February 2, 2011

50 Ways to Alleviate a Child's Boredom

No matter how many hundreds of dollars are spent on the latest video games, cell phones, or state-of-the-art toys, parents still wrangle with complaints of "boredom" from their children on a regular basis.

Our first instinct might be to inform our children there is no reason to be bored. We may go on to describe how, even though we didn't have all the technology of today, we always seemed to find something to keep us occupied when we were children ourselves. Understandably, we may even feel as though our efforts to provide for our children have gone unappreciated.

Children often don't know quite how to ask for what they really need or want. Perhaps they're not even sure what that "thing" is, so...

So, what are they really saying?

More often than not, the kids are trying to express a desire to interact with you. Looking back over your own childhood, you probably won't remember most of the material things that you were given. You will, however, remember the experiences you shared with family members. Just reminiscing about the activities and time spent together brings an uncontrollable smile to your face. It is highly unlikely that recalling your Baby Alive doll, or collection of Matchbox cars, will have the same pleasant effect.

In essence, when kids say they are bored, they are saying, "I need some different ideas to stimulate my mind. I'm tired of the same old routine. I need physical and/or mental challenges. Please do something with me."

What can you do?

  1. Have a Scavenger Hunt: Depending on the weather, season, and your location, you could engage the kids in finding several objects outdoors. Equip them with a list of items - perhaps a feather, a pine cone, a blue stone, a white flower, etc, and award a prize to the first one who completes the task.
  2. Play a Word Game: See how many words (with two or more letters) that you can make from the letters in a large word such as "witchcraft". Take turns listing cities or states - for example, the first person may say "Louisiana". The second person has to say a city or state name that begins with the letter the other person's city or state ends with - like "Austin". On the first person's next turn, they might choose "New York City".
  3. Play a Board Game or Card Game: Depending on the child's age level, anything from Connect Four to Yahtzee can be entertaining and fun.
  4. Read a Book Together: Consider stocking your bookshelves with some age-appropriate pagan-based books for children, or take a few minutes to explain (every few pages or so) how a great classic, like "Where the Red Fern Grows", parallels the pagan moral values of responsibility, respect, commitment to a task, etc.
  5. Make a Memory Box: Decorate an old cigar box or wooden box with fabric, or photos/magazine images applied with decoupage. Use craft glue to attach other decorative items such as shells, buttons, sequins, and a label indicating the theme of the box (such as "My Trip to the Atlantic Ocean 2009"). Include mementos such as photos, keychains, seashells or small vial of sand you collected there, postcards, etc.
  6. Wash the Car: With weather permitting, put on a bathing suit and have some fun in the sun while cleaning the vehicle with your children.
  7. Have a Picnic: Prepare a lunch together, include snacks and drinks, and choose a location for your picnic. If it's cold or rainy outdoors, set up a place inside, spread out a blanket and share your meal.
  8. Take a Field Trip: Take a camera and a goody bag to collect interesting finds. You might go hiking within a state park, visit a museum, go to a hands-on science exploration facility, or grab a library book for identifying animal tracks or wild herbs. Take your book along in your trek through the forest to see how many you can find. Discuss the uses for various herbs, or habits of wild animals, as you locate them.
  9. Play Flashlight Tag in the Dark: Whether indoors, our outside in the yard, Flashlight Tag is a fun and sneaky game for children who are old enough to not become frightened.
  10. Plant Some Flowers: Prepare a special planter or window box. Decorate or paint the flower box and plant some flowers. Alternatively, you may prepare an area in the yard and let your child design the arrangement.
  11. Do a Science Experiment: Make a Volcano in a Bottle, Make a Pinhole Camera, Make a Compass (discuss the directional properties and meanings as they relate to paganism), hang prisms in a sunny window and observe the resulting rainbows. Talk about colors and their properties and correspondences.
  12. Make a Clubhouse: If working outdoors, find fallen branches and lean them or tie them to a few trees growing in close proximity to one another. Build a treehouse (using care not to damage the supporting trees), or make a "fort" beneath a small group of pine trees with space beneath or between them. Create a secret password or handshake.
  13. Bake Something: Help the children measure and mix the ingredients for easy baked goods. After baking, wrap some of the baked goods in a decorative package and share them with Grandma or a neighbor.
  14. Make a Fairy Garden: Using either a large-diameter pot or a special place in the flower bed, create an innovative fairy garden. Unused miniature doll house items such as plates, chairs, cups, and tables often make great additions. There are several locations on the Internet, such as this one, with beautiful fairy garden photos for inspiration.
  15. Make a Teepee: If outdoors, place fallen timbers in a circular pattern, securing them at the top and center against a tall, sturdy tree or post set into the ground. Be sure to keep the poles spaced far enough apart to make an opening. Cover the "teepee" with canvas, paint Native American designs and symbols on the canvas, and construct an opening in the canvas. Here are some similar ideas.
  16. Build a Fort out of Boxes: Temporary indoor forts may be made in a small room (such as a laundry room), closet, or corner of a room using furniture, large boxes, blankets, or other items as "walls".
  17. Start a Scrapbook: There are hundreds of scrap-booking resources and ideas on the Internet to get started. Materials can be purchased inexpensively at most dollar stores. You may even have clear plastic 8.5"x11" binder sleeves and an unused 3-ring binder lying around for starting out. Think of a unique theme, such as "My Spiritual Journey" or "Memorable Moments with Grandma and Grandpa".
  18. Listen to Music and Make up a Dance Routine: Choose your favorite music genre, google "basic dance steps" for YouTube tutorials and other resources, make up a unique dance and sing along.
  19. Write a Poem or Song: Choose a simple topic, such as "winter" and write a poem about it. Choose an easy, upbeat song and take turns replacing the lyrics with your own. You might turn a serious song or child's song into a comedic version simply by changing the words.
  20. Paint the Snow: Build a snow-fort, make a snow angel or simply find a space of clean, untouched snow, then fill an empty squirt bottle with colored water (use food coloring to achieve the desired color), put on some old gloves and decorate the fort, angel, or snow-canvas.
  21. Build an Agility Course for the Dog: Use care so your pet will not become injured. You can use some flexible plastic pipe for short jumps, construct tunnels from boxes, weave poles, etc, out of items around the house or garage. Be sure to have plenty of rewards on hand as your pet learns the routine. Refer to Free Agility Plans or Canine Crib for assistance.
  22. Construct a Condo or Maze for the Cat: Make a maze or cat condo out of boxes attached to one another with holes cut in various places for the cat to move through the structure. See eHow for details.
  23. Do Brain Teasers: If you need help finding ideas, simply google "brain teasers for children" and you'll find numerous entries including Rebus, Poem Riddles, What Am I, Number Teasers, etc, from sites like Squiqly's and NIEHS Kid's Pages.
  24. Make up Secret Codes: Create your own version of the alphabet using various symbols, give each participating person a copy of the Symbols Index, and write secret messages to one another. Alternatively, you might use the Theban Alphabet or Anglo-Saxon Runes.
  25. Make Invisible Ink: There are several methods for making invisible ink, including using lemon juice or baking soda. These recipes can be found on the Internet, along with YouTube instruction videos.
  26. Color, Draw, or Paint: Here are some great resources and ideas for drawing and painting ideas for children of all ages, including making "art" from hand-prints. Try Toddler-Net (images included), Pointillism from AHC Arts & Crafts, and KinderArt drawing techniques for grades K-12.
  27. Practice Seeing Auras: This is great fun for 10-14 year olds when having a slumber party. Dim the lights and follow the instructions here. You'll find interpretations for the different meanings of aura colors as well.
  28. Build Something with Popsicle Sticks: Popsicle sticks are easy to work with and great for all ages. Make a pencil holder, recipe card holder, door hanger, and more.
  29. Play Beauty Shop: Style each others' hair, paint fingernails and toenails
  30. Practice Psychic Abilities: Start with an ordinary deck of cards, shuffle the cards and lay them face down. Predict the color of the card before turning it over. Record the number of guesses compared with the total tries. Once you're adept at color, try predicting the suit, and so on. Another idea is to have a partner hide an object. When your partner returns, relax and "feel" or "sense" the object's location.
  31. Play "I Spy": Put a pagan twist on the age-old game of "I Spy". Start by listing properties or correspondences. For example, assume you're in the herb garden. Your first clue might be, "it helps with relaxation and is used for purification". After a few more clues, your partner might conclude that Chamomile is the item you spy.
  32. Play "Simon Says"
  33. Jump rope
  34. Take a Walk
  35. Ride Bicycles
  36. Play Catch, Baseball, Frisbee, Football, Kickball, Badminton, Tennis: Physical activity creates endorphins in the brain which produce a sort of euphoria.
  37. Go Swimming
  38. Go Fishing
  39. Put Together a Care Package for a Relative, Neighbor, or Friend who is dealing with some difficulties or illness: Items might include a blanket, warm soup in a thermos, a package of tissues, some word search puzzles, or the current edition of one of their favorite magazines.
  40. Learn Crochet, Cross-Stitch, or Knitting
  41. Practice Learning a New Language
  42. Play a Word Association Game
  43. Tell Jokes
  44. Tell a Story with a Drawing: Called "draw and tell", these are stories you tell in which you draw particular objects for each part of the story. At the end, you've created a picture which coincides with the subject of the story. Here is one example and another. You can write your own simply by creating the simple drawing first and then build your story around each portion drawn with your pencil.
  45. Learn to Juggle
  46. Camp Indoors and Tell Spooky Stories by Candlelight.
  47. Take a Bubble Bath and Use Soap Crayons to draw on the tub.
  48. Use Sidewalk Chalk to make a town with roadways for the toy cars or make a hopscotch diagram to jump across.
  49. Play Follow the Leader on an obstacle course, around your yard, or using equipment at the playground.
  50. List all the Ideas that you can come up with to help relieve boredom, write them on small index cards or strips of paper, and put them in a cookie jar for next time.
What shouldn't you do?

Suggest they watch TV, clean their rooms, go find something to do, scold them for not appreciating what they have to play with already, give a speech about how you entertained yourself as a child, suggest they help with chores.
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Inspired by her Native American roots and Bradbury lineage, Polly Taskey is a writer and grandmother in the northern USA.  She shares her wisdom and pagan interests through Pagan by Design and The Moonlit Grove.

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