It’s important for your child to have unstructured time throughout their day. But it can also lead to you hearing the words “I’m bored.” If your child is starting their unstructured time of the day and you hear these words, first encourage them to solve the issue themselves by providing minimal guidance. Be ready to tolerate a period of frustration initially if they aren't used to this expectation. If some time goes by and they still haven't found something to engage their minds, here are some ideas.
For Young Children (3 to 5 years old): Create a Boredom Bin
- Add items that can be used for creative play that they don't typically play with.
- Include small items that can be used to build or create things, make noise or have multiple uses, such as:
- Foam or wood blocks
- Mini figurines - people, animals
- Toy cars
- Small cardboard boxes
- Wooden dowel rods
- Make sure that all the items in the bin are safe for a child their age to play with independently.
- Set out the bin and give a few brief instructions before leaving them to it!
For Elementary-Age Children: Create a Boredom Jar
- With your children, write down on small strips of paper some activity ideas they can do independently. Fold the papers and put them into a jar. When they aren't able to get started with unstructured play, get the jar out and have them pull one paper out to get started. Here are some ideas:
- Make a fort
- Draw a picture of their favorite _______________
- Build an obstacle course (for themselves or their toys)
- Have a tea party
- Build a city out of household items for their dolls/figurines
- Write a letter to a grandparent, friend, cousin, etc.
- Read a favorite book
For Tweens and Teens: Create a List
Help tweens and teens create a running list on their phone or laptop of topics and projects they find interesting, such as:
- A new skill they want to practice
- A long-term goal like:
- Learning a new language
- Drawing or painting with chalk art, colored pencils or watercolors
- Dribbling with their off-hand, kicking with their off-foot, improving jumping or speed
- Learning computer programming (this is different from playing games or passively watching)
- Creating a new dance routine
- Writing music or playing an instrument