What To Do When Your Kids Say "I'm Bored"

Jul 06, 2023
What To Do When Your Kids Say

Do you dread hearing the words “I’m bored” from your kids?

I’ve had a couple of clients tell me they were at a loss of what to do when their kids complained of boredom.  I also see other parents avoiding this altogether by packing the schedule with back-to-back camps, sports, and other activities.

In an earlier blog, I discussed the benefits of giving children free time to play.  Play-time allows children to discover their own passions and talents, fueling their imagination and creativity.  Free play with other children helps them learn to get along, read social signals, develop empathy, and collaboratively solve problems.

But for many kids, the concept of free play is a conundrum.  With their schedules packed with organized activities or with screens at their fingertips to keep them constantly entertained —  when kids don’t have something to do every moment, they don’t know what to do.

They come to you and complain about being bored, hoping that you will give-in to allow screen time or come up with something to keep them entertained.  When they do, my guess is that you respond with how about this or how about that?

But what if you saw your kids being bored as a great opportunity to foster their creativity and imagination?  What do you think they would do if they came to you and complained of being bored, and you responded by saying that’s awesome!  You are so busy during school with homework and activities, isn’t it so nice to have some free-time when you don’t have homework?

When we keep our kids busy with activities — or make sure that they have constant entertainment, we send the message that free time is a problem.  But when we embrace free time and encourage them to find something they enjoy — that doesn’t involve screens, we help them build their creativity muscle and problem solving skills.

So instead of making suggestions next time your child complains of boredom, consider it a good thing and ask them to come up with ideas.  

Here’s what that might look like:
It’s awesome that you have some free time!  Why don’t you take a piece of paper and come up with a list of things that sound fun and not boring that you can do.   Even better, how about three different lists.  One list for fun things that you can do on your own, one list for fun things to do with friends, and one list for fun things that we can do as a family.  I wonder how many ideas you can come up with?  Do you think you can come up with at least 5 for each area, or even 10?

This is helpful from a number of different fronts.  Our brains are designed to automatically start working to answer any questions.  So when you ask questions like this, your child’s brain switches from “I’m bored and I don’t know what to do” to actively thinking about what they can do that will be fun.

It’s also an activity that will keep them busy and encourage them to get creative!  I did this one summer with my own daughter.  I gave her a poster board and markers and had her make a list of things she wanted to do over the summer.  She ended up with a great list and also decorated the poster board so it kept her busy for an afternoon.  One of the family ideas was going to get ice cream.  We had weekly family outings one evening a week that summer going to a variety of different local ice cream shops, and she felt so proud of her idea.

This is just one example of the good ideas that can come from your kids being bored!  

If you want more, I invite you to join my email list where I’m going to be sharing more about boredom, free time, and how to disconnect from screens.  Click here to join.

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