Having children home on a teacher's work day is a blessing and a curse. Here are some time-tested (my mother used these when my sibs and I were little) and innovative ways to kill the boredom and have some fun:
  1. For those who live in a city with PT (public transportation): Get on the train (MARTA, the CTA, the Metra, whatever) and ride down a single or multiple lines. The kids can sit in the window seats and watch the scenery. You can point out various landmarks. If you go through the projects you can point out how some people live and to be thankful for what you have. Make a few loops.

  2. Utilizing idea #1, get off the train at the airport (this is safer when your kid is in a stroller or is OK with crowds, strangers, etc.) and watch the airplanes land and take off. Go to the arrivals gate and watch people disembark. Pay no money.

  3. Go to kid-friendly landmarks. The zoo (like the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago) is sometimes free and usually easy on the wallet. Biking and walking paths are nice. So are pigeon-filled plazas with statues, jungle gyms and public pools.

  4. Get to know your city. Get directions for a scenic drive through an area. This is best in spring and fall. This is also good for getting the kids to nod off.

That's all that comes to mind now. Please feel free to add . . . .

One word.....water.

When my children were very small, water was the answer. A glass bowl full of water on the kitchen floor will keep a toddler entertained for a long time. The mess is definetely worth it. A bath can be fun and entertain kids, especially once they are old enough to sit up by themselves. A sprinkler in the backyard, or even a hose with the water turned on low will make any kid happy. Colored water and oil mixed in a jar makes a cheap and surprisingly engrossing toy.

Natural water, such as rivers and lakes and the ocean especially will entertain a kid for as long as you want to stay. No boy can resist throwing rocks, and it never bores them, especially if the rocks make a loud kerthump when they hit the water. The ocean, with its waves and sand and treasures will keep kids happy for a long time.

I'm sure there is a psychological reason that these methods soothe and entertain, but frankly I don't care. Taking a brief time out to prepare or travel to some sort of water has de-stressed and entertained my kids many times. If I had to give a parenting tip in one word..it would be WATER.

Here's what my parents did to distract me when we were waiting in a restaurant:

There's the classic "catepillar" where you bunch up the paper from a straw, and when you add a drop or two of soda, the mashed up tube of paper grows lengthwise as if it were growing/moving.

Then there's the ever popular trick of getting an octagonal salt-shaker to stand balanced on one of the eight edges on the bottom. The trick is to add a small amount of salt to the table, and trying to balance the salt-shaker in the salt. It sounds impossible, but it works. Then you time it to see how long it takes for it to fall over. My personal record is 20 minutes.

I found this solution while at a family reunion.

My aunt and uncle were trying to quiet their kid during the blessing, and he would not stay quiet. They tryed their hardest while trying to respect the prayer, but it was quite hard to even think. They got out all of his expensive toys and he shut up for a little while but, one again he started crying.

My grandma got quite pissed off, went to her car, and returned with a cardboard box, and gave it to the kid.

Silence.

After that, thats all i heard about: While expensive toys will make a child quiet for a little while, the cheapest and most inconceivable things will quiet a child even longer.

This group of people is playing poker in John Smith's basement. The room is heavy with cigar smoke, stakes are high, and all around everybody is quite pleased. But then John's son Joey, who is seven, comes downstairs and becomes quite a pest, running around the table and calling out the cards from behind the players' backs. Naturally, they get rather irate. Joey's father tells him to stop, but to no avail. he shouts at him, which stops joey for a couple of minutes, but then joey says he is bored, and keeps on disturbing the game with his antics.

The players do everything from talking to him to offering him money to make him stop, but he just will not quit. After about an hour of this, everybody is really getting really tired of Joey. So Joey's uncle gets up and tells the boy to come with him. He returns 5 minutes later without the boy and the game continues.

Two hours later, and still no sign of Joey. Everyone is mighty pleased. And John asks his brother, "it's great that you got Joey to stop annoying us, but i must know, what did you say to him?"

"Nothing. i taught him how to jerk off."

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