Summer is the time to relax, to have fun, to chill, to sit on your lounge chair in the backyard and soak up the sun and silence. Riiiight. Any well-seasoned mami knows that as soon as she sits her butt on any chair and closes her eyes, those two words will echo loud and clear across the backyard, the front yard, the pool yard… I’M BORED. Oh they always say it in capital letters. In that whiney voice. The one that sends you right up the wall. Now, back when I was growing up, in the days of old-school parenting, when I would howl the I’M BORED! rally cry, my mother had a three-pronged plan of attack:
1. Ignore: She was so adept at this, I often feared she had gone deaf. So, I would repeat myself, just to be sure she heard.
2. Implore: After my twentieth or thirtieth I’M BORED! she’d calmly look at me and repeat a mantra I heard on a daily basis: “Saying you’re bored is saying that you lack intelligence. Is that what you’re telling me?” Presumably, I was supposed to have enough pride to find something to get myself un-bored, thus proving my intelligence. This worked about once every summer.
3. Chore: And then she’d give me a something awful to do. Weeding the garden was her favorite.Because I am doomed to have an army of children who wail I’M BORED! no less than 30 times each summer day (my mother has hoped to God for this so many times, I don’t see how it can be avoided), I have come up with my own plan of attack.Oh, of course I’ll rely on the Ignore, Implore, Chore strategy at first (I am my mother’s daughter, after all), but how many times can I watch a kid weed a garden? I need another prong in my plan of attack, which is:
4. Explore: Summer is perfect the time take “daycations” to visit the treasures in your own backyard. How many New Yorkers have never seen the Statue of Liberty? How many Miamians have never explored the Everglades? How many Texans have never seen the Alamo? Because these places are so close, we always think we’ll go there “someday.” Why not today?
Best of all, you can sneak in some learning without the kids even realizing it, making your daycation an education. That way, when they head back to school in September, they’ll have more to share on their “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay than their X-box scores. (Am I the only one who fears that essay?)
So, sit down with your kids and make a list of those places you’ve always “been meaning to go” and then GO.
I’ve asked my best mami friend in New York to share a few items from her list and in return, I gave her some tips, tidbits, and timeless lessons for each destination (see below).
EDU(DAY)CATIONS IN NEW YORK
Ellis Island & The Statue of Liberty
From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island with one dream: to be American. These immigrants journeyed across the Atlantic, often suffering a harrowing few months at sea. As they sailed into New York Harbor, they were greeted by a most welcome sight: The Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom and new beginnings. Take your children on a journey through the original immigrant experience.
Tips & Tidbits:
• Ferries leave for Ellis Island from Battery Park in NYC and Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Save time by booking your tickets online.
• Be sure to walk up to the second floor of the Immigration Museum, where there are a multitude of personal photos and artifacts from thousands of immigrants.
• You will pass the statue on your ferry ride to Ellis Island, but if you want to go to Liberty Island (where the statue is actually located), you need to book a week in advance.
• Read Carol Bierman’s Journey to Ellis Island, a children’s book told from the perspective of an 11-year old Russian boy journeying to America; the book perfectly portrays the immigrant experience and includes some wonderful paintings and photographs.
Timeless Lesson: America has always been (and will always be) a nation of immigrants.
Central Park is an iconic and storied piece of New York’s history. It opened in 1857, in order to give the swelling population a place to escape the chaos of the city life. Today, it is the most visited urban park in the country.
Tips & Tidbits:
• Within the 700 acres, there are 21 playgrounds, a zoo, a marionette theater, the list goes on. If your kids get bored here, there is no hope for you!
• Print out a map of the park and make a game plan so you hit all the items you and your children want to see:
• Be sure to visit the carousel, which was built in 1951 and remains one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the United States.
• Read Laura Godwin’s Central Park Serenade, which will introduce your child to the park in fun, melodic couplets. The book and its beautiful illustrations are a brilliant homage to the park and the city.
Timeless Lesson: Get outside. There is always more to see!
Hundreds of years before flat-screen TVs and mega-plexes, there was the stage. Live actors delivering their dialogue in real time—imagine that! Show your children where true acting stems from and foster their appreciation for the arts.
• Make sure you choose a kid-friendly show! Children should be at least 6 years old to truly enjoy the experience. And so they don’t disrupt fellow audience members.
• Read Harriet Ziefert’s delightful children’s book, Lights on Broadway: A Theatrical Tour from A to Z, to get your kids excited about their first theater experience.
• If you want to brush up on your Broadway history before you go, peruse this website: Talkin’ Broadway.
• Broadway is just like the megaplex in one way—the snack prices are outrageous. Sneak in your Snickers bars!
Timeless Lesson: Respect and honor the arts. But always sneak in your Snickers.