What to do When Bored: Age Appropriate Activities for Everyone

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Thanks to the freezes of the last few winters, many parents have had to entertain their bored kids at home, sometimes with no electricity or with limited resources.  What do you do with your children when they are bored?  How can you entertain them? Discover our guide on What to do When Bored. 

You can turn on the TV or hand them a tablet to play with.  But is that a good idea?  According to Psychology Today, the answer is a resounding “no.”  Particularly if your child is younger than 2 years of age, the use of a screen, any screen, from a television set to an iPad, is a passive experience that is not good for kids.

So come up with something interactive.  Obviously, the projects you come up with should be age specific.  There’s nothing worse than giving a bored child something to draw or a puzzle to put together that’s too complicated.  That will only make them frustrated and their boredom will increase. And try getting a frustrated teenager to color in a coloring book just because you want to keep them off their computer.  Good luck with that.

Have your older kids make a list of activities they enjoy.  Then they can take responsibility for addressing their own boredom.  According to the Positive Discipline Website this is considered a life skill that will help them throughout their childhood.

Fortunately, there are plenty of age appropriate and fun things you can do when you’re bored, and your kids will thank you for them.

How to entertain young children when they’re bored

  • Play with a ball.  From the time a toddler can stand, they can play with a big soft ball.  You roll it to them and have them roll it back. Then, as the kids get older, you can advance to smaller balls, have then try to catch a soft ball with a glove, or even get a small basketball hoop for them to practice on.
  • Try gardening.  Toddlers love to help water plants.  Give them the hose and let them go crazy – but watch out.  You may end up wet by the end of the day.  If they’re inside, let them water the indoor plants with a child-sized pitcher.  As they get older, they can help you dig, and plant seedlings.  This can even be done indoors as you prepare for the spring thaw.  Having something to look forward to, the blooming plants, will keep boredom away.
  • Young kids enjoy art supplies.  They love coloring books.  Just don’t try to make them color in the lines.  This is supposed to be entertainment – not a lesson.  Let them learn for themselves what works and what doesn’t.  This type of anti-boredom activity is particular helpful in a restaurant or on an airplane.  Carry a small notebook and some crayons with you when you travel, and you won’t believe how long your little ones will be preoccupied.
  • Play Hide and Go Seek with a particular object. You can even use this game to help teach kids the alphabet – hide all the toys that begin with “A.”  Obviously, you don’t want this to be a complicated game – you’re going to hide the object in an easy place initially, and you can get more creative as they learn the game .

How to keep Older Children, 6-12, from Being Bored

  • Older children like to have a hand in the design and planning of activities.  If they bake cookies, let them do the decorating.  Don’t be too picky – you’re trying to keep them from being bored, not turn them into chefs.  Let them be creative.
  • Get them involved in organized sports.  A variety of sports would be the most beneficial for kids in this age group, rather than a hyper-focus on one sport.  Then when they’re home on the weekends, or stuck in the house because of rain or snow, they can practice their particular sports until they find the one that’s best for them.  And when they get outside, they can get the neighbors to join in.
  • Try out chemistry kits for kids.  These fun toys are guaranteed to keep them engaged.  If you prefer, you can get them a microscope, and let them look at everything from leaves to the dog’s fur under magnified lens.  It’s amazing how easily kids will become absorbed in such scientific experiments. Just be sure they have supervision!
  • Older kids love art projects.  You can have them put together collages using old magazines, or teach them to make shadowboxes. When they’re done,  have them help you decide where to display their new artwork.

How to Help Your Bored Teenager Find a Project

  • Buy them a journal.  Encourage them to write a little bit every day.  You can even get some examples of journals for them. Obviously, The Diary of Anne Frank would be a good option – this is usually taught in schools.  But for other examples, you could try The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke by Angela Nissell, or the story of the creation of a famous book, Audubon’s Elephant: America’s Greatest Naturalist and the Making of the Birds of America.
  • Teenagers know that they will be expected to be computer literate in the futureEncourage them to go beyond playing games on the computer to actually producing something.  They can create their own websites.  Many are available for free.  The Site Builder Report reviews over 50 Web site builders.
  • Give them art supplies and let them create their own graphic novels. They can do this on the computer, too, but there’s something very satisfying about having them block out the book on paper first and then turn it into a final product. The New York Times Magazine now lists the Top 10 Hardcover Graphic Books and the Top 10 Paperback Graphic books on their Best Seller list along with various other types of books. Obviously, graphic novels are a burgeoning phenomenon.
  • Encourage them to learn a musical instrument.  You can sign them up for lessons if you want, but there are literally hundreds of online sites that teach almost any instrument your child may show an interest in.  Try not to limit them to one particular instrument.  Many kids can tell you horror stories of the hours they spent practicing piano when they really wanted to play guitar.  Don’t be that parent. Let their interests guide your choices.

Activities for the Whole Family

Let’s face it, kids are not the only ones who get bored at home. Sometimes you need activities for the entire family. Here are some good activities that everyone can join in. Don’t worry if you have older and younger kids in the family – pair them up as teammates. Let the older kids help the younger ones and they’ll all have fun. And be really competitive, so bring your “A” game!

  • Try old-fashioned board games.  Kids learn how to compete, how to play fair, how to lose gracefully, by seeing how their fellow players join in.  Games such as Chutes & Ladders, Boggle, even checkers, can teach kids about numbers, money and many other subjects. For more complicated games, you might try Monopoly, Clue or Aggravation.  A number of Web sites review board games in detail, including Board Game Beast.
  • Create a scrapbook.  Everyone can take part in this activity.  One person can search for appropriate photos, someone else can scan them and print out copies.  Children can cut out decorative pieces of colored paper, and you might be able to convince your teen to write funny comments for the pages.  The end result is something everyone will be proud of.
  • Watch a movie and have a picnic in the living room.  You can put together items like tacos or hamburgers where everyone can add their own fixings and watch on the living room couch.  At the end of the movie, you can even do ice cream with multiple toppings.

The best way to address boredom is to find a way to be creative or to be together.  Either one will take away the boredom and make for a memorable experience.

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