By Michelle Mady
It is a perfect spring day. You’ve already purchased all the coolest outside toys, and the playroom is loaded with toys for building, rolling, and stacking. There’s a corner for creativity full of arts and crafts supplies. For your child’s most recent birthday party, you asked for no gifts to be purchased because they have all of the play items they could possibly ask for. So, as you start to list all of the things you are going to be able to get done today, knowing your child will surely be busy playing the day away, your child approaches and utters the scariest sentence a parent can hear: “I’m bored!”
So, as you start to list all of the things you are going to be able to get done today, knowing your child will surely be busy playing the day away, your child approaches and utters the scariest sentence a parent can hear: “I’m bored!”
We can try and distract them with their well-played toys, allow some screen time, or event direct them to their brand new sand toys. That may work for a few minutes, but they inevitably come back just as you start to fold the laundry. You offer some craft supplies and coloring books. They seem excited but seek you out just as you start a new book. And they repeat those dreaded words. Okay parents, don’t panic. We are going to walk through this together.
We are going to put together a Boredom Basket. Before we gather our supplies, there are a few specific things to keep in mind with this basket:
First, it is not available for everyday use. The key to this basket is for it to be fun and exciting. So, it needs to be stored somewhere out of reach and sight of the children.
Second, along the same lines, if can only be brought out when it is REALLY needed, like when you are just a chapter away from finding out how the police will find the criminal, or when you don’t have any clean pants for tomorrow.
Lastly, there are no rules in the basket. Items can be played with in any way and have to go back in the basket when they are done, but that’s it.
Now let’s get to supplying this Boredom Basket.
Got an artist on your hands? Put in some “less-mess” art supplies. There are so many great options for no-mess coloring. Crayola’s Color Wonder markers only write on Color Wonder paper. There are some great coloring pages including some favorite children’s characters. Water Wows! by Melissa & Doug are another great mess-free coloring option. If you want to up your game, check out the Sticker Fun books found in Bicycle Pie’s shop. Stickers are a fun activity to keep any child’s attention.
Maybe your child loves to tinker and build? Collect your recyclable materials, like toilet paper rolls, juice bottles, bottle caps and bread ties. Toss in a roll of scotch tape, a glue stick and some pipe cleaners. Now you have your very own engineering playset. Ask your child to build a ramp for a car, a house for their dolls, or even a creature they can play with. These unusual building materials will be interesting and force some patience and focus, increasing the play time.
For children who like a new challenge, grab some new puzzles to add to your basket. Interlocking puzzles are wonderful, but there are so many more options. Magnetic puzzles are great because the pieces cannot get lost. There are wonderful activity boards that are like puzzles, including the Weather Watch play board found in the Bicycle Pie shop. These options are familiar as they often play with puzzles, but are showcased in a different way. This difference makes it more exciting to play with, keeping them engaged.
OK, but what if you need this basket ready now, you were not ready for them to be bored today, and you really need to throw something together? No problem. Grab a cupcake tin and pom poms, beads, or you can even use dry beans from the pantry. Add tweezers or a spoon and show your child how to move the items from each tray.
Another quick idea is to grab some out-of-season holiday decorations from the basement. Window clings are amazing (and the gel types can be found in many dollar sections) and fun to stick on, and take off, of windows. Adding a holiday wreath for them to fill the middle with pom poms is a wonderful distraction in the summer. It is, again, the unusual items that draws them to play.
Put that basket together and store it on the top shelf of the linen closet — they will never look there! Scour the dollar section for small inexpensive items to add. Purchase a few bigger items that are sure to widen eyes.
Call it a cure for child boredom; I think of it as a sanity preservation device. In either case, having this at the ready adds a tool to your parenting survival kit.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.
Photo credit: iStock.com/hoozone