What do I do when my kids get bored?

by Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell

Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kids need to learn independent-play and boredom may be the first step to creativity. That said, here are some tips to teach kids how to manage boredom and how to stop yourself from whining back at them.

  1. Start off the day or the week by explaining that you’ll do some things as a family and that they will have to entertain themselves at other times in the day. Clarify what they can do during those times.
  2. Making a daily schedule can be helpful for everyone – that way kids don’t have to keep asking you to decide what is happening next.
  3. Before they get bored, create a What Can I Do List. Make a list of books to read, games to play, craft projects to create, stories to write, pictures to be drawn, puzzles or word problems to solve, friends with whom to play (phone numbers too). (These can take place in a tent in the backyard or in a fort in the family room.)
  4. Take the time to teach independent play – start small (2 minutes) and build it up as they are capable.Plan your respectful response to the dreaded, “I’M BORED!”[Whining back, “If you’re bored with all of these toys around, I’m going to start throwing them away!” doesn’t really help.]

    “You may continue to be bored or you can find something to do from your list. I have faith that you will make the right decision for you.”

    “Perhaps your body and mind need some quiet time – why don’t you check your list.”

Often “I’m bored,” means, “I need to be with you.” Acknowledge feelings and teach them to ask for some time with you instead of whining about being bored.

Lastly, when our children are home all day, we cannot totally disengage. If we tell our kids “You’ve got me for an hour before I have to make lunch,” then we need to provide undivided attention. Phones, computers, devices need to wait. We would expect the same of them. Multi-tasking our attention creates misbehaviour that demands our attention. Set your family up for success and enjoy the summer.