How to prevent kids from getting bored at the cottage

Jumping into the lake

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine. For more excellent entertaining tips, pick up a copy of the issue today.

Little guests can require a little work to entertain. Good thing we know how to keep them happy!

Send them to the #1 boredom buster: the lake

But first things first: whether sending young guests out in a canoe or a sailboat or to noodle around on a surfboard, you’ll want to have a lifejacket or a PFD for them. Ask guests with kids if they have PFDs that fit their children they can bring. If you’re buying some to have on hand, you’ll need to know the children’s weights: infant (20 to 30 lbs), child (30 to 60 lbs), and youth (60 to 90 lbs). If your guest is a baby, Salus Marine also makes a baby vest, the Bijoux, which is specially designed for infants weighing 9 to 25 lbs. Steve Wagner of Salus Marine says to look for vests with adjustments, so that you can better fit them to different body shapes. (Vests shouldn’t slide over the kids’ chin or ears when they sit down.) Unless you plan to give away the PFD as a cottage weekend bomboniere, choose ones with neutral designs and colours in case your next visitor isn’t into princesses.

“Children are in their vests longer than anyone, so it’s important that they are comfortable,” says Wagner. He recommends the soft urethane-foam ones rather than the hard poly-foam kind, which are a little stiff. The soft ones are about $10 more expensive, but Wagner says “it makes the difference between having happy kids who will wear their vest all day or not—and means parents don’t have to listen to complaints.”

Build some entertainment kits

Suitcase of fun: Keep an old suitcase under the bed in the guest room, and stock it with a few games, paper, crayons, markers, kid scissors, tape, a Frisbee, puzzles, maps, and even old gadgets that kids can take apart and make things with.

Toolbox of fun: The cottage is a place to get your hands dirty and try something new. Put together a set of real hand tools (a hammer, a screwdriver, a saw, eye protection) that kids can use, and point them towards the scrap woodpile and recycling box. Before letting the kids loose, have parents vet the tools and supplies to pull out any that aren’t age appropriate. Be sure to explain to your young putterers any rules about what they can and can’t use, and show them how to use the tools safely. They can do more than you think!

Plan a scavenger hunt

Use this list from Drew Gulyas, the Outdoor Education & Summer Camp Director at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre in Mansfield, Ont.

1. A skipping stone

2. Something bumpy

3. The biggest pine cone

4. Something prickly

5. Three kinds of seeds

6. Something smooth

7. A letter-shaped stick

8. Something sticky

9. A colourful stone

10. Something soft