Don’t Banish the Boredom

Should I be responsible for entertaining my kids every single minute of their waking day?

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

“I’m bored!” Sound familiar? What should you do when you hear this relentless, whiney refrain? Have you ever thought, “Somebody help me turn off the nails-on-the-chalkboard screeching? Seriously, WHY are they bored? My kids’ schedules were packed with piano lessons, soccer, dance, choir and of course, school. And, yet, during rare free times, they would begin their whining and the words (you guessed it) “I’m soooo bored!”

Our house seemed full to brimming with toys and games and siblings in which to play. It seemed inconceivable to me that they could be bored! How do I react to this? How should I respond? I loved playing with them, and setting up fun experiences for them, but should I be responsible for entertaining them every single minute of their waking day? I’d have to say no, I don’t think so. In fact, I felt like I was doing them a disservice by always jumping in to banish their boredom. So, I decided instead to plan some boredom into their day!

Boredom Strikes Again

Here’s the plan:

  1. Make a chart and attach it to your refrigerator. Make it big and bright and colorful! Make a list of items as long or short as you want. (Let your bored babes watch you make it; build the suspense…)
  2. The list will include some opportunities around the house that would traditionally be called chores. (List age appropriate chores that can mostly be accomplished without supervision. At a very young age children can independently: put away toys, vacuum stairs with a hand-held vacuum, feather dust, etc.)
  3. If your children are pre-school age, make your list with pictures.
  4. Now, wait for it… when the whiney whippersnapper approaches with their tale of boredom reply with genuine compassion (not sarcasm, engage your acting skills). And, tell them, “I can help!”
  5. Direct them to the chart. Explain it to them and tell them that it is only a choice, not a requirement. They are free to go play instead, but cannot complain of boredom or — back to the chart!
  6. Help them pick a chore and, if they’ve never done it before you will need to help them, initially.
  7. It will be something new, at first, and they may be very interested in the chart. Accept their help and don’t be overly critical of their attempt (depending on their age).
  8. Praise them for their help. (Yay! Good job! Thank you!)

GOING …Going…gone…

In our house, the novelty of the “list of opportunities” wore off. My children continued to come to me with their woes of boredom and I continued to direct them to the chart. GOING…Going…gone. Their waning interest in household chores redirected them to their other resources (toys, games, books…) and suddenly a LIGHTBULB moment! My capable children became good at independent play — resulting in all kinds of self-led projects and ideas. BALLOON drop moment!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Here are just a few ideas for play that resulted from allowing my little creative genius’ to be bored:

  1. LEGOS were combined with farm animals and they built farmsteads.

2. Tinker Toys were configured to become complicated highways for their toy vehicles.

3. Cars and trailers and Barbies went camping.

4. The play kitchen incorporated play dough (with some assistance) into its cooking experience.

5. The dogs (reluctantly) allowed themselves to be “dressed up” and then participated in play shopping excursions and weddings and housekeeping type scenarios.

6. A very intricate map of our cul-de-sac was drawn on a poster with markers and then they were invited to share it with their kindergarten classroom.

7. And of course, forts! Lots of blanket forts were built and played in.

All of this happened with very minimal participation on my part (besides encouragement, and some supplies here and there.)

Most of this creativity came to light when my children realized they’d used up their usual resources (a.k.a. someone like me to supply them with entertainment).

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

The dogs participated in play… and weddings… and housekeeping type scenarios.

My children knew if they came to me whining of boredom I would refer them to the chart and that would leave them with 2 choices:

  1. The chart with the list of opportunities OR
  2. Their sibs and their toys and their imaginations…(to rescue them from boredom).

Please don’t think that I never played with my children! Please don’t think I didn’t set up fun crafts (paint and scissor practice and junk art projects), manipulative experiences (like sticking uncooked spaghetti into colanders), tactile experiences (homemade play dough is so fun!), guided cooking sessions and on and on. I absolutely loved this stuff! And, then there were field trips for nature walks in the woods and bike rides and the zoo and the swimming pool — spending time with my kids was my very favorite thing!

My point about boredom is this — you are not doing your child any favors if they are entertained every minute or if their event schedule is so overflowing that there is no time for a little boredom to creep in. I strongly believe that if you allow for (even plan for) a little boredom, you will be inviting creative play into your home. And, creativity that is practiced will extend down the road to other aspects of your child’s life, contributing to their character.

And, let’s be real, in a very practical look at a day-to-day lifestyle with children, you will need some time to do various tasks like cooking, housework and the million other things that pile up in a house with kids! While they’re creatively playing, the time is freed up for whatever you need to get done. Maybe, it will even relieve some of your parenting stress.

So, here’s to banishing the boredom!

(and gaining a little more sanity at home)

And, if this exact plan does not work for you,

I hope it inspires you to find something else that does!

Let the good times grow!

I’m Donna — mom of three grown children and grandma to 4. I’m a former kindergarten teacher and I love kids!