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MamaLA: Gnome Investigation—Your Surprise Solution to Summer Boredom

It’s almost summertime and a crime may be about to take place. A time that should be infused with jasmine scented memories could easily be snatched away by these dreaded three words, “Mom, I’m bored.”

No, being a kid does not mean being in a constant state of wonder. No need to fret over who ran off with your babe’s unbridled imagination, we’ve enlisted our friend, camp programmer Courtney Watkins (often described as a Mary Poppins for the new millennium) to bring out your child’s inner GSI—Gnome Scene Investigator.

Not familiar with the term? We can explain. Watkins believes the first line of defense for battling seasonal boredom is preparation. Rather than always having the answers, she asks, how about starting with some inquiries? Engaging your children in a summer exploration can be as easy as looking to your own front yard and having imagination invoking ponderings like these at the tip of your tongue:

“I’ve seen some unusual things in the yard… I need you to check it out.”

"“Hmmm… that looks like a tiny little footprint. Who or what could have made it? Gnomes?”

“What do you suppose Gnomes like to eat?"

Once the idea of gnomes is placed in your child’s mind, Courtney encourages moms to add a “wee bit of magic… a tiny note, an emptied tea cup, a dusting of glitter—clear evidence of a party,” say, “an arrow drawn in the dirt, a couple of letter shaped sticks left in plain site, a tiny scrap of fabric that could have been left behind by a Gnome’s harried exit,” and then let the real investigation begin.

You can encourage your child’s wonder by pointing out the evidence. Is it a code? Perhaps your children can even leave behind gifts and meals for their newfound friends. Anyone for little mud pies and fallen petal tea?

The important thing is to enlist your kiddos as scientists and explorers. As a result, they’ll end up thwarting boredom on their own. Courtney puts it this way: “It’s good for them, but in high disguise.” This playful form of science will spark their interest all summer long, and their inquisitive minds will pay off when they head back to school in the fall.

Courtney has practiced this method on her own little one. A GSI since the age of two, Mary Charles is the kind of kid who stumbles upon something in the yard and peers closely before stating, “Oooooh, this is so un-yoooooo-sual.” Courtney also offers camps that make mamas want to be a child again. Soraya’s tween daughter Siena wishes she could go back to the days she spent investigating gnomes. When an almost 12-year-old would choose fairy camp over Instagram, that’s proof positive of some seriously sparkly magic happening. Case closed.


With seven children ranging in age from six months to sixteen years between them, sisters and bloggers Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.