Teaching the kids to be bored

Bored kids roaring in a cage

When my kids were small, we went out a lot. I had plans for everyday of the week, baby classes, meeting friends, play groups, coffee with my mum, shopping, soft play, the park. We were rarely at home. This is because I found being at home with small children to be torture. At home, the demands for me to play hide and seek or superhero’s were endless and that’s really not my bag. So we went out, and as the kids got older, they came to expect to go out. Weekends were packed with family days out and trips to the park, school holidays were planned with military precision. In the last year or so, I’ve decided it’s time for this to stop. At 6 and 8, it’s time for the kids to be bored and learn to deal with it.


Why do I want the kids to be bored?

Well, it certainly isn’t so that they can tell me they’re bored 200 times a day (they seem to think it is). It’s because I think children need to learn how to deal with boredom. By becoming bored and working through it, children develop their creativity and problem solving skills. Since starting to insist that they spend some time entertaining themselves, I’ve even seen an increase in team working and a decrease in trying to kill each other. I was also concerned that the constant activities was making them a bit entitled. I think staying home is helping with that.


The rules

So far, my aim has been for them to have one day a week after school with no plans (I’d do more but logistically it wouldn’t work) and one day a week in the holidays. During the next holidays, I’m hoping to add a few more half days at home, if not another full day.

Screen time limits are in place. The TV is off from 9am until 5pm and IPads are only allowed for an hour after lunch. This has pretty much been the rule since they were small so it hasn’t been too difficult to implement.

The children are warned in advance that Mummy is working so can’t entertain them. If they tell me they’re bored my stock response is “If you’re bored, read a book”. In the early days, I was saying it on repeat. They mostly give up after the first few times now because they’ve realised I won’t say anything else.


Setting them up for success

There are a few things I’ve done to help them entertain themselves. One is filling my back garden with junk. I was thinking about my childhood summers and remember spending hours building stuff in my garden out of random bits of wood and the like. I gathered up stuff like an old tyre, rope, planks of wood, netting, poles etc and told the kids they could play with it. It’s been a huge success, they play out there for hours creatinine all sorts of dens and kitchens and games.

I’ve also opened up access to the craft cupboard. This was a tough one for me. I hate crafts but somehow have an entire cupboard stuffed full of materials. It’s a serious case of storage jenga. If you remove the wrong thing, the whole lot will come out and in a glitter avalanche. Both Chris and the kids have been banned from touching it for years. I’ve now relented and said the kids can go in their if they want to create some “art”.

Finally, I ignore the mess. While I’m not the worlds best housekeeper, mess does do my head. I know they need to make mess to play happily so I don’t ask them to tidy anything until the end of the day.


Is it working?

Yes, without question. While their initial response to staying in for the day is still to have a bit of a moan, they are really enjoying themselves once they settle to an activity. I was an only child and so I spent a lot of time entertaining myself and, while they have each other, I still feel that I’m giving them a chance to develop some self sufficiency. I’d love to know if you give your children opportunities to be bored.

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Teaching the kid’s to be bored - child roaring in a cage


  1. June 18, 2019 / 11:35 am

    Cardboard boxes. Always the cardboard boxes – way more entertaining than what’s inside and takes a long time for them to get bored they’re so involved in the creativity.

    • Jo
      June 18, 2019 / 7:52 pm

      They do love a cardboard box!

  2. June 18, 2019 / 6:38 pm

    You’re definitely my kind of mum. I remember many years of entertaining myself with my toys and books, or some old crap out of the shed. It’s great for the imagination. Xx

    • Jo
      June 18, 2019 / 7:53 pm

      The perfect 80s childhood!

  3. June 18, 2019 / 6:52 pm

    Kids definitely need to learn to entertain themselves and be creative.

    I love the idea of building dens etc in the garden – I hate not having a garden of our own for my son to play freely in


    • Jo
      June 18, 2019 / 7:55 pm

      Mine love making dens in woodlands too so I’m sure yours won’t have missed out! X

  4. June 18, 2019 / 7:42 pm

    This is soo fab, I want to do this now too! Kids totally need some time to imagionate what they want to do with their day and time and then next time they don’t have anything on they will be able to invent something lovely rather than just relying on you! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Nanny M xx

    • Jo
      June 18, 2019 / 7:55 pm

      Definitely helps them learn to manage their time too.

  5. June 18, 2019 / 10:52 pm

    Such great advice, I’ll be keeping this in mind as my little one grows up!

  6. June 19, 2019 / 7:19 am

    This is what I need to do with Lottie! She has so much energy that I’ve always found ways to tire her out but it means if we have a day in she is getting cabin fever so easily.

    • Jo
      June 19, 2019 / 10:59 am

      Takes a bit of adjustment but worth it in the end!

  7. June 19, 2019 / 9:23 am

    I loved this post and your standard answer of ‘read a book’ is one from my own repertoire….. My lot are a little older now and have learnt that they are not ‘bored’ and just need to find something to entertain themselves with. I just wish you had written this about five years ago as it would have helped me out dramatically back then haha. Great post thank you #itsOK

    • Jo
      June 19, 2019 / 11:00 am

      Thanks Ian, hopefully it’ll Help out a few parents in the earlier stages!

  8. June 19, 2019 / 10:43 am

    Can’t wait til I can leave all three boys in the back garden with some rope and a tyre and tell them to get on with it. Think they’d probably hang themselves with it if I did that right now! Great post. #ItsOK

    • Jo
      June 19, 2019 / 11:01 am

      Yeah, yours still need to go out everyday, few years before it’s time for yours to learn the art of boredom!

  9. June 19, 2019 / 1:34 pm

    You and I sound very similar in that the mess wrecks my head even though I’d love them to be creative and make the mess in the first place. My kids have stopped saying they’re bored too but I have been giving them chores if they say it – maybe suggesting a book is a bit kinder! LOL I agree that boredom is necessary for self sufficiency – that’s when the imagination is let loose too and I really love your junk pile idea, I’ll be trying that one this summer! #itsok

    • Jo
      June 20, 2019 / 12:19 pm

      Junk piles are definitely the way to go!

  10. June 20, 2019 / 11:53 am

    I am the same way! I found that what what works best for my family is to have half days where mornings are filled with activities and afternoons are for free play. I also read somewhere recently another mom created a list of chores and if her child came complaining that he/she was bored, she told them they are free to choose a chore. That also stopped the boredom complaints 😉

    • Jo
      June 20, 2019 / 12:17 pm

      Love the chore idea, am totally stealing that!

  11. June 20, 2019 / 12:46 pm

    I love the concept. I think your plan sounds like a great plan and will work out well, knock on wood (and I knocked on my head), and it sounds like your kids are pretty resilient and can handle the pain of boredom.

    I can relate to a lot of what you said too. Like when my kids were young, we didn’t go anywhere. I was always trying to clean the house they were destroying behind my cleaning. Then I noticed one of my friends was like you. She couldn’t stand being home with her kids, so she was always out and about so I upped my game on that and yeah. It was like life-changing the amount of stress and depression it reduced to take the kids places. It didn’t make cleaning any easier like that only works if someone else takes your kids places.

    When my kids tell me they are bored, I usually hand them (and I’ve done this since they could sit up) a blank piece of paper and a pen / crayon / pencil. They all 3 are great at drawing. Now the 12 year old is always animating on her ipad. In case you ever decide to close up the craft place for sanity reasons…

    And just a word of advice, as the kids play outside, they may pick up some “friends” in the neighborhood. You almost have to spy on that once in a while because some of these kids are crazy. I’ve heard the sweetest most adorable little girl at the age of 5 tell my daughter if she didn’t give her her $80 toy for keeps forever, she was going to commit suicide. Another adorable girl hates Hispanics and my kids are half-Hispanic. I’ve seen kids who hadn’t eaten all day and are not allowed to go back home for 5 more hours (parents were cooking meth and dealing heroine), and in my case, I end up cooking for them too every day until they move, and they usually joined us on family things like baking, pumpkin carving, etc.. And we live in the country but right along a golf course. Until your kids have completed your “social training” for how to deal with different scenarios, you want to spy, listen when they don’t realize you’re listening…

  12. June 20, 2019 / 1:46 pm

    I completely agree… have read so many articles claiming that today’s kids are so used to doing something all the time – be it a class or a playdate – that they don’t know what to do with themselves when nothing is planned for them.

    And you are right – boredom actually leads to creativity. It’s amazing the ideas they come up with to entertain themselves when bored!

    Thanks for linking up with us at #itsok

  13. June 20, 2019 / 3:36 pm

    My girls are fantastic at entertaining themselves, it’s my 8 yr old that is a pain. He’s always bored unless he’s playing on his laptop. Thankfully, the garden is great when the weather is ok. Other than that it’s his lego he goes for. He still tells me he’s bored every five minutes. I let him know that I’m bored too occasionally. That’s life!


    • Jo
      June 20, 2019 / 4:43 pm

      Lego is my kid’s go to toy if it’s raining too!

  14. June 21, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    I wrote a very similar post about a year ago. Kids need to be bored. Furthermore, why do we have to entertain them and fill every moment of their day. Crazy.
    Thanks for linking up to the #ItsOK Linky. Hope to see you back next week.

    • Jo
      June 22, 2019 / 9:45 am

      So true, my mum definitely didn’t entertain me every minute of the day, not sure how we’re come to think that’s part of parenting now!

  15. June 22, 2019 / 9:21 am

    I spent A LOT of my childhood saying I was bored because I didn’t know how to entertain myself so this is such a good idea! My dad would always hear me and tell me to so some chores (oh the joy). I fell in love with reading during these moments and am all the better for it.

  16. June 22, 2019 / 8:29 pm

    I am all for children needing to be able to entertain themselves too, it’s really important. I have to admit I never play with my daughters but part of the reason for that is they always picked up toys and played by themselves. Maybe I’m lucky in that they are very similar in how they play. They both love sitting with toy houses, cars and little figures and role playing with them. They will both sit on the floor and do this for the entire afternoon. They even put on the different voices! I can’t imagine having to entertain them all the time, it would be exhausting. And it’s nice to be able to stay in the house sometimes, we all need that at times too #itsok

    • Jo
      June 28, 2019 / 7:52 pm

      That’s impressive! Wish mine would settle to one activity for a whole afternoon, would mean less mess! X

  17. June 22, 2019 / 10:27 pm

    Entertaining yourself is a really important skill. Well done for opening up the craft cupboard mines still on lockdown

    • Jo
      June 28, 2019 / 7:54 pm

      Mine may still go back that way! X

  18. June 24, 2019 / 9:04 pm

    I remember being bored to tears as a child – I think it’s a good thing & something our kids don’t experience enough! #itsok

    • Jo
      June 28, 2019 / 7:53 pm

      Me too, I always found a way to amuse myself in the end! X

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