What to do When Kids Say "I'm Bored"

What to do When Kids Say "I'm Bored"

What do you do when kids say I’m bored?  That phrase–I’m bored–was one of those pet peeves I had while teaching.  I didn’t like to hear it from students.

Typically it came across as an “attitude” children conveyed that wasn’t very considerate.

Still, I knew I needed to look at what was behind the comment to be sure to understand its meaning.

Students that announce this and fly through their lessons accurately may need more challenging material.  Other students may use it as an avoidance for work that is much too difficult.

Parents can find the comment unsettling too. During the course of the summer, they may find themselves straining their patience to come up with a pleasant retort.

(Bored?  Really?  With all the people, things, responsibilities- vying for our time- what we parents wouldn’t give to be “bored” just for a day).

A recent Wall Street Journal article offered more insights on boredom with new research showing that “kids who complain of boredom aren’t necessarily lazy or slacking off, but are actually in a tense, negative state.”  They may be unable to focus their attention or are unsure of how to begin a satisfying activity.

Rather than assign a deeper meaning to the boredom, parents should help children explore solutions for themselves. You don’t need to provide over stimulating activities, that just promotes more boredom.  The age of your child will determine how to go about addressing the boredom.

Boredom Busters for Little Ones

Arts & Crafts- always a hit, the messier the better- how about finger painting?  Summer is the perfect time to take it outside

Bubbles & Water Play
– bubbles and various bubble makers, water in a kiddie pool with lots of buckets and plastic containers- add a strainer or watering can

Bike or Cozy Coupe Car Wash– form a line and wash all the bikes, wagons, Cozy Coupes or even your parent’s car

Tell a Story– make up your own story about a character or after painting a picture, tell a story about it to some one. (this is what teachers call “extending the activity”)

Cook- learn how to make a PBJ or some other simple food item- frozen juice turned into popsicles are popular

Take a Nature Walk- see what seeds, flowers or plants you can collect- make a collage with them

My children have not said “I’m bored” in years.  They’ve probably been “conditioned” to keep it to themselves because in the past, I could always “help” them find something constructive to do.  There are an unending list of chores and things to take care of around the house that cures any case of boredom.

Although my children don’t say “I’m bored,” they do act like it.  They are typical of their age group as the Wall Street Journal article proves, “Kids left to their own devices often default to videogames. Many of the 92% of middle schoolers who play them cite boredom as one reason, according to a 2013 study of 1,254 students in the journal Motivation and Emotion.”

Boredom Busters for Tweens and Teens

Learn to Cook– teens are always hungry, so why not learn a valuable life skill? Teens can make their favorites- tacos, homemade pizza, or BLTs

Make Your Own YouTube Video– be sure to get parental consent on sharing and posting your production

Choose an Athletic Goal and Train for it– enter a 5k or plan a significant bike trail ride

Learn Something New – of course you could read a book…or use the internet. My son really likes a site called Vsauce  a channel dedicated to scientific topics, gaming, and technology. I’ve watched “What Color is a Mirror?” with him. They remind me a bit of Mythbusters

Volunteer-  there are many places that would welcome some help- animal shelters, libraries, retirement homes – be a self-starter and do some research- bring a friend along to make it more fun

Babysit – busy parents would love an added pair of hands or an hour or two of downtime and little ones looks up to tweens and teens. A win -win situation and possibly some additional spending money in your tween/teen’s pocket

Visit a Museum- Chicagoland is full of amazing museums – large and small, with a wide variety of topics- enough said.

Practice a Skill– whether it is shooting hoops, skateboarding, gymnastics, crafting, sewing or a musical instrument- improve upon or practice something you already know how to do.


If these ideas aren’t enough, Families On-Line Magazine has 50 more things for teens to do this summer. I also found these questions for teens to think about very interesting from the Parenting Teenagers Academy.


Please comment, tweet, share, “like” on Facebook! Likes and tweets are much appreciated. Contact me at lisa.schoolzone@gmail.com. When boredom sets in, what do you do?

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Tags: boredom, kids, School Zone, teens

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    My name is Lisa Stiegman and I have been a Chicago area resident all my life. Besides being the mother of three children, I have been a writer, editor, and teacher.

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