Two words that every parent learns to dread. The conversation continues with:
“There’s nothing to do.”
Yet, you look around and see a house full of toys, crafts, and games that if you had free time would keep you occupied for hours.
First, you need to remember that there is nothing wrong with a little boredom. Dr. Vanessa LaPointe, a psychologist, recommends that “Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to be quiet enough that they can hear themselves.” Boredom can become, in essence, an entryway into mindfulness for children as they learn to listen rather than expecting to be entertained. Screen Free Parenting suggests that boredom can lead to creativity and independence while reducing the stress from constantly needing to be on.
On the other hand, you are probably also thinking that these kids are driving me nuts and I need to figure out how to get them occupied, hopefully without resorting to parking them in front of a screen. With the potential for snowy weather ahead of us, some advanced preparation can go a long way to making being cooped up with your kids manageable.
Your house probably has a lot of activities already floating around in it. They are buried in closets, shoved in desks, or hiding under the bed. Go explore your kids’ playroom, the basement, or even their rooms looking for games, crafts, and toys and make a list of them. Better yet, send your kids around to make that list. Don’t worry if they get distracted while cataloging. Isn’t that the whole point of this?
Step 2: Build Your List
So, now you have a sense of what your home has to offer to keep your kids occupied, but you don’t want to stop there. Just telling them to play with an old toy may not be enough to combat the winter boredom. You need to augment the list with some extra cool and interesting activities.
Check out this Pinterest board with links to lots of cool activities that can put together to fight the blues.
It also is a good idea to include some household chores. Being stuck inside because the weather is nasty is a great opportunity to teach your children new responsibilities and give them ownership of helping out at home. Make sure that you are comfortable with the tasks that you are giving them (i.e. if it is done wrong, you won’t get upset) and that they are age appropriate (e.g. young children shouldn’t be using caustic chemicals).
Some things on your list may be able to be done independently. Others will require some adult participation or supervision. Keep track of that as it will help you down the line.
Step 3: Get Organized
Now that you’ve got your list of activities that work for you and your family, the next step is to make sure that you are ready. Gather your supplies and maybe make a run to the dollar store for some of the more interesting activities that you picked.
There are a few ways that you can help your kids select the activity that they will do. The easiest is just to put a list on the fridge and let them pick. If your kids are the kind that might need a little help making choices, print out your list and cut it up into strips that you can fold in half. Fill a jar (or hat or paper bag) with the folded strips and have the kids pull the activity out. If they need a little motivation, create a bingo board like this one from Edutopia. The first child to bingo wins a treat.
Step 4: Don’t Wait for the Boredom to Set In
While the boredom will probably occur on its own, but you don’t have to rely on it. If you know that you have a snow day coming up or just a day that you think you will be stuck in the house, plan ahead. Create a schedule for the day using the activity list. Plot out how long each activity will take and create a calendar. Make sure to leave space for choice and free play as you don’t want the kids suddenly thinking that home has turned into a prison camp.
Have a great idea for keeping your kids occupied when they announce that they are bored? Share it in the comments.