Today we have another question from a reader - thank you for asking, ladies! Keep the questions coming! Today's question was beyond my stage of parenting, so I enlisted a dear older friend of mine, who has raised 5 boys on the mission field over the last 20 years. I'm excited to share Cynthia's wisdom, but also interested to hear thoughts and advice from others!

Question:

"We live in the city here, and we have NO grass... no courtyard, nothing but a garage and the street, and a little strip of dirt on the other side of the street. We are very thankful for what we do have... but it doesn't provide work for your BOY and work is what he desperately needs. We've given him all sorts of indoor chores, but that's just indoor chores--it's not the type of work that he really needs at this point in life... work like hauling wood, caring for chickens, mowing lawn, pulling weeds, and all that sort of thing. It also doesn't allow very much of the type of free outdoor, run-and-play type development that encourages make-do skills, building and creating... all those things. We've banged our heads against that wall of what we don't have so often that we're sore. It finally occurred to us that... we should stop. =) If we cannot do anything about it, we're going to have to work with what we have. So my question is really this: how do other people work with that?"

Cynthia's Thoughts: Some Ideas For Boys While Living In A City Type Environment
Yes, we do understand that boys need active and constructive things to do to run off or use up their abundance of energy. We had 4 sons left at home when we moved to a city suburb in Africa with a small amount of grass and a small garden. The garden was seasonal and when the dry season came there was nothing of that to do. Also, there was no grass to cut during dry season. It was a challenge to keep our boys profitably occupied but we really did see the need for it and tried hard to keep them busy! At the present time we have only 2 sons left at home and their ages are 15 and 18. 
*Raising animals taught discipline as our sons learned to feed and care for them. Rabbits and guinea pigs can be raised in cages in a small place. We hardly had enough space for chickens. 
*How about carpentry? My husband had been a carpenter by trade so it came naturally for him to help our sons to learn to make things with wood. This is a wonderful way for them to be creative! Maybe you can get some tools and wood and let him learn to use them to make items for you to use around the house like little stools, benches, tables, etc. You can use the corner of a garage and let it become a carpentry shop area. I heard of one mom that had four boys who ended up learning carpentry so that she would have something to do with her boys.
*Learn to be a fixit man while young!  My husband, also by his example, showed our boys how to do about any type of handyman fix-it job around the house, indoors and outdoors. That has been a tremendous blessing for all of us!
*Gardening is great! Would that strip of dirt across the street be sufficient for fencing around and making a small garden? What about using large flower pots (or buckets, misc containers, etc) for gardening right around your house? You can stake a tomato in a pot or make a trellis to prop up beside a pot for a cucumber vine to grow on. Maybe you could use a rectangular box pot for growing lettuce, etc. This is not hard work but is profitable and is better than nothing.
*A competitive game like soccer with neighbor boys at a nearby park or field is a good way for a son to play hard, sweat, and use up extra energy. Another family member can also go along to watch over and be an encouragement. We have allowed this and it has worked out well for us.
*If there is an interest in motors he could learn some things about mechanics and tear apart old motors, using those which would be according to his age level, of course. This was a project that several of our boys worked on. They even made a little go-cart-type thing using the wheels from a child's wagon. 
*Biking is another thing that our boys have done. Often two went together when they were younger. As they got older and more trustworthy, I would send them out on errands to the nearby market or street vendors for food ingredients or whatever I needed. They loved to run errands for mother, but mostly because they loved the chance to bike! :-)
God bless you as you raise your son and keep him busy!
******
Let's hear some ideas from the rest of you! How do you keep your children occupied and teach them responsibility with little or no outdoor space?

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  • This idea may not be workable in a lot of situations, but we found it extremely helpful: One of the families I lived with overseas contrived to make a wagon for their children, and many a happy hour passed with the older boys pulling the younger children in that wagon. It gave the boys good exercise, responsibility, and a profitable occupation, while keeping all our little ones busy too! With the help of some imagination the wagon served as everything from a bus to a boat to an airplane going to America. And sometimes there was opportunity for the boys to use the wagon to haul something (besides children) that their father would have had to take care of otherwise. We had the advantage of having a courtyard, although not a large one, so the children could use the wagon without supervision; but when one of us was available to give oversight, they were sometimes allowed to use it on the road in front of our house as well.

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  • Great idea, thanks for sharing!

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  • I grew up in town with 5 brothers. One thing my parents did was rent a little plot of land outside of town. We had a garden there. The boys biked there a couple times a week - they all had a plot they were responsible for once they were 10 years old or so. It was also a great way to have fresh fruit and vegetables. There might be a way to rent a garden like this - maybe you know someone who has a large yard and who wouldn't mind if you used a bit of it?

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  • You could pay your son the regular price for the vegetables he grows... that way he can make some money too; maybe then he could use that to buy new seeds? It could teach him some business skills.

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  • Guest - Fozia

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