahead of the upcoming year.
Get legos ( they have different level of difficulty) and my kids have been doing sport. So they have either private lessons or team practices.

Maybe Enrolling your child in sport. Even though 10 years old is a bit old to start ( for traveling team) but lots of township offer affordable sports ( in NJ we had soccer program for 8 weeks for like $115) it’s good to have kids participate in keeping healthy. They make friends and maybe you can have another mom take him 1day a week. And you can take them when not at work.

Have his father take him fishing, camping, go to a park, museums, out on a boat or just hiking. Hubby can do his work early or just dedicate specific time and take care of his son the rest of the day. Let him think of son-father activities that they both like.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Where are his friends? During the summer, my kids were either with friends, in camp or day camp, or hiking, beachgoing etc. with me and family.

Doesn't he have a friend(s) whose house he can go to? It is hard to imagine a 10 year old at home alone all summer long.

p.s. -- Coding is valuable, so yes, I think you should add some time just for coding, although I don't know how you'll enforce it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I'm glad he's not home alone.
10 yrs old would be too young for that.
Can he go ask neighbor kids if they can come out to play?
That's what we did and from 7 yrs old during the summer we'd be outside pretty much from sun up to sun down.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Does he have any friends in the neighborhood - people who would be looking to have a kid come over and entertain their kid (I was home and loved having my kids' friends over sometimes - meant less bored kids for me). Maybe you can work out an arrangement - you take a kid on weekend afternoon, if someone has your son on a weekday afternoon(s) - or something like that, to break up his week.

I'd give him a chore a day - and you can pay him or treat him to a fun meal out (his choice) pizza/ice cream - something on Friday or weekend. Or let him save up for something to buy. Nothing crazy, but something that might take a while to do.

Is he into Lego? How about a set he can build that's quite challenging, or if not into Lego, some other thing like that (maybe he likes models...) .. whatever his interest is, if you go on Amazon or whatever, he might see something he'd get into that could turn into a project that might take a while to do.

Do you have a pet? Can you make him in charge of caring for it (feeding, cleaning up, etc.) and pay him?

What about outdoor activities that are safe and fun that he can do on his own - like scootering in drive, basketball, etc? Is there something he'd like to work on - some skill? One of my kids wanted to learn how to get better at hockey so he practiced all summer (set up his nets, etc.) and worked on it for 1/2 hour here and there all summer. Whenever bored, out he went. You can do that on your own. Another one bikes laps around our place when bored .. one hula hoops ...

If you don't have gear, I'd just get a bunch. We have just about every kind of thing out there and a lot of them you can play on your own. We have those washer toss things (fun with group, pairs, or on your own to get good) .. that sort of thing. It just breaks up the day.

Are you near a park/playground? Could he go there for an hour (to meet up with kids) if it's safe and you're comfortable with that?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Phew! Glad you added the SWH that your husband is home. My younger boys, ages 13 & 15, have a few unscheduled weeks this summer in between camps, vacation, and then football and marching band a couple of weeks before school starts. I have found that for my younger son, my best bet is to be proactive about finding out which friends are around and scheduling time with them in advance. With your husband home, it's a good opportunity for him to invite over a friend who isn't at camp or away. I know as a working parent, I really appreciate my kids being able to hang out with a family where one parent is around during the day while I'm in the office. When my kids get bored, one of them likes to cook and the other one likes to do science experiments. In both cases, they're usually following a video online so I think that allowing some active screen time for use coding, or for following along a science experiment on YouTube or a learning how to cook something, is fine. Maybe pick up some basic craft supplies, science kit stuff, or cooking ingredients to help him have what he needs to create something.

Another boredom buster for days that I'm working from home is to go to the gym or a park or a pool. Bringing along a friend is always nice, but most kids can bring a basketball to the local park and find someone who would be willing to shoot hoops or goof off in a pool or something. I can bring my laptop and phone and park myself at a picnic table while they play for an hour - it gets everyone out of the house but I can still be productive.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Are there any projects he can do, like take everything out of a toy closet and sort through things (for donating, for storing away, for keeping)? Is there anything else that needs doing or sorting or organizing?

Could you sign him up for an online kids' coding class or course? There are many online if you google them. If it's an actual course, he'd have to complete some assignments, etc, and you could check to make sure he did the work and didn't just play Fortnite. You could tell him that this is a trust issue - he'd had to prove that he is capable of doing the coding and not play Fortnite during the coding time.

Could he help a neighbor? I used to hire a 10 year old to play with my son who was 4, while I was tending to our newborn who had many problems. Of course, I was home - the 10 year old wasn't actually babysitting, but he could play with my 4 year old, supervise pouring a glass of milk, etc. I paid the 10 year old a dollar an hour. It solved so many problems. Or maybe your son could go read to an elderly neighbor, or walk a dog.

Maybe he would be able to grow a small herb garden (indoors or outdoors)? Or plan out a garden?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

It's great that you have him signed up for a few camps and that you have idea of things he can do at home, but you have got to find more ways for him to get out of the house and to actually interact with other kids.

Maybe I'm off base, but it sounds like you are trying to find ways for him to stay entertained while limited to the confines of your own house. That would drive me stark, raving mad at any age. It's great to find things that he can do inside, but please make sure you also find ways that he can interact with other kids his age.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Wow. I understand you probably have no choice but the least you could do is stop limiting the screen time so much. I was alone during the summer too at that age but I lived in a small town, so there were other kids to play with. We rode our bikes to the store and the park, played at each others' houses (with or without parents around) watched TV and went to the public pool (was super cheap then.) Being alone all day must be really hard for him. Cut him some slack and let him play his games! If any of his friends are home with a stay at home parent maybe you could reach out and see if he could be dropped off for a day here and there. I personally loved it when my kids had friends over, because they were less bored and there was less fighting with each other. You could offer to reciprocate by having their kid over on the weekend.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

My son is also 10 and both my husband and I work from home (although my husband travels a lot). He's also an only child and looks at us like we're here for his entertainment, but I don't let him rely upon us to fill his day. He's bored? He'll find something to do.

We don't have many kids in our neighborhood so I do sometimes plan playdates, but I also make him go outside regardless. He doesn't really like the boy who lives near us (who's a few years younger) but low and behold he will find a way to get along with him when he has no one else to play with. Are you worried about letting him go outside unsupervised? Teach him to check in with your husband each hour so you're not stressing and set boundaries for where he can go in your neighborhood. Even if this means he can only go in the backyard, or to the end of the block, a little independence is a good thing.

I think coding is great but I wouldn't add time to his screentime. If anything, I'd say he couldn't have screentime unless other things like reading/outside play/coding, etc. are done.

I do think you could give him a list of things he can do around the house when he's bored. Dusting, sweeping the kitchen floor, yard work, cleaning the bathroom, etc., are all good motivators for playing. When I suggest any of the above to my son, in response to his, "I'm bored!" remarks, he's quick to find something else to do ;-)

All kidding aside, your son is taking the easy way out by asking you what to do. Don't fill his days for him and DON'T FEEL GUILTY about it. Have plenty of options available, like toys, art supplies, books, easy cooking projects, games he can play on his own, a radio to listen to, a list of chores to earn money, a bike to ride, etc. but let him figure it out. He'll be more capable because of it.

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answers from Santa Fe on

---Added - I'm so glad to hear he is not home alone all day! I think it's perfectly ok for him to be bored. I'd allow him 2 hours screen time and 1 hour coding time. The rest of the day he needs to come up with things to do. You can make him a list each day...Add a couple chores, as well as ideas of things he can do) ----
Original ---That's very young to be by yourself all day. :( Are their neighbor kids he can play with outside? Did you check your local YMCA camp - they are usually very affordable. Did you check for any free church camps? Can he go to a friend's house some days? Do you have a local Youth Center? We have a YMCA youth center and it's FREE. A child age 8-12 can go here and do activities and play with other kids and even do field trips completely for free. Every day. They are even open after school during the school year. Can you talk to all your friends who have a kid his age to see if anyone can help out every now and then and let him go to their house or pick him up to go to the pool? Is there a young teen looking for a babysitting job that you can hire for cheap to spend half days hanging out with him? Some camps are not expensive...ask around to find out prices. Can he spend a few weeks at a grandparent's house? This is what I did as a kid...spent a month every summer with grandparents. Sometimes at my aunt and uncle's house for a month. Can he work as a "helper" at a preschool? My friend's son does this...although he was 11 when he started. He goes half days in the summer and helps with the 3-5 year olds.

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answers from Los Angeles on

-sign him up for some day camps
-buy some craft things he can paint
-he can play tennis against an outside wall of your house
-teach him to play solitaire with cards not on the computer
-buy him a sketch pad
-leave a daily fun activity for him to do. For example, go outside, find 6 leaves, put a piece of paper over them and shade with a pencil
-add some more things to his art area: big sketch pad, gel pens, card stock so he can make cards
-Hide 10 things around the house & leave a scavenger hunt note giving him hints to find those things
-I'd say the hour of coding doesn't not count towards the 3 hours
-take a shoebox, put some small trinket or $5 gift card inside, hide it & leve
a treasure map for him to find it
-if he has a phone, tell him to use the camera video & make a short video (it can be a mini movie, commercial or music video)
-give him 2 small easy chores a day that he can accomplish while you're at work such as fold the towels, dust the coffee/end tables etc.
-have him write his best friends a letter
-hv him make your grocery list of things that need to replenished in the house
(tell him this helps you)
-potter to paint
-get him a small garden he can tend to
-get him an easy model car to make & paint
-have him watch a cooking show for 30 mins to get some ideas of dinners you two can make together

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Can he swim? How about skating, riding his bike, or giving him some household chores? You can also assign things to him, like "photograph a beautiful sunset and write a story/poem about it." Does he play any instruments? Can he practice his instruments, if so? I liked the gardening idea many people mentioned, have him start a vegetable garden, those are fun and he will be excited when he gets to see the fruit of his hard work in the form of edible veggies! Are there any friends of his that aren't in camp that he can call to come over, or he can go with them to a movie or something? I've had parents text me asking me if my daughter can come along with them to a water park, etc., for example. How about checking into a local park's summer camp? There are neighborhood parks that offer reasonably priced summer camps. I find the Y to be extremely overpriced, at $225 a week here. I have been able to find other camps that are cheaper, like the Boys & Girls Club, though. I haven't checked the JCC, but that's another suggestion for you.

Another idea is to buy him some crafts, my daughter likes those mineral kits and robot building kits from Five Below, they're usually about $5 each. They also have things like painting and decorating your own garden gnome, making slime (another very popular option with my kid), and other such things. When I was a kid, I had a detective-type craft book that I used to love, this was in Europe, but I am sure they have similar books here -- it would have little tasks like going to the garden and finding flowers, pressing them inside a book for a few days, then checking to see if the flowers changed colors, etc. At the end, it taught you how to make a bookmark from the pressed flowers. Another task was to go to the garden, find a caterpillar, then write about his characteristics and colors, and try to identify him (they'd have a reference chart of different, popular caterpillars). Then you could go to the library and read up about him. They sometimes provided little tools within the book, like a net, to catch a butterfly and admire it, so it was a neat little book and I used to recruit other kids and we'd form our own "exploration club." We even built a little clubhouse (another idea for your kid, if he's crafty).

How about birding? Buy him some binoculars and a bird identification guide, or a cheap camera and he can show you all the birds he photographed, learn where they live, what they eat, etc. Can he help dad out with his work/chores at home, since he's home as well? If dad needs to mow the lawn, the kiddo can do weeding, for example. If he needs to do some home repairs, maybe the kiddo can hand him tools or assist with him removing screws, etc., my daughter has joined her uncle on boat work, even helped him scrub the boat clean, etc. It's hard to tell to what extent dad can spend time with your kiddo since we don't know if he's working full-time at a job inside the home, is a stay-at-home dad, or is just working part-time at home and can dedicate a few hours to bonding and spending time with the kiddo.


answers from New York on

My kids have things they need to do daily. They must read for a minimum of 30 minutes. They have to write a journal style note to their dad. and then chores. Screen time is an hour. And since we have a swimming pool I make them swim for 20 minutes or more daily. That is nearly 3 hours of the day. Then making lunch, cleaning up from it accounts for another hour..... leaving them roughly 4 hours to do whatever.. They ride bikes, they play on the swingset, they help in the garden by weeding or harvesting. They craft, play legos, clean their rooms.. they also like to do word searches and hidden pictures.

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