“You can keep your family safe and sane by encouraging old-school play, embarking on some D.I.Y. projects and, yes, even embracing boredom.”A. Slolski, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: How to Entertain Your Kids This Summer? Maybe Don’t By A. Slolski, The New York Times
“A funny thing about summer: It is long. It is also hot. This one comes in the middle of a global pandemic.
And even in a changed and changing world, I have reserved some mental energy for panicking about how my kids, husband and I will make it to September without everyone’s brains turning into Haribo gummies. Let me put it this way: On a recent rainy Saturday, we baked banana bread and played games. We made lunch together, built a cardboard lantern and learned about the constellations. It was exhausting. And they still put down two Disney movies. Three months into school closures, my children have watched every show. There are no shows left.
And yet, working from home with small children, an ordeal and a privilege, has been de rigueur since agrarianism got going. Parents managed it for thousands of years — without day care, compulsory schooling or camps. What did children used to do all day? Short answer: They worked and they played, often with minimal adult supervision.
In an email, Mintz, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, pointed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1560 painting Children’s Games. A canvas to give social-distancing enforcers nightmares, it shows 100 or so Flemish youths disporting themselves with hoops, stilts, bubbles, marbles, the occasional pig bladder and the wholesome fun of beating one another with a scourge. The Flemish parents are elsewhere, presumably answering emails or cracking open a brown ale.
The painting suggests that a lot of play is social, a difficulty in a pandemic. But it also insists that the desire for play is innate and that children will find ways to amuse themselves, especially if you can supply some rudimentary toys — kites, cards, blocks, dolls, balls, paper boats and paper airplanes, a garden hose if you have one, a half-filled tub…This may also be a good time to get away from the idea that play should be educational or S.T.E.M.-enhancing. ‘All play is productive,’ Mintz said. ‘They will learn something from whatever they do.’
Still, children may not want to play on their own or with a sibling, and you may have conference calls or Twitter threads that beckon. Which means they will claim boredom, and more than likely they will whine about it. What should you do? Nothing.
Feeling that we ought to keep kids happy and entertained is a comparatively modern mind-set and speaks to certain resources and luxuries. Instead of trying to prevent boredom, maybe welcome it and see what children do…Housework can also become a form of play…’The thing to remember is that kids want to help, so try to get them in the habit of doing some of those things,’ Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting childhood independence said. A 3-year-old separating laundry is quite possible and also quite fun… If you can take a few extra minutes to gamify the chore — Mary Poppins’s ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ approach — they may even enjoy it.
A pandemic isn’t forever… ‘Don’t think that there’s something wrong with you or that you haven’t been the perfect camp counselor and made it a fun and exciting and rewarding summer for everyone,’ Skenazy said. “I mean, just give yourself a break.”
“I’ve said from the outset of this election that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. Who we are. What we believe. And maybe most important — who we want to be. It’s all at stake.”~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Have students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Parents no longer have to worry about keeping their kids entertained.
- You can keep your family safe and sane by encouraging old-school play.
- Also embarking on some D.I.Y. projects helps.
- This summer comes in the middle of a global pandemic.
- I have reserved some mental energy for panicking about how my kids, husband and I will make it this summer.
- We built a cardboard lantern and learned about the constellations.
- It was exhausting.
- Working from home with small children, can be an ordeal and a privilege.
- Working from home with small children has been de rigueur since agrarianism got going.
- Parents managed it for thousands of years — without day care, compulsory schooling or camps.
Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Some Prepositions: at,as, across, around,by, during,for, from, in, into,of, on,to, over,off, through, up,with, since,
You can keep your family safe and sane___encouraging old-school play, embarking___some D.I.Y. projects.
And even___a changed and changing world, I have reserved some mental energy ___panicking___how my kids, husband and I will make it ___September.
The desire___play is innate and that children will find ways___amuse themselves, especially if you can supply some rudimentary toys.
This may also be a good time___ get away ___the idea that play should be educational or S.T.E.M.-enhancing.
Still, children may not want___ play ___their own.
Identify The Speakers
Directions: Have students read the following quotes from speakers in the article to see if they can identify the speakers.
- “The pandemic has exaggerated and intensified the worst features of children’s play today: adult intrusion; the decline of physical, outdoor and social play; and mediation by screens.”
- “Feeling that we ought to keep kids happy and entertained is a comparatively modern mind-set and speaks to certain resources and luxuries. Instead of trying to prevent boredom, maybe welcome it and see what children do.”
- “The thing to remember is that kids want to help, so try to get them in the habit of doing some of those things.”
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
- Why is the author concerned about this summer with her kids?
- What activities did the author and her husband do with their children?
- Why does the author say, “I have reserved some mental energy for panicking about how my kids, husband and I will make it to September without everyone’s brains turning into Haribo gummies.”
- According to the author how did parents manage children a long time ago— without day care, compulsory schooling or camps?
- What does author Steven Mintz suggest that parents do with their kids?
- When children show boredom, what does author Tom Hodgkinson, suggest?
- Describe the D.I.Y. Approach to Culture.
- Make a list of activities children can do this summer.
Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.