Here’s a Quick Way to Deal With a Bored Kid

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Here's a Quick Way to Deal With a Bored Kid
Photo by Mandy Lackey

We’ve hit a new phase in the last few weeks:

“Mom, I’m bored.”

Previous phases included “I know that” and “I don’t care,” which we dealt with by redirecting Abby to say “I know” (in a non-know-it-all tone) and “That’s okay,” respectively.

So at first, I thought we could handle “I’m bored” the same way. I asked her to try this instead: “Mom, can you help me find something to do?”

But it turns out when you’re in the middle of loading the dishwasher or cranking out a really good Pinterest session, it’s super hard to switch gears and come up with something fun for your kid to do.

Enter the Bored Jar

I came across this magical invention and knew I had to make one.

Here’s the basic idea:

  1. Get a jar and some jumbo popsicle sticks.
  2. (Optional) Decorate one side of the popsicle sticks with washi tape.*
  3. Write ideas for fun stuff to do on the popsicle sticks, and put them in the jar (hereafter referred to as the Bored Jar).
  4. When your kid says she’s bored, point to the Bored Jar.
  5. Your kid picks a stick and does what it says. PROBLEM SOLVED.

* I am not a crafty person, but I figured even I could handle sticking washi tape on popsicle sticks. It’s not necessary for your Bored Jar – some people even use slips of paper instead of popsicle sticks. So I’m pretty much an overachiever.

What I spent:

  • Jar: $4.18
  • Popsicle sticks: $3.74
  • Washi tape: $6.03
  • Total: $13.95

Here’s how my Bored Jar turned out. Not quite as adorable as my inspiration, but it’ll do.

My Bored Jar

But Does It Work?

Heck yeah! What’s surprised us is how seriously Abby has taken the Bored Jar.

This weekend, she pulled out a stick that said “Do something nice for someone you love.”

Abby: “What does that mean?”

“Just something you think would make someone smile, like drawing them a picture or doing them a favor,” I explained.

She disappeared for a while.

Then she came strutting out of my bedroom with a big grin on her face.

I was a little nervous. So I hurried into the bedroom, and this is what I discovered:

  • She had pushed the cat beds under the dresser to get them out of the way.
  • She moved a stray empty box from some recently ordered baby must haves into a corner.
  • She’d taken the clean duvet cover from the laundry basket off the floor and spread it over the bed. The king-sized bed on a platform frame. With only her two little 5-year-old hands.

How to Exploit the Bored Jar

Abby can’t read yet, so she will pull out a stick and ask us what it says.

This weekend, she picked a stick and held it out to me to read to her.

I noticed she was dancing around quite a bit, and I had a hunch that her excitement to find out what the Bored Jar had prescribed was overriding nature’s call.

Me: “It says to go potty.”

Abby: “For real?”

Me: “Yep. That’s what it says.”

She laughed and laughed. “That’s funny. It says to go potty!” And ran to the bathroom.

I’m just hoping that by the time she learns how to read, she’ll have the potty break concept down pretty good.

Our Own Special Twist

Qwirkle Board Game

Sometimes I’m perfectly happy to play a game of Qwirkle per the Bored Jar, but other times I just need the girl to entertain herself while I get something else done.

So for the activities that she can’t do on her own, we added a star on the popsicle stick. Before Abby draws a stick, she asks whether we can do something with her. And if not, she knows to keep pulling sticks until she finds one without a star.

The List

We used a mix of fun stuff and chores to keep things interesting:

  • Have an after-school picnic
  • Make up a story
  • Listen to music & dance
  • Play hide-and-seek
  • Do a puzzle
  • Read a book
  • Tidy up a room
  • Play a card game or board game together
  • Play solitaire
  • Dust the baseboards
  • Take photos
  • YogaKids: Silly to Calm
  • Do yoga (Abby loves this YogaKids DVD)
  • Write a letter or thank-you note
  • Draw a picture
  • Color in a coloring book
  • Build something with LEGOs
  • Do 10 jumping jacks
  • Dress up
  • Bake something
  • Do something nice for someone you love
  • Paint your nails
  • Do 10 push-ups
  • Build something with blocks
  • Have a tea party
  • Fix something
  • Blow bubbles
  • Make a bracelet
  • Interview a family member
  • Build a fort
  • Vacuum one room

You can find more ideas for activities here:

Want More?

For more awesome parenting ideas I’ve stolen from other people, follow my Pinterest board Playful Parenting.


Your Turn

What do you do when your kids say “I’m bored”? Share your tips in a comment below!

  • nutmeggo0410

    Megan {Country Cleaver} What a cool idea! I have seen these for date night ideas for couples – but equally genius for kids!!

    • Kelly

      Megan, ooh I like the idea of using a jar like this for date night ideas! We had so much fun with our Advent calendar for the holidays this year – all these jar ideas feel like of like a year-round Advent calendar. :-)

  • Laura

    My mom never bothered with a bored jar or anything like that. My brothers and I learned pretty quickly not to admit boredom too loudly, because we knew the answer would always be, “Go read a book,” “Go play,” or “Well, help me by setting the table, then.” We learned to entertain ourselves, and that fostered a great deal of creativity in all of us.

    • Kelly @

      Laura, I love your story of how you and your brothers learned to be so creative! It sounds like your mom had the magic touch. :-) Thanks for stopping by to share your perspective!

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