How to stop the whining when kids are bored: Make a ‘Bored Jar’
Today’s great idea is brought to you by whining children. I call it the Bored Jar. The thought had been rolling around in my mind for a while, and was one of the first things I did when when my husband deployed overseas. I was home alone with four children, and I needed a way to get the kids to stop whining.
I’m a pretty hands-on mom. I spend a lot of time reading to my kids, playing games with them, helping them with things. Most of the time that’s great. The downside is that my kids have become used to me always giving them ideas or telling them what to do.
During the winter months, they started spending more time whining that they were bored and there was nothing to do. During summer vacation, they expect me to have new, creative concepts every day. And when I’m the only parent home for many months during a deployment, I need a sanity check.
I decided it’s not my job to entertain them. When kids are bored, they need to learn to be creative, have initiative, and come up with their own ideas. So, I made a Bored Jar.
What is the Bored Jar? Ours is just a coffee container with a list taped to the outside. I had a bunch of old clothespins with letters on them (we used them for preschoolers learning to read). You could also use popsicle sticks or cards, whatever is convenient.
How do we use the Bored Jar when kids are bored?
The project helps in two ways. First, anytime someone says ‘I’m bored!’ they have to pick from the jar. Then they MUST do whatever they picked. There’s a mixture of play ideas and chores, so this is a mild punishment. The kids stopped whining and saying the word ‘bored’ within just a few weeks!
The second way is more long-term. When a kid has some down time and is starting to feel restless, they can look at the list of ideas on the outside of the jar, and voluntarily choose something to do. This is a great way for them to brainstorm their options, come up with ideas, and entertain themselves–all without me getting involved!
It has helped them be more independent and have initiative, which is a huge bonus to me when I’m the solo parent during deployment.
There are more creative ideas and support for parents in my book, Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses. It’s a great gift for any military spouse who needs a little extra encouragement, with letters like “Open When You Have Little Ones Who Need You,” and “Open When the Kids are Acting Out.”
What are our Bored Jar ideas when kids are bored?
I asked my oldest (age 7) to help me make the list. My criteria was half chores, half play, and it had to be something that was ALWAYS available and could be completed by the kids aged 4, 6, and 7, which is especially important since I sometimes work from home with the kids. I didn’t want it to be projects I would have to set up or clean up for them. Rather, the whole purpose was to help them find ways to entertain themselves when kids are bored.
Some of our ideas matched the letters, but not all:
A: Art Project
B: Bedroom cleanup, 15 minutes
C: Color a Picture
D: Dress-up costume
E: Encourage someone with a card
F: Fold Laundry
G: Go make a story
H: Help Mom with a chore
I: I put away my laundry
J: Journal or Homework
K: Play sports in backyard
M: Math practice
N: Ride scooter or bike
O: Listen to Music
P: Practice Piano
Q: Sweep dining room
R: Read a Book
S: Sidewalk chalk
T: Trampoline Time
U: Unload the dishwasher
V: Play with the baby
W: Wipe off the table
X: Clean up the living room
Y: Play a board game
Z: Do a puzzle
So that’s our Bored Jar. It worked great over spring break when kids are bored and restless at home! Do you have something similar at your house? Any ideas you would add to the list?