Every mother dreads hearing the “I’m bored” complaint. Here’s how to prevent boredom in children and teach a life skill as well!
In the words of my wise grandmother… “boring people get bored.”
Now I know that is cold, but let’s be honest.
In a world, kids have 1,583,353 things to do at every waking moment.
Being bored simply means that they don’t know how to entertain themselves.
I was an only child and still had to go play outside and find something to do. And you know what? I cannot remember the last time I’ve even thought of being bored as a possibility.
Small town kids vs city (suburb) kids
I am from the country and my high school friends and I are from a really – and I mean 8,000 people small – small town. I have a memory of us away at college (Go Gators!) in a town with about 45,000 college students where we made a few friends from the big city.
About 10 of us were sitting in our living room and one of our big city friends said…
“I’m bored, what are we going to do?”
My small town friends and I laughed. We said, “What does she mean what are we going to do? We’re sitting here talking…aren’t we already doing it?”
Come to find out, she meant what kind of activity are we going to do or where are we going to go to eat or be entertained or see something cool.
I’m sure we eventually went out, but it really got me thinking…
We small town kids were used to entertaining ourselves and thinking of inventive things to do while our big city friends were used to being entertained.
Do you see the difference?
Of course, both have their place, but there’s a big difference between the two. Especially when we are talking about children in our home who don’t want to be bored.
Read: The Difference Between Playing And Being Entertained
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
How to prevent boredom in children? First, don’t.
Realize that you are not their 24-hour birthday party paid entertainer.
We will love our kiddos and want their smiles, laughter and hugs.
Of course, it’s great fun to play horsey and peekaboo and do all manner of things to see them happy.
But, being the nonstop source of entertainment for your child will get old very quickly.
You do not need to be the one to pick out every game, activity, book, Barbie or video. They are opinionated and are discovering their interests so let them have a say.
If you have more than one or two children with you at home and they all are in constant need of you to stimulate their brains ALL DAY LONG… you will quickly lose patience for it all. It’ll also short circuit the childrens’ opportunity to create imaginative games on their own.
And we know that losing patience is a one way ticket off the happy cycle.
SO… how to prevent boredom in children?
The Answer: let them express their creativity and use their imagination.
I read one mother’s strategy for dealing with boredom in her children. If one of her children says “I’m bored, what can I do?” she will respond in a kind and NOT sarcastic tone:
“Oh, I’m sorry you’re bored. Why don’t you just sit there and be bored for a while until it passes.”
She says they usually respond back with something like “but I don’t want to be bored” to which she replies “Oh, I get it, well then why don’t you think of something you can do?”
How did this work?
- She has acknowledged their feelings, not belittled them,
- and then turned back the decision-making to them.
- Now, they can learn to think creatively and use their imagination.
This is not to say that there won’t be times during the day that we pick out their activities, of course there will be. And the boredom that arises gives way to creativity so it isn’t something to stifle.
But something to lean into.
You could offer a chore when you hear someone’s “bored”
If they are really annoying you with always being bored and needing your initiative to find something to do then perhaps you can initiate a rule that anyone who complains about boredom can get a chore.
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If you are bored, you can be “chored.”
That will quickly teach them that there are plenty of things they could be doing that you are not necessarily requiring them to do.
So, instead of complaining… they should play with one of the 2,3577,3535 toys they have that they do not need.
The best answer yet: teach them alone time.
You may have heard me go on about independent time, but if you haven’t then here’s the basics.
Alone time/independent time is a smart strategy… and an important skill. It is the key in understanding how to prevent boredom in children.
My daughter, now almost two, plays in her room quietly (or loudly depending on her game) for an hour each morning. It’s her scheduled Quiet Time. I either take out all her stuffed animals, or her legos, or her blocks – but only a few toys at a time, mind you – and let her have at it.
Some days she doesn’t want me to leave her there but as soon as I close the door I hear her talking to herself.
Other days she doesn’t even look at me as I walk out.
When I come back I am always greeted with a cute as can be sight. Sometimes she’s sitting reading all of her books to herself or playing with her baby dolls.
She always comes out in a good mood and I think it has helped her be a more content child.
What does she do during independent time?
- In that small window of time she has to solve her own problems,
- create her own fun,
- and do things without asking for help.
- she builds confidence in herself,
- learns to focus on tasks,
- and more.
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Like every mother, I want to be the reason my children smile…
I also know that I would not cope day in day out with kids who ran to my knee every 20 minutes needing me to entertain them.
I don’t want us to create children who need to be entertained. Let us create entertainers.
Love this! Thanks for the lovely tips. Also my mom always told us the same thing as your grandma, only bored people get bored. and yes my mom was an only child too but says she was never bored. She is the most creative person I have seen in my life. I would love my daughter to follow in her footsteps:)
A Mother Far from Home says
That is such a sweet thing to say about your mom! I hope our kids say the same about both of us :)
You were always good at entertaining yourself and friends. Come to think of it…so were your aunts and i back in our “youth”.
A Mother Far from Home says
Well then I guess we can chalk it up to not being “boring” :)
So I am curious about how you start off with this. For example, how do I start this with my one year old son. If I plunk him in the crib with toys and leave, he will probably start wailing. Do I do short amounts of time and then increase? Just let him cry and figure out something to do? Same deal with my four year old. Thanks!
Rachel Norman says
Great question! Yes a few short minutes at a time. There may be some fussiness but you go slowly. 5 minutes here and speaking very kind and assuring that you are coming back. In a week maybe 10 minutes. Once mine all knew i was nearby they stopped the fussing and just started playing!