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What to Do When You Have a Bored Child

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We know that boredom can be healthy for kids. It encourages creativity! But what to do when you have a bored child on your hands, mumbling and grumbling for something to do?
Photo by Mark Janus/Shutterstock.com


There seems to be endless advice about how boredom breeds creativity, how a curious and bored child is the recipe for a future engineer and how boredom is healthy, helpful, healing, etcetera and sure, I agree! But it always seems that when my kids are bored, all we invent is fighting and frustration. Not a single watercolor masterpiece or flying contraption—just tears. Boredom is a real part of childhood and a looming cloud over  summer breaks. So, how do we deal? What do we say to our children when they are bored? What should we expect of them? I’m no specialist in any of this, but I have endured (multiple!) summers with three boisterous boys and lived to write about it.

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1. Be outside.

This is obvious, but when we were facing behavioral problems in my oldest son, we added a simple rule: go outside, every day, no matter the weather. I always thought of myself as an “outdoor mom,” but it takes commitment to do the great outdoors when it involves 53 cold-weather clothing items. But every mitten and zipper is worth it. Get that kid in a snowsuit or a rain jacket, and go outside.

2. Join them.

LightWorkers Mom Playing with Bored Child.

Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Despite my basement being a playroom full of toys, a mini-trampoline, well-lit and monster-free, it is rarely visited. So, on those truly “boring” days, I pack my bag and head down to the basement with my boys. They have strict instructions to let me work, read or relax, while I gift them with my presence on the couch. Soon enough, they all find things that interest them, and I can sneak upstairs. For some reason, it’s hard for my children to initiate self-play away from me. Do your kids do this too? Sometimes, it just takes me being around for them to become absorbed in play.

3. Earn free time.

Put them to work, and have them “earn” their free time. My kids all groan when I dump a huge pile of clean laundry on their floor. They know they have to sort their clothes (I literally have no idea whose socks are whose). But as soon as that last shirt is in their drawers, they are NOWHERE to be seen. It’s glorious. The house is quiet and they all play, away from me for fear of more potential chores. When a child earns free time, it becomes valuable.

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4. Read library books.

LightWorkers Mom Playing with Bored Child.

Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

My town just built a brand-new library, and I’m pretty sure I paid for it with all my overdue fees. BUT! Worth every penny, because weekly, my sons sit down to a stockpile of new books. Tornados, animals, famous sports rivalries, U.S. Presidents, extreme mountain climbing, “Paw Patrol” and the “Grouchy Ladybug.” How-to-draw, comic books, “Magic Tree House,” poetry, dessert recipes. You name it, we get it. They love to sit and look through new pictures, despite not being able to read the words. Bored? Go look at pictures of the weather in Brazil this time of year.

I’ve got to believe boredom is the baseline for creative and wonderful things to come. Maybe after I write this article, my children will magically become gardens for genius to sprout. Or maybe I’ll just pay a few more overdue book fines and break up a few less fights. Either way, join me in accepting the challenge of a bored child. Parents, we got this.

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