Picture this: it’s a nice warm sunny day. You’ve decided to take advantage of the weather and do a complete overhaul of all the closets in your home. You’ve just emptied the master bedroom closet and have assorted items littering your floor space. Your 8-year old comes in and says, “Mom, I’m bored.”
You are just about to respond with, “It’s a beautiful day! Go outside and play!”, along with some other frustrated retorts. So you search your mind for ideas to quell his boredom. You are even rethinking your plan because obviously your child has nothing to do and must have your help in being directed.
When my children were younger, they knew it was all but forbidden to use the word “bored” in our home. If they did, my response was something like, “Well, how about you go sit on your bed until you can think of something to do?” or “I have an idea: you can help me clean out these closets!”
At that point, my children would miraculously come up with an activity that would keep them far from Mom’s project.
But I learned over the years how to proactively avoid boredom without being dependent on me to direct every moment of their free time. Here are some ways you can prevent, “Mom, I’m bored.”
- Spend time with your children first. Having time with you early in the day often will help your children to be more independent in their playtime later on. Sometimes that boredom comment is more of an “I want time and attention from you” comment. In their preschool years, I would try to spend the first hour with my kids playing, reading, or taking time with them. If I did that early in the day, they were more likely to be able to play on their own for a time later. Do what they love doing so they will feel fulfilled in their time with you.
Set the stage. When you need undistracted time for a project, let them know in advance. Tell them what you need to do and that you don’t want to be interrupted unless someone’s hurt. Let them know how much time you need. Depending on their ages, you may need to check in on them briefly every so often and reinforce their cooperation. A reward for getting along and letting you work undistracted can be helpful.
Teach your children to play together. Because we chose to homeschool our children, we had plenty of time at home together. Aside from the usual disagreements that arise between siblings, we also had the advantage of having built in playmates. As long as we were diligent to promote harmony between them, they were able to play cooperatively and to be very creative in using their free time. Again, rewards and consequences for cooperating or not are part of the training.
Brainstorm ideas ahead of time. During certain seasons, I would make up index cards of optional activities that the children could do. There were cards for indoor activities as well as outside options. When needing to find something to fill their time, looking at these ideas would get their imagination going in the right direction.
Create a tradition. This may sound crazy, but I found that creating some traditions (for days with inclement weather in particular) made time pass quickly on days that tended to be the most boring. For example, “garage parties” gave rainy days new purpose. The prep for a garage party was simple: move the car outside, do a quick sweep of the floor and we were ready for picnics, Playdough, riding bikes, special snacks, roller blading, whatever. Once I got them set up, they could play without me if necessary. We have many great memories of these—they actually looked forward to bad weather!
With just a little forethought and coaching, your children can learn to have fun no matter where they are or what’s going on in their lives. Even more important, you are setting them up to be self-directed and to find fulfillment in their lives independent of circumstances.
Question: How do you help your child avoid boredom? Share your answer in the comments below.