Inside: This magical invention will transform your bored kid into a happy kid. And the best part? After the first time, it requires zero effort on your part.
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 our 5-year-old to say “I know” (in a non-know-it-all tone) and “That’s okay,” respectively.
At first, I thought we could handle the “bored kid” phenomenon 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 paying bills or binge-watching New Girl, it’s hard to switch gears and come up with something fun for your kid to do.
Bored Kid? Meet the Bored Jar
I came across this magical invention and knew I had to make one.
Here’s the basic idea:
- Get a jar and some jumbo popsicle sticks.
- (Optional) Decorate one side of the popsicle sticks with washi tape.*
- Write ideas for fun stuff to do on the popsicle sticks, and put them in the jar (hereafter referred to as the Bored Jar).
- When your kid says she’s bored, point to the Bored Jar.
- 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.
Download: 40 Bored Jar Ideas
But Will It Work on a Bored Kid?
Heck yeah! What’s surprised us is how seriously our daughter has taken the Bored Jar.
This weekend, she pulled out a stick that said “Do something nice for someone you love.”
Her: “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 basketoff 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
Our daughter 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.”
Her: “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
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 she 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.
Or Just Forget the Popsicle Sticks
To save you time, I made a handy printable of 40 activities for your bored kid – the 30 activities listed in the next section plus 10 more bonus activity ideas. Scroll to the end of this post to get the printable, cut it into strips, pop them into a jar, and you’re done.
Here’s a sneak peek of your printable:
30 Fun Activities for Bored Kids
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
- Do yoga (our daughter 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
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the 40 activity ideas. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to download and subscribe.
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Cut into cards. Don’t worry if you don’t cut them perfectly straight. Your bored kid won’t care!
- Pop the cards into an empty mason jar or bowl, put it on your dining room table, and you’re DONE.
For more awesome parenting ideas I’ve stolen from other people, follow my Pinterest board Playful Parenting.
You can find more ideas for activities here:
What do you do when you have a bored kid on your hands? Share your tips in a comment below!
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.