Kids need unstructured time…here are some suggestions.
1. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have every minute scheduled for your child. Encouraging “daydreaming” helps produce brain waves that boost creativity.
2. Take small steps. Start by setting aside a few minutes everyday that is unstructured. Have children play alone during this time. As they are better able to manage the unplanned time, increase this unstructured time as your child increases their ability to play alone.
3. Identify the problem: “I’m bored” means a lot of things. Get to the bottom of the problem. Do any of the following apply?
- Is your child hungry?
- Is you child over-scheduled?
- Is your child addicted to electronics? So they don’t know how to respond to an unplugged world?
- Does your child lack outside interests?
- Is your child trying to avoid tasks because they are too difficult or frustrating and use boredom as an excuse to get out of completing them?
- Does your child need more challenge? Activities could be too easy or predictable, not stimulating and uninteresting.
- Does your child want approval or feel neglected?
- Have you always planned everything for your child? They have never had to entertain themselves because you always do it for them?
Your ultimate goal is to empower your children with the skills they need to create their own solutions for boredom.They will most likely need a little help at the beginning.
- Create a boredom box, or boredom list. Work with your children to write down all the things that they can do when they are bored. Small children can draw pictures of their ideas and suggestions. Add your own ideas and keep the box or list readily accessible. We have our own list that sits on our fridge. We have two lists, one list of things to do inside and then an outside list. This helps us whether it is Summer or Winter. When I hear the words, “Mom, I’m bored”, I get the kids a snack and they sit down with the list. Our son and daughter can read, so they can pick their own activities off the list, our youngest can’t read yet, so I made her a list that only had pictures. She loves to look at the list and choose her favorite activities.
- Read. Do all you can to get your kids to read. Check out books at the library. If they like sports, let them read the sports page, if they like to cook, like our daughter, let them read cookbooks. Reading anything is great. For Christmas last year we gave our children magazine subscriptions to children’s magazines. A new issue comes every month and they read them over and over. It gives them something to look forward to and because they are interested in the subject, they really get into reading them.
- Rotate toys. If your children complain that they are getting bored with their toys, rotate them. Every six months I take toys and put them away. Then, six months later I put the toys the kids have been playing with away, and pull out the toys that have been packed away. My children think it is Christmas. They are so excited to play with the toys they haven’t seen for awhile. It keeps them interested and gives them new things to play with.
- Help your child find a hobby or interest. Help your child find something they are passionate about and then give them the tools and skills to support the passion. Bugs, books, sports, anything.
- Encourage creativity. Always have art and craft supplies available. We have a basket that holds all of the supplies that our kids can use themselves. When ever I finish a paper towel roll, or find random ribbons or bobbles that I don’t need, I put them into the basket. It is filled with all sorts of randomness. At first it was hard for me to keep “things” that I wanted to throw away. I designated a space in our home to hold the “things” and it has made a huge difference with our children. They help themselves to the supplies and are constantly creating pictures and sculptures and villages. Have a costume box. Kids love to dress up. Fill it with anything and everything that they could wear. They will get creative and have a great time playing make believe. Encourage tents and and forts. This one was also hard for me at first. I didn’t always want the forts in the middle of the family room. We designated what blankets and pillows and areas could be used to make forts. It made things easier for me and for the kids. We also set guidelines for how long the tents can be up. The kids know they can build all they want, but at the end of the day, after Daddy has come home from work and seen what they have built, that they have to clean up also.
- Cut back on electronics. Parents and children are always quick to use T.V, video games, computer time, as a solution to the bored problem. These electronics actually keep kids from being resourceful and creative.
- Teach children to have patience and wait. Kids today, like a lot of adults, want instant gratification and constant stimulation. When there is nothing entertaining them, they don’t know what to do. Encourage them to do projects that can be stretched to longer than one sitting. Simple ways to do this: Have them start by drawing one picture, and then over a few weeks increase that to drawing a few more pictures. Then have them put words to their pictures, then bind the pages to make a book. Puzzles are great also. Start with a 25 piece and increase little by little, 50 piece, 75 piece etc.