I once heard it said that when a child claims to be “bored”, they really mean one of the following:
- I’d like some attention but you’re ignoring me.
- Help me learn how to structure my own time.
- I’m feeling anxious and need to know the plan.
Certainly, as parents, we would respond much more positively if our sweet children came to us saying, “I’m feeling anxious… can you please tell me the plan for the day?” versus shouting, “I’M BORED!”… but since our young children probably aren’t going to do that any time soon, it’s our job to remember that when they complain of being bored, they are often simply looking for a little attention, some help, or more structure.
Please know that I do NOT think it’s our job as parents to provide 24/7 entertainment for our children.
However, it IS our job to equip them with the skills AND resources they need to eventually be able to entertain and occupy themselves for longer and longer periods of time.
- Do your children have access to the toys, books, and games they use regularly? Or do they always need to ask you for access to them?
- Are your craft supplies stocked with the things they need, want, and use regularly? And do you have a designated area for them to do crafts?
- Can they reach their own clothing in order to dress themselves in the morning?
- Do they know the morning and evening routines to the point where they can get themselves up, dressed, and ready for breakfast or for bed without 300 reminders and check-ins from you?
- Do you take the time to play WITH them so they know the rules of the game or how to do certain craft projects without help?
- Do you actually have a plan for the day? And if so, have you told it to them yet?
- Do your children know what they are and are not allowed to do outside? Where can they play? Whose house can they go to? What toys are OK to use without other adults around? etc. etc.
I realize the different ages and abilities of each individual child definitely come into play here, but if we can’t answer “yes” to most of the questions above, chances are our children’s boredom could be drastically reduced with a little extra effort from us as parents.
I love my children just as much as any other parent, but there are still plenty of times during each day when I need them to be able to occupy themselves — while I’m making meals, responding to a few emails, driving, going to the bathroom, etc. etc.
In my opinion, the sooner they learn to be more independent and occupy themselves, the better!
Dave and I are far from flawless when it comes to parenting… but we do try really hard to give our children the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to be able to work and play on their own (without always needing an adult around). So far, it seems to be paying off!
Due to the many questions I get from readers, I’ve recently been thinking about all the ways we try to combat boredom in our house. I’ve seen some clever acronyms floating around the internet — I’ve changed mine up a bit, but still with a similar vibe.
The next time your child complains of being BORED, try using one of these 5 responses.
B = Be Useful or Productive
Give them a chore to do or some other way to help you around the house or yard.
This should NOT be a punishment — but rather just something age-appropriate they can do to occupy their hands and brains if they truly are bored.
O = Outside Play
Send them outside! I know this isn’t always possible depending on the weather, but I’ve found that children are far less bothered by cold, heat, rain, or snow than adults.
Even just 10-15 minutes outside might do them a world of good!
Also, I should note that we regularly send the older 3 outside without adult supervision. Our yard is almost entirely fenced in, our house is very far off the road, and they know the “rules” for what they can and cannot do outside without a grownup. This makes it much easier for me to send THEM outside while staying inside with Clara.
R = Read a Book (or play a game)
Reading was often my mom’s response to boredom — which she knew we didn’t want to do!
Nora is currently the only self-reader in our house, and even she still really likes to be read to… so I can’t just send them all upstairs to read quietly (that day is coming though!)
However, I can corral them all on the couch, let them each pick one book, take 10 -15 minutes to read them the books they picked out, and then let them go back to playing whatever they were playing before they were “bored”. This seems to work wonderfully and usually buys me another 30 -45 minutes of time!
Also, I want to note that our kids watch TV every single day. They aren’t addicted to it, but they do enjoy it! We have a time for TV in the morning and again in the afternoon. They know when that time is, and they know not to constantly ask for TV the rest of the day.
E = Engage in Activity (or Exercise)
I suppose this could also be grouped in with the “outside play” category — but even when it’s rainy out, I can turn on dance music (their preference is The Nutcracker!) and they will run around, dancing and prancing, until they can hardly breath!
This process usually involves changing into ballet costumes (yes, even the boys) so it takes up a decent amount of time, and they are all giggling and acting silly by the time the music stops.
They burn off some energy and then they’re ready to move onto the next activity.
D = Do Something Creative
My children are VERY interested in any type of craft or creative project — even just coloring in a basic coloring book will keep them occupied and satisfied for a long time.
That said, I need to make sure I keep ample craft supplies in the house for them (they go through them quickly!)
We almost ran out of coloring books a couple weeks ago and you would have thought I purged all their toys by how poorly they reacted. Thankfully, I could print coloring pages off the internet for that day, and then I ordered a couple more coloring books from Amazon. (We love these Big and Easy coloring books – affiliate link).
As long as I keep their craft caddies stocked, they rarely complain of being bored!
Like I mentioned above, I realize these suggestions will not work for every child, every family, or every situation. However, I hope they give you a few ideas to think about, and maybe a new plan of action the next time your children proclaim how BORED they are!
What is your favorite way to combat boredom?