If your family is anything like mine, winter break can go from incredibly fun to “I’m bored” in ten seconds flat.
No parent likes to hear their child whining about being bored, and it can feel like a personal attack when your child tells you, “there’s nothing to doooooooooooo.”
Boredom is a regular part of childhood for both parents and children, and it’s something we can all get better at managing.
Here are seven tips and tricks I use with my family to manage boredom:
Change your mindset.
Boredom is a GOOD thing! It leaves room open for daydreaming, creativity, and imagination; It’s the front door to a house filled with exciting discoveries and creative play. Having a life with space for boredom is a gift – it means your child will get to exercise their mind in new ways.
The more you let your child manage their boredom, the better they’ll get at it.
Imagine boredom like a weight. If you don’t let your child pick up the dumbbell, they’ll never develop any muscles. But if you encourage them to lift it by themselves, even if it’s hard at first, they’ll get stronger and stronger. If you continue to solve your child’s boredom for them, they’ll never get any better at managing it themselves.
Plan for boredom.
Children get bored. HUMANS get bored! Since you know it’s going to happen, have some ideas on hand for those times when boredom sets in. Every few months, my kids and I make a list of things to do, like working on a jigsaw puzzle, a backyard scavenger hunt, setting up a pretend book store, reading a book, or listening to an audiobook. Having a plan makes managing boredom less stressful for everyone. Even if your kids think every item on the list is (you guessed it) BORING, it acts as a jumpstart for other ideas.
Give them a challenge.
For some kids, curing boredom is as simple as saying, “you figure it out!”. Other children may need more guidance. In those cases, I’ll say something like, “can you make up a game that uses five rocks?” or “what could you build with only the red LEGOs?”
Less is more when it comes to toys.
Often, we hope that a massive playroom or closet filled with toys will keep boredom at bay. But usually, the opposite is true – too many choices and too much stuff can overwhelm kids. How many kids walk away from their holiday or birthday gifts to play with the cardboard box instead? Simplifying instead of stimulating lets kids get into their imaginary worlds instead of depending on toys to do the work for them.
Keep a stack of books available.
If you’re hoping that boredom will prompt your children to pick up a book (what parent wouldn’t wish for that?), keeping a variety of reading material on hand is a must. Give your kids plenty of time to examine the covers, read the flap, or try a few pages to see if one of them catches their attention. Books are the best boredom busters, and I try to have several age-appropriate options for each child so they can find one that hooks them.
Don’t let their boredom become YOUR problem.
When children get bored, they want to push that feeling onto you and make it your issue to solve. However, your child needs to clear a path through their boredom to find the fun that comes with imaginative play. Similarly, you need to get through the discomfort of a bored child begging for screen time or for you to entertain them. If both of you can move through those feelings, childhood magic awaits on the other side.
If you embrace boredom for the gift it is, both you and your kids will find an exciting world filled with fun, imagination, and play. And there’s no better feeling than that.