Top 5 tips: What to do when your kids are bored
The kids are bored again—and they want to make sure you know it. Sure, you have a few crafty ideas and jaunty outings up your sleeve, but you also have to make dinner, finish up your work, get groceries… and let’s be real, you’re not going to be able to get all that done if you break out the slime kit and have to spend all evening trying to get it out of the carpet.
When your kids are bored, you don’t have to hop in to save the day every time with an ingenious new game, craft, or activity—but you can use these super-parent strategies to respond to their cries of “I’m booored!” in a way that helps them beat boredom all by themselves.
What does “bored” mean for your kid?
Before deciding how to help your kids with their boredom, it’s worth asking yourself why they can’t find something to entertain them. Boredom means different things to different kids—here are a few causes of kids’ boredom and what to do about them.
Type 1: Too many options
Also known as analysis paralysis. If your kid has trouble making decisions, they may get bored after being unable to choose what they’d like to do. Kids are surrounded by toys and activities. They have vast imaginations full of ideas. And sometimes it’s hard to choose the best, most fun activity. Fearful of missing out on something fun by choosing “wrong,” some children prefer to defer a decision and end up doing nothing.
How to help: Use a tool to help them narrow down their options.
Type 2: Eyes on the prize
If your kid has a very specific game or activity in mind (like going to the pool) but can’t act on it (because there’s thunder and lighting out there!) sometimes they can ignore other options and stubbornly choose to be bored rather than accept another activity. And giving them alternative play suggestions only feeds the fire!
How to help: They’ll get bored of being bored soon enough. Just ride it out.
Type 3: Tricky language
Is “I’m bored” code for something else? For many kids, it’s actually code for “give me your smartphone so I can watch YouTube videos.” If your kid is angling to wear you down for screen time, you can still redirect them without assigning them an activity.
How to help: Don’t hand over your phone, tablet, or TV remote!
The 5 best games to play when the kids are bored
Games, parenting strategies, call them what you want. But these decision-making exercises help boredom while still enabling kids to think and be creative.
Play “ask the bored box”
This can be a box, jar, vase, bowl, or any vessel you don’t mind sitting out and being full of paper scraps. Your child can fill it with fun ideas and activities they come up with. Then, when they’re bored, they can reach in the box and take a look at their options. No need for parental intervention. The best part is that as your child grows, gaining new interests and hobbies, they can add ideas to the bored box. They can also toss old ideas that no longer appeal to them.
Play the “Sherlock” game
Once you eliminate the things you don’t want to do, the remaining thing, however unlikely, must be the the cure for your boredom. If your kid likes telling you all the things they don’t feel like doing, have them practice process of elimination by filling a page with ideas. They can then then cross off the ones they don’t want to do right now. The last idea left is the winner. It helps to give guidelines here, like whether they should write down inside games, outside games, games to play by themselves, or games to play with friend.
Play the “do your chores” game
This is the only “game” on this list that involves the parent suggesting or creating activities for kids. If your kid helps around the house, you can find fun ways to get them engaged in their chores with a chore chart and a positive attitude. You can even offer to work on your own chores at the same time or make a real game out of emptying the dishwasher. And who knows: maybe spending some time working will give them the inspiration they need to have some fun afterwards. Or more likely the suggestion of mowing the lawn will spontaneously cure their boredom! Check out this post to get more chore ideas and a free chore chart template.
Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference in the world. There’s a lot to do and see outside. So send your kid out the door to seek adventure. Make sure you have a pack of go-to supplies your kid can grab for toys, a snack, and a way to get in contact with you. This game still lets your kid decide how to beat boredom independently, but allows you to give them a hand narrowing down their options.
Play the creative thinking game
This is a game where you don’t help your kids when they’re bored. And it’s actually good for both of you. You’re not responsible for keeping your child entertained 100% of the time—wish them luck in solving their boredom and carry on with what you’re doing. They’ll find something to do eventually, and they’ll find their own way to narrow down their options. And figuring out how to pick an activity helps them become decisive, creative, and well-adjusted people. You can even make it easier for them to bump into activities around the house by setting up little play areas. Check out this post to learn how. Of course, if your kid settles on a game that requires your participation and comes to that decision all by themselves, feel free to join in!
What did you do when you were bored as a kid? Do your kids deal with it differently? Let us know in the comments!