Handling ‘I’m Bored!’ with Ease: Simple and Effective Ideas For Children’s Boredom

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Clinical Psychologist Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell, Clinical Psychologist

As parents, we often hear the dreaded “I’m bored!” from our children, especially during long holidays.

As a parent and child psychologist, I know how challenging it can be to keep kids entertained.

Having a few creative strategies up your sleeve can make all the difference.

While it’s essential to manage boredom, we should also remember its vital role in encouraging creativity and personal development in your child.

Here are some practical ideas to help you handle those moments and turn boredom into an opportunity for growth.

boy sitting on grass thinking

1. Encourage Decision-Making Skills

One effective way to handle boredom is to empower your child to make decisions about their activities.

When my children (now older teens) were younger I often involved them in planning their day or week.

Mapping it out on a visual planner can help even more. Giving them a say in what they do helps develop their responsibility and independence.

For instance, I let them choose activities, plan meals, or decide on family outings.

Not only did this keep them engaged, but it also helped them learn to manage their time and make choices.

By involving them in these decisions, we give our children a sense of ownership and reduce the frequency of “I’m bored!” moments.

a little girl and her mother having a discussion at home

2. Set a Routine

Establishing a daily routine – however loose – can be a game-changer for managing boredom.

It doesn’t need to be too rigid, but it’s helpful to have some kind of regular “rhythm” to your days. It helps children to know what to expect, and helps them understand that there isn’t a vast stretch of time panning out ahead of them with no plans.

I’ve found that having a mix of structured activities and free time provides the right balance.

A predictable routine helps children know what to expect and reduces aimless downtime.

In our house, we included time for play, learning, and relaxation.

For example, the morning could be for practising the piano and watching some science videos on YouTube Kids. In the afternoon you could go to the park, and in the evening relax with a movie together.

Of course there will be “empty” space in between those activities, and that’s not a bad thing (see the section on the importance of allowing boredom below). But your child can see that they have activities to look forward to, which keeps them engaged.

Setting a routine doesn’t have to be rigid, but having a basic structure can make a significant difference.


3. Activity Randomizer

So, as I said, even if you have some structure and rhythm to your days, there will be some empty spaces when your child needs to begin to entertain themselves.

One way of bringing some fun and excitement in, is to create an activity randomizer. This worked wonders in my home and I love it!

Together with your child, write down a variety of activities on lolly sticks or slips of paper. These can range from practicing a handstand to baking cupcakes or learning how to draw a cartoon from a YouTube video.

When your child feels bored, they can simply draw a stick and do the activity listed. This adds an element of surprise and keeps things exciting.

The randomizer not only provides immediate solutions but also encourages children to try new things and step out of their comfort zones.

a girl practising a handstand in her garden

4. Create a Boredom Box

A “Boredom Box” is another fantastic tool for combating those tedious moments.

Keep a box filled with various prompts, games, and activities ready for when your children say they’re bored.

This box can include puzzles, craft supplies, books, and small toys. Even better, let your child help choose what goes into the box!

The idea is to teach your child to turn to the Boredom Box when they need something to do. It encourages independent play and creativity.

By having a go-to resource for entertainment, your child learn to manage their own boredom and engage in activities that stimulate their minds and keep them occupied.

a happy little boy lifting a cardboard box

5. Introduce Rotating Stations

Introducing rotating activity stations can keep things fresh and exciting for your child.

This technique works especially well with young children. You can be in the room and keeping an eye on them, but they are more likely to be able to play independently.

Set up different areas for activities like reading, crafting, building, and playing games. Each station offers a unique set of materials and opportunities for creativity.

To keep the excitement alive, rotate these stations weekly if you can. Changing the activities regularly prevents monotony and encourages children to explore new interests.

This approach not only keeps them engaged but also stimulates their creativity and problem-solving skills.

little boy reading a picture book and sitting on a bean bag

6. Start a New Hobby or Skill

Choosing and working on a new hobby or skill is a wonderful way to handle boredom and help your child discover a new passion. Even if it doesn’t become a new passion, it could be something that builds confidence.

I encourage my children to explore different hobbies and interests, whether it’s playing an instrument, gardening, drawing, or coding.

There might be a little work for you to do up front with your child, but after this, you will be rewarded with hours of self-entertainment! You’ll need to help them get some of the tools or equipment they need.

For example if your child wants to learn to crochet (something I’m just starting to learn as a beginner!) they will need a crochet hook and a ball of yarn. They will need to find some online tutorials. That’s it though – that’s all they will need!

Hobbies not only keep children entertained but also help them develop valuable skills and passions that can last a lifetime.

Encouraging your child to dive into a hobby can transform boredom into productive and enjoyable time.

a girl taking photos of flowers with her phone camera

7. Set A Challenge

Setting goals and challenges is fun way to keep your child motivated and engaged.

I used to create fun challenges for my children, such as reading a certain number of books in a month, completing a puzzle, or mastering a new skill.

The important thing to remember though, is that your child must want to take the challenge. Therefore, it’s best to involve them in the process from the start!

What sort of challenges would they be interested in?

What level of challenge is realistic for them?

This approach can give your child motivation and a sense of accomplishment. They can even track their progress using charts or journals, which adds an element of excitement and helps them see their achievements.

a tween girl playing guitar on a sofa

The Importance of Boredom

While it’s important to have strategies for managing boredom, we should also recognize the vital role boredom plays in fostering creativity and personal development.

Allowing children to experience boredom can spark imaginative play and creative thinking.

When children have the space to be bored, they often come up with their own solutions and activities, which can lead to discovering new interests and passions.

Boredom teaches children to manage their own time and entertain themselves, building resilience and problem-solving skills.

Embracing these quiet moments and allowing children to feel bored can ultimately help them develop into more creative, self-sufficient individuals.

Dr Lucy Russell boredom quote

Handling ‘I’m Bored!’ with Ease: My Summary

Managing your child’s boredom can be a challenge, but with the right strategies, it can lead to growth and creativity.

By encouraging decision-making skills, setting a routine, using an activity randomizer, creating a boredom box, introducing rotating stations, encouraging hobbies, and setting goals and challenges, you can keep your child engaged and motivated.

Remember, boredom isn’t something to be completely avoided. It plays a crucial role in developing creativity, problem-solving skills, and independence.

Embrace these moments and allow your child to gradually discover their own ways to stay entertained.

Implementing these ideas can turn “I’m bored!” into a chance for your child to thrive and grow.

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Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years. In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children.

Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.

Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.

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