How to Turn “I’m Bored.” into “I Have an Idea!”

The other day I was brainstorming some ideas with a reader, she is desperate to get out of the “I’m bored” cycle. While she absolutely loves planning activities for her kids it’s become something that is expected. Her kids are having a hard time playing on their own and she isn’t getting the much needed Mom breaks in the day.

The truth is that independent play is a skill that comes easier with the right environment and a little practice. Just like with anything else, some kids (and some adults) are naturally more comfortable with downtime. But even for those who would rather be constantly busy, downtime is important.

Do you need help figuring out a specific parenting hurdle? Would you like some help brainstorming how to reach the next “kid” goal you’ve been wanting to reach? Click on over to Ask Jill.

4 simple ways to help cure boredom by empowering kids master independent play

Turning “I’m Bored.” into “I Have an Idea!”

A while back I wrote a post called Downtime: why you want it and how to get it. It’s a great jumping off point for understanding why the “I’m bored” might just be a good thing. It also gives basic tips for how to get started with allowing for boredom. For this reader though… going deeper was important.

I KNOW she is not alone in this fight against boredom, so I’m sharing with you the same tips I gave her. If you’re in the same boat, great, you’ve come to the right place. If not, leave some helpful tips in the comments. Those simple things that work at your house may be something other parents haven’t even thought of.

Take a Break from Planned Activities – Do you genuinely love planning and doing activities? I know it’s so fun! And Pinterest makes it sooo irresistible. While that doesn’t have to stop forever, a two week pause might be just what you (and the kids) need. SO take Pinterest off your phone, stop searching for the next idea and refrain from opening emails that you know will be full of planned activities (yes even mine! 🙂 ) You can mark the dates on your calendar and resume activity fun very soon!

After your mini vacation from activities, come back slowly. Try to only plan structured activities 2-3 times a week, feel it out and see what is comfortable for your family. The idea is not to eliminate structure. The idea is to make sure unstructured time is a part of your structure.

Know the WHY – Ask yourself these questions. Why is this important to me? What will the benefits be for our family? How will this help the kids grow as people? (I could give you answers to all of those questions… but you will really feel the gravity of them if you put them in your own words). Everything is easier when you can really feel the purpose. Maybe even write them down.

Be Prepared – Prepare yourself for what you are afraid of or what will trigger you to cave and give into more structure. Whining? Begging? At our house wild play and wrestling are something we see at the beginning of downtime… so I’m always ready for it. I let it happen for a little bit and then I suggest they move on. If I wait to stop it until I’m fuming or overwhelmed by it, my reaction is much different. At that point the urge to give in is way too strong for me to resist and I end up handing them something to do.

Write out some responses ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it when the pressure is on. “We have 2 hours until we start making dinner. That’s a lot of time! I remember you talking about building a boat out of LEGO last week, this would be a great time for that!” (Just be careful that you don’t give too many or too detailed ideas.)

Keep yourself busy – … but also available. Pick up a book, plan to clean out a drawer or closet. This will help avoid rescuing them from being bored.

Is boredom an issue at your house? How are you doing with it? 


  1. The kids & I put together a “Jobs Jar” that held folded Index cards with a job written on each one. We also brainstormed an activity list. This was posted near the Jobs Jar. When they say they are “bored,” I just point to that spot & say choose one of these or think of one on your own. If they start whining etc they choose a job. My kids quickly learned to think of things on there own so yhey wouldn’t have to work! At another time, on cleaning day, the each kid picks 2 jobs cards to help out. They can trade only if their sibling agrees. When the house is clean we go someplace fun as a reward, ie the library, park, or splashpad. It works!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *