I recently wrote a parenting article entitled, “What to Do When They Say, “I’m Bored.” The article began with a look back a few decades when kids played freely and happily in their neighborhoods. The local gang got together to play baseball and Kick the Can. Kids rode their bikes for miles without anyone restricting their movement. They built forts and often played outdoors until last light during summer months.

Those days are gone. Children’s play lives have gone from unstructured to managed. And although there are good reasons, including safety, for the changes, they are having a decidedly negative affect on children and their creativity.

One of the sad results of this trend is the inability of many children to create their own fun. They are bombarded with entertaining stimuli most of the time and often give in to “entertain me” mode. When screens are not available or are limited, kids just don’t know how to play.

Parents and other adults can help. Often all a child needs is a redirecting question such as “How about riding your bike or running through the sprinkler?” Other times an activity jar may help. Take the time to brainstorm lots of fun activities, write them on slips of paper and then when boredom rears its ugly head, have the child pick three ideas out of the jar and commit to one of them. (There’s a great list of fun activities at www.Aha!Parenting.com–the Boredom Buster Jar.

Other ideas include having an expectation that your kids will play outside every day. Once in a natural environment, children usually create and pretend instinctively. In addition, make sure your home provides the materials for art, drama, and musical fun.

Parenting has always been a challenging job. Today’s parents have the added pressure of balancing their children’s use of technology and protecting old-fashioned creative play. When kids know how to entertain themselves, everyone is happy.