Things to Do When the Kids are Bored – A Simple and Effective Guide

Being Bored Gets a Bad Rap!

Kids being bored.

If you read certain types of media, you could easily form the view that bored kids are at risk of being trouble makers. Indeed, being bored has been viewed as a state to avoid if you want your kids to ‘turn out ok’ and not ‘go off the rails’. The word ‘bored’ brings up such negative connotations, especially for kids it seems!

I want to discuss what current research says about boredom, and turn this negative notion on its head!
I’d also like to share some really effective and simple things to do when the kids are bored. First of all, though, let’s talk more about OUR perceptions of boredom and how they affect us.

When you hear your kids say, “I’m bored! There’s just nothing to do. It’s all BORING!”, how do YOU react? Do you feel the need to quell the ‘boredom monster’ at any cost? I must admit this has happened to me on a number of occasions.

(Maybe it is just me, but I suspect not!)

Why would the thought of our kids struggling with boredom create such a reaction? We certainly want our kids to turn out ok. Maybe it is the popular media depiction of ‘off the rail’ teenagers/kids being rooted in a state of boredom? Or is it to do with a societal push for a busy life full of ‘meaningful activities’? Is it the constant barrage of social media depicting amazing action-packed lives, possibly causing a feeling of deficiency if we fail to provide for our kids in the same way? Maybe it is increased use of technology, where we are rewarded with dopamine hits for our brains, available from instant tidbits of interesting information? It could certainly be any of these, or all. What do you think?

Are There Positive Ways to Deal with Boredom? Bored kid

I’m happy to report a resounding yes!

Being bored is a healthy and very natural part of being human! In fact, it is an essential human process that has some surprising and lasting benefits for our mind and well-being. You can relax in the knowledge that you are doing your job as a parent /care-giver in letting your child to be bored! Knowing this is the best way to make friends with boredom!

Your kids may not instantly agree when you tell them but, as we will discuss, being bored is really good for them!

Make Friends With Boredom –

It’s Healthy!

 

It appears, based on current research, that boredom can benefit your mind in several important ways.

Recent research has shown that being bored often results in increased creativity and increased capacity for problem solving. Professor Peter Enticott of Deakin University, asserts that ‘ …boredom could be a powerful motivator to seek more mental stimulation’.  He agrees that boredom really does make people more imaginative and creative.

It also provides an opportunity for kids to think for themselves without outside interference or monitoring. This leads to developing a healthy sense of who they are and what they like – a sense of identity. As much as I love helping my children, I also have the goal of having them be confident to problem solve and think for themselves, and have a strong sense of who they are! I want to help them use boredom to their advantage!

So, now we have established that boredom is a positive and healthy state of being, how can we help our children (and ourselves) deal with the ‘boredom monster’?

What are Some Practical Ways to Assist our Kids When They are Bored?

 

Make Time for Free Time!

Firstly, make time for free time!! Schedule time to make friends with the ‘boredom monster’! If you want your kids to be able to think for themselves, then making time for just doing nothing and having no structured activities is the best way to start. Nominating an afternoon or a day a week/fortnight where the whole family have no plans will help kids understand that you place importance on this for yourself as well as for them.

Regular time for doing ‘nothing’ will allow you and your kids to become comfortable with this way of being – with, potentially, being bored – and it will not be such a stressful situation ! Having unstructured time to free play, both with other kids, and all by themselves, is also fundamental in learning to self-regulate. See here for more information on self-regulation strategies for your child.

Bored kids being outside

Change of Scenery

 

Changing your outlook and perspective can sometimes make all the
difference! This can also apply when boredom sneaks into our minds.
Maybe that is why boredom exists in the first place? – It motivates us to change our perspective!

child at the beachSo, take your kids for a short drive or a walk – somewhere different to your usual places. Tell them you are going to take their minds on a holiday! I love going into the bush or the forest with my kids, as there is no need to do anything at all in the way of prompting their imaginations. There is
always something to amaze, collect, feel, smell, and play with. Inspiration and activities come to mind naturally, and there is just a remarkable sense of well-being that comes with being amongst the trees.
The same can be said of the beach and other places of natural beauty.

Sometimes even re-arranging a bedroom, or making a new activity centre in the corner of a room can inspire creativity and relieve
boredom. A sheet overhanging the table can be the best cubby house ever ! You
probably have many examples of your own like these! The point is to create change in your surroundings, even a small effort is beneficial!

Create a List of Possibilities with Your Child

Sometimes it can be a daunting prospect to be faced with an unstructured block of time, especially when this is an unfamiliar feeling and situation. It can be overwhelming and produce anxiety. So, for many kids it can be useful to sit down with them and create a list of possibilities as a starting point for them to explore. It is important to tell your child that there are no expectations from you at all and that there is no need to finish or complete anything.

Ideas for a List of Possibilities:

  • Make a hide-out, or a cubby house
  • Create an obstacle course
  • Play dress ups and get in character!
  • Take photos of a particular subject
  • Make a mini movie
  • Make an outside kitchen
  • Bike ride or go for a walk
  • Start a nature journal
  • Make some special birthday cards
  • Make up a board game
  • Read a book
  • Glue everyday objects together to make sculptures
  • Collect nature pieces like feathers, or stones
  • Paint stones!
  • Draw a map
  • Create a treasure hunt
  • Do shadow puppets
  • Make up a song
  • Put on your favourite music and dance
  • Train your pet!

Kid using his imagination

 

Some activities will need support from you at first, but the idea is that, gradually, your child will be comfortable and excited about choosing and implementing ideas and activities all by themselves. This process can take time and encouragement, but if you start small, be consistent and remain positive about the idea, it will reap rewards for you and your kids.

In Conclusion:

I encourage you to turn the negative connotations surrounding boredom on its head! Encourage your children to make friends with their ‘boredom monster’! Boredom is good for them!

  • Set aside time to be free of structured activities.
  • Consider a change of scenery to give your mind a holiday.
  • Sit down with your kiddos and explain how boredom is good for them. Help them come up with their own list of possibilities to explore in their free time.Being bored can produce profound and unexpected benefits for ourselves and our kids! It is now known that boredom can help children develop skills such as problem solving. It can foster imagination and creativity. It allows the opportunity to work out personal likes and dislikes and provides the impetus for self-direction and self-regulation. Wonderful!

It is time to look at boredom in a whole new way – as an essential
component of self-growth and an opportunity to change and discover new
ways of being and doing. Go ahead – Be bored!

It’s good for you and your kids!!

Thank you for visiting and reading this article! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas around boredom!

Warm wishes,

Lyndal Jane

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12 thoughts on “Things to Do When the Kids are Bored – A Simple and Effective Guide”

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I love that you used boredom as a positivity. It is the point children reach, just before they start to create something or imagine something. The words ‘I am bored@ are used a lot in our household, especially if for any reason the internet goes down, or devices run out of power. How much do you think technology has contributed to children’s boredom? and their lack of ability to create or imagine themselves out of it? I also have noticed with my children that they need adult input to spur that creation much more than I ever did. I love your list of ideas, they are the things I did naturally when I was young, go on a bike ride, adventure, make a camp, play with friends, but again I wonder how much online gaming has stunted my children’s ability to just go out and play.

    1. Hi Sara!
      You are very welcome! And I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing! Very interesting questions. I’ll say this…I’ve noticed that my kids can be creative within their gaming on technology;however, coming off and interacting with the natural world around them can then be a challenge.. as in, (as you put so well),’ imagining themselves out of it’. The dopamine hits received by the brain when ingesting just the right amount of information- chunks, combined with immediate feedback from gaming can be addictive. This is something my kids and I discuss -and continually need to discuss- on a regular basis, so that they can become aware of their own body/mind responses to technology, and in turn begin to regulate this as they turn into adults. They obviously need my help here (my kids are 12 and 7, nearly 8). We also home school, and many courses etc within which they learn (and learn well!) are online! What I have found helpful is to remove devices in the morning so that they are ‘out of sight/out of mind’ and get outside, involved in a fun project if possible. Then I have a set time for them to be on devices. I’m finding for us atm, that the anti-dote to the effects of technology, is being outside! Being outside in nature has restorative effects and is its own reward. So, in summary – yes, I think technology can definitely contribute greatly to the ability to create and to being bored. However – and a big however – I think it is futile to demonise it with our kids. I know we don’t mean to demonise… But I know I have been really negative about it with my children, and all this seemed to do is create an increased sense of need/ perceived addiction to tech, combined with shame. This felt so wrong that I had to re-evaluate what I was doing. My perspective now, after re-evaluating, is that I want to help my children listen to their bodies and minds when it comes to technology. I do need to provide them with boundaries around how much time/when to be on devices, but mostly I need to provide options for joy outside of technology, and also have lots of open discussion with them. This includes me being open to sharing their joy about technology. As you may have guessed, this is actually an ongoing challenge for me…and not one I claim to have an answer to. I’m just sharing what is working for me/us right now, and what my current thoughts are. Goodness, that wasn’t as straight forward an answer as I wanted to give! Thank you, Sara! I hope this actually answered your question, even partly!
      Warm wishes
      Lyndal Jane

  2. Hi,
    thanks for your article! I never saw it that way when my kids were bored.
    You built a great list of possibilities what we can do with our children – instead of letting them play with their mobile phone or pc.
    And the big advantage is that you can experience all those things together!
    Many thanks for your ideas!
    Best regards,
    George

    1. Hi George 🙂
      You are welcome! And, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Yes, experiencing those things together is such a gift! I have found parent hood to be the best personal development ‘course’ ever!
      Warm wishes
      Lyndal Jane

  3. Interesting article on kid’s boredom, how to look at it, and what to do about it. I never looked at boredom before as being healthy, but it does make sense that it is a normal human condition. I like your idea about a change of scenery. Makes sense. I also like your thorough list of possibilities of things to do in order to quell boredom. Well done. Tom

    1. Hi Tom!
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Yes, I never saw boredom as being a ‘healthy’ thing, either! It makes such a difference when you can change the narrative around it! I really appreciate you stopping by!
      Warm wishes
      Lyndal Jane

  4. I love this! I notice that sometimes the kids have just had too much time inside when they are getting bored so getting out and changing the scenery is a great tip! I also love the list idea. My 8yo daughter actually loves lists and giving her an opportunity to create one would be entertainment in itself though I do find that it’s best to create the ideas when they are not in that bored frame of mind because then every idea somehow seems to be uninspired. I actually have a little list in my phone of things to do with the kids on weekends that I add to whenever the kids say they want to do something and we can’t do it in that moment. Planning a trip or holiday and imagining all the fun things to do is actually one of my favourite past times! Haha. Translating that into real life is a skill I am still working on 😉

    1. Thank you, Renae! Really insightful – yes, it’s much better to wait until they are in a good mood, until their ‘tanks’ are full, before creating that list! I love your idea about adding ideas on the go with your phone. Please let me know when you have worked out how to translate all those things on the list into real life, haha!
      Warm wishes
      Lyndal Jane

  5. I really like the info here. I often get worried when I feel like my son is bored and he’s only two. But i’ve noticed lately that he’ll start to play on his own after a bit of looking bored. Sometimes I feel like I should rush in and take him on an outing but I think it’s good what you said about boredom being a time for them to use their imaginations and creativity.

    Lately I’ve been trying to get my son to do more creative things like painting and such to help with his imagination as well. I’m glad to know that boredom isn’t exactly bad for kids because now I can use this info to help my son more. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks for connecting, Jen! And thank you, too, for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I suspect that sometimes boredom can even be a response from the brain to being overstimulated. The most useful thing that I have found is just to be aware that boredom is a natural human state. I used to really struggle with my kids being bored as I thought it was up to me to keep them entertained. Thank goodness for them (and me!), that this is not the case! Painting sounds like a wonderful way to engage your son’s senses! I bet he loves the whole sensory experience!
      Warm wishes
      Lyndal Jane 🙂

  6. Hi Lyndal,

    Great article – it’s so true about boredom. We are so busy trying to avoid it, that we forget how important it is to help foster our creative nature. Some really great practical suggestions also which help put the ‘theory’ into practice. Definitely some idea’s I’ll keep in mind when my daughter gets older 🙂

    1. Zac, thank you so much for visiting, and leaving a wonderful comment!! Much appreciated! I have a feeling your daughter will be a highly creative, well-rounded individual, just from your familial environment! Glad some of the ideas gave you food for thought, and thanks for mentioning it!!!
      Warm wishes
      LJ

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