My kids are perpetually bored.
It’s partially my own fault. I’m unable to listen to them whine for more than 15 minutes at a time, so, often I’ll stop what I’m doing to help them find a way to occupy themselves. Sadly, since I work from home, I’ve found myself pointing to various screens lately as ways to keep them busy.
I don’t want to raise a pair of zombies who only perk up at the site of a small, glowing device, however, so last weekend I took the proverbial bull by the horns and created an “I’m Bored” jar.
You’ve seen these all over Pinterest: You take some kind of container and fill it with ideas that you can pull out whenever your child approaches you with that dreaded two-word lament. And not for nothing, there’s some research that says the stress of figuring what to do with their time can lead a kid to tell you they’re bored. They aren’t doing it to make you crazy—they really are in a “tense, negative state,” frustrated and unfocused, worried about how to occupy their busy brains and bodies and unable to find a way to do so.
Summer has been rough for us so far. When my daughter got out of school I was still recovering from a health crisis, and it’s really just now that I’m well enough to engage with the kids for any length of time. However, now that I’m on my feet, there’s so much to manage that didn’t (or couldn’t) get done while I was ill.
Enter the “I’m Bored” jar. I grabbed a pack of 150 wooden Popsicle sticks from the craft aisle at Meijer and started writing out ideas on them. I didn’t think I’d come up with enough to use all 150 sticks, but I did.
And I won’t say that some of them didn’t elicit a certain sadistic pleasure (“one chore, mom’s choice”). And some of them also require me to interact with them, or to agree to take them out of the house for awhile. After all, it’s only fair that sometimes, we play together.
The rules for our jar are: Pick one stick. If you don’t like the first choice, you get one more choice. You have to do whatever you pick second.
Of course, there has to be some flexibility. You can’t have a hose fight in December, and sometimes mom can’t drop what she’s doing and bake cookies. But there’s plenty of self-directed options in our jar.
To help you out, here is a PDF of my list. Pick and choose what you like, and add your own. If you come up with new ones, please tell me in the comments. I have a feeling 150 ideas will only last us the summer season, before they’re bored all over again at Christmas break.