10 Ways to Help Your Kids Overcome Boredom
Are you wondering what you can do about it?
The answer: plenty! Sometimes all it takes is a good idea and a little nudge from Mom or Dad to get kids started on a project that holds their attention for hours. And I’ve found just the place to find those good ideas.
In this article, I’ll share 10 boredom-busters from the book, Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen.
Boredom is part of growing up. Even kids with tons of books, toys and electronics feel sometimes like they have nothing to do. And that’s not always a bad thing. Getting bored once in a while promotes creativity, allowing kids’ minds to wander to interesting places.
The trouble with our society is that we, along with our kids, have become passive consumers. So when your 10-year-old son complains about being bored, you simply drive to Game Stop, pick up Super Mario Galaxy (nevermind that he has 20 other games!) and get on with your busy day.
But what if instead of buying him a game, you could help him make one?
Already thousands of kids around the country are downloading Scratch, the free educational program-mining language that teaches them how to program or even create their own games.
Another alternative: work as a team to modify or repair an old toy or game.
Sure, kids today use technology a lot. Many parents worry about electronic addiction and perhaps you have limits on your kids’ TV and tablet time.
But technology isn’t all bad. It can be used for education, as well as entertainment.
You can use electronic resources to enhance and encourage online and offline projects that beat boredom. The Internet has a ton of possibilities, including apps, games, reading guides and more. And that can lead to lots of fun adventures you can have with your kids.
Another great source for boredom-ending inspiration is from books. Read together as a family and encourage your kids to read non-school books.
Children’s literature is filled with bored or lonely characters—like Harry Potter or the Pevensie kids from the Chronicles of Narnia—who visit exciting new worlds. These stories encourage kids to engage with the world and to imagine, invent and create. Books are awesome on their own. Books that encourage adventures are even better!
Non-fiction books can stimulate the imagination and help kids overcome boredom, too.
The authors of Unbored clearly know what kids like to do.
From spray-painting bedrooms and blogging to making snow forts and living in trees, this book has more ideas for having fun than any kid could handle. And they make for excellent family projects.
Here are 10 things you can do with your kids when they’re feeling bored.
#1: Fix Stuff
When toys break, try to fix them. When things become too old to use, take them apart and see how they work. Be careful when dealing with electronic devices. And keep any parts that may be used for something else.
Younger kids may need a little more help fixing things than older ones, which is fine. Get them involved in the process. Ask questions about why they think something is broken, and try to come up with answers together.
Here’s a low-tech fix you can teach your children: sewing. Show older kids how to sew buttons back onto their shirts. They’ll become the kind of person who can fix problems in unexpected ways, and will soon learn the satisfaction of making something work that was previously broken.
#2: Check Out Music Online
Many kids retreat to their rooms in order to go online. While they’re there, why not encourage them to explore and develop their own taste in music? Ask your kids questions about the kinds of songs and bands they like and share with them some of your favorites.
The upside of streaming is that you get access to all the music you could possibly want to hear (some services like Spotify let you listen to music for free as long as you listen to ads). Spotify works seamlessly with Facebook so they can share the music they’re listening to with their friends!
#3: Interview a Grownup
Interviews are a good way to gather information for a story. Kids can also use interviews to find out about their family tree, write a short novel for a school project or just to get to know someone better.
Sit down with your kids and give them an interview assignment. It can be interviewing a friend, teacher or neighbor. It can even be to interview you, each other or another relative!
Before they do the interview, share this with them: The best way to interview someone is to give them plenty of time to answer the question—even if there’s an uncomfortable silence, don’t prompt them. Remember this is no ordinary conversation; you should be doing the listening, not the talking.
For more on how to help kids develop interview skills, check out this worksheet.
#4: Build a Snow Fort
A snow fort makes snowball fights a lot more fun! Bundle up your kids and head outside.
Pile up a huge mound of snow and dig a cave inside it—but be careful, it can collapse. Then build walls radiating out from the cave mound.
If the snow is compact, you can make small windows in the walls or tunnels that go through them. You can even create a village of snow forts—depending on the size of your family and the amount of snow, of course.
#5: Use Apps to Make an Impact
For this activity especially, your child will need your help. Work as a team to use an app or a website to share your opinion, start a cause, network with other activists or make positive changes where you live.
For example SeeClickFix is a community activism tool and smartphone app that allows citizens to report non-emergency neighborhood issues to local government. You can go on the hunt for problems in your neighborhood or just be aware and report things that need to be fixed. When you see them, snap a photo (it can be anything; e.g., a broken streetlight or a pothole) and submit it to local authorities. You can also see what others have reported.
#6: Get Your Blog On
Having a blog is a great way to form a community with others who share your interests. What sorts of interests do you and your kids have in common? What kind of blog can you start together and work on as a family? Have some family time and brainstorm ideas.
You can use a blog to share your favorite hobby, innermost secrets or your undying loyalty for the Denver Broncos!
Note: A child must be at least 13 years old to start his or her own blog. Let your older child take the lead on the family blog. If your child is younger than 13, you can create and maintain a blog together.
#7: Disguise Yourselves
Celebrities and famous food critics who don’t want people to recognize them when dining often disguise themselves. So give it a try! The more disguised family members, the more fun you will have.
Make a plan to go out to dinner as a family in disguise.
The easiest and most realistic way to disguise yourself is to wear a wig. But nice wigs can be expensive.
Change your hair. Try spray-on hair color (though it’s not very convincing up close). You can also use a flat iron to straighten wavy hair or a curling iron to add waves to straight hair. Irons are hot and dangerous so adult supervision is required for this one!
Wear different clothes than your normal attire, and maybe even add a hat. Don’t forget the sunglasses to add a little mystery.
#8: Explore Science—in the Lab or on Twitter!
You can find opportunities to volunteer with your kids: help scientists on important tasks that involve observation, measurement and computation. Or you could just take some family time to explore some of these great, geeky Twitter feeds.
- @lowflyingrocks: If an asteroid or comet passes dangerously close to the Earth, you’ll be one of the first to learn about it! Your friends will be very impressed.
- @MarsCuriosity: The Mars Science Laboratory and its rover, Curiosity, blasted off from Earth in November, 2011. You can follow the mission’s adventures from here.
No matter how much you dive into science and conduct experiments, one thing’s for sure: you will learn something!
#9: Make Your Own Games
At least once in your life, you should design a game—whether it’s a video game, a board game or a game you play outside. Making your own game will challenge both halves of your brain and use every skill you possess.
Or for a more low-tech option, take some poster board, crayons or markers, dice and playing pieces and design your own board game. Give it a name and write out rules. You may have just created your family’s new favorite game.
#10: Create Home-Alone Recipes
One of every three school-age kids in the U.S. is home alone before or after school. Being alone can make kids more responsible, and help them discover things they can do for themselves, like cooking simple meals.
If your child has never cooked before, start with something easy such as a breakfast burrito (although you can eat it at any time of day). All you need is a tortilla, eggs, cheese, a can of refried beans, tomatoes and salsa.
Whip up the eggs in a bowl, add salt and pepper and cook on a buttered skillet until done. Then build your burrito with any combination of the ingredients mentioned. Pop in the microwave for a minute until warm. You’re good to go!
Obviously this is a better recipe for an older child. A younger one can start with something even easier, like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or get creative with a food art project. Regardless of your child’s age, be there to watch and advise if necessary, but let him or her take the lead.
Some Final Thoughts…
When you look at the list of 10 ideas mentioned in this article, what do you observe? None of them have anything to do with going to the mall to buy stuff. These are ideas you and your kids can easily put to use at this very moment, using the resources you already have at home.
In fact, the entire book is a wonderful resource. You can open any page of Unbored and find something enlightening and fun to do indoors, outdoors, online and offline. If children can learn how to make things instead of just consuming them, they will become resourceful and learn how to have fun with whatever is on hand. Boredom will be a thing of the past in no time!
One thing you need to know is that the book is directed toward children, so it’s certainly meant to be shared with a parent or grownup.
My Kids’ Adventures gives this book a 5-star rating (out of 5).
What do you think? Do your children get bored easily? Which of these ideas are you most likely to try with your kids (or let them try on their own)? Please leave your comments in the box below.
Images from iStockPhoto.
Patricia Redsicker writes research reviews for Social Media Examiner. She helps business owners craft content that sells. Her blog provides healthcare industry content marketing advice. Other posts by Patricia Redsicker »