What do you do when your parents limit your screen time but you really like video games? If you’re like 11-year-old Riley, you invent your own games out of cardboard and paper.
“Riley loved video games from the first time we plugged in my original Nintendo Entertainment System from 1989,” says his mom, Cheri Mantz. “He’s always been an incredibly creative, artistic kid. He started creating these games with cardboard and paper when he was 7 or 8.”
It was important to Cheri and her husband to give Riley limits on his screen time, so they put rules in place early on. Right now, he gets one hour a day for video and computer games on non-school days (he doesn’t get game time on school days). So what does he do when he runs out of time to play games? He makes genius alternatives.
You can do so much with cardboard and paper.
It started off small. Riley would draw his favorite video game characters or scenes. Pretty soon, he would be making actual cardboard versions of his favorite games, using boxes, tape, wooden skewers, Post-Its, and anything else he could get his hands on. The big pile of boxes in their garage is his main source of inspiration. He’ll sift through until he finds just the right one for what he’s planning to make.
“We are constantly looking for our kitchen shears,” Cheri says. “They’re the only scissors in the house sharp enough to cut cardboard. Riley’s usually got them because he’s working on something big.”
He also usually has the packing tape, Scotch tape, and other odds and ends from around the house. Cheri says he can often spend an entire afternoon working on a single project or he’ll tinker away at something for days, between schoolwork, TV, and other activities.
Passing on boredom from one generation to the next.
As a child, Cheri says she was a total ’80s kid who spent tons of time just playing and figuring out entertainment on her own—roller skating, playing kickball with friends, running around in the woods to explore. She often heard “Go find something to do!” as a kid, and it’s something she says to her own kids as well.
“My parents were not there to entertain me, and we take that same approach with our kids,” she says. “As parents, we could easily step in and tell them how they should be spending their time, but that doesn’t teach them anything.”
Cheri says there are moments when she doesn’t love the piles of tape, scraps, and messes that Riley sometimes leaves behind. But in the end, it’s not that big of a deal.
“I know that he’s exercising his own creativity and imagination and that is one of the best things kids can do with their free time,” Cheri says.
Riley is a great example of a Let Grow Kid and of how boredom really can be a good thing. Check out the video of Riley below to see him making and creating. You can also check out another Let Grow Kid, Arias, who makes stop-motion videos.