Building A Boredom Jar as a Family
Do kids really get “bored” at home? No way! Kids are kids – they can watch an ant crawl up a 9-foot wall or pull a thread on the sofa until the hole is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Do kids have difficulty planning their time, making choices, and creating activities/adventures that parents are willing to support and encourage? Oh yeah! And because the ideas that kids will come up with on their own are usually the ones that create enormous inconvenience for parents, parents need a plan to constructively channel children’s creative energy.
Warning: the antidote to boredom is not busyness. Filling up schedules and planning activities “for” kids increases the need for more activities. Busyness creates a cycle of not-enough. Boredom is the name we give the vacuum of not knowing what to do. Filling that space with busyness inhibits the creativity and problem solving needed for self-directed play. So, instead of rushing to fill the vacuum, you can help your child discover opportunities anywhere and everywhere, starting with toddlers and preschoolers.
So how does a working mom muster the time, energy and creativity to fill her child’s space with worthwhile and fun activities? The Boredom Jar.
The Boredom Jar gathers in one place all your child’s favorite things to do and makes a game of choosing an activity--because we know children can dislike something they love just because mom or dad recommends it. If you don’t like the name “Boredom Jar”, call it “My Favorite Things to Do” or “Sarah’s Fun Jar”.
You can make the actual Boredom Jar from any reusable container: canisters, buckets, mason jars, gift bags, or diaper wipe containers. Decorate with permanent markers, decorative stencils, paste-on letters, ribbons, or bows. The activity ideas can be photos of activities, child-drawn pictures of activities, words together with picture icons, or simple words. Most importantly, include your child in the preparation process—have them work alongside you one busy, work-from-home Friday or work-swamped Saturday! This is exciting and fun when it’s truly about the things your child likes.
There are lots of things most kids like: bubbles, music, building, art or mess-making, pretend play, and surprises. There are some things your child likes that stir deep in his or her soul: make-up, bugs, glitter, or superhero capes. Know your child and start thinking of WOW activities that engage your child, especially the ones there’s never enough time to do. Here are a few ideas:
tea party or teddy bear picnic
puppet show (store-bought puppets, home-made or drawn on fingers)
bubble wrap (popping, jumping, or painting)
little photographer (taking pics, looking at pics, or creating collages from old pics)
toy hospital (gather old or broken toys or household items like phones or toasters to take apart – add doctor props or repair tools)
toy washing (from small toys in a large bucket to riding toys outside)
draw a picture (for in-home art display area, send to grandma, or as a thank you for the mailman)
junk art (keep a stash of recyclables for gluing, painting, sculptures, collages)
read to stuffed animals
make new clothes for paper dolls
scavenger hunts (colors, shapes, sounds, starts with the letter _, backyard leaves)
mini-chef (prepare non-cook snacks or “junk salad” from safe ingredients kept in child’s corner of pantry or the frig)
board games, card play, puzzles, Lego’s, blocks
build a fort or a bear cave with old sheets
our town (from masking tape roads and empty juice box buildings)
box play (decorate with stickers, paint, or wallpaper or make a train or a zoo)
spa time (mani-pedi’s, hair salon, or yoga class)
Every house is full of a million-and-one things to do at any given time. The Boredom Jar collects all those possibilities so we never forget the riches around us. It also helps us to gather essential tools of play like junk, art supplies, boxes, and old sheets. It gets us thinking in creative ways. So the next time your child asks a question or expresses a new interest, create something new for the Boredom Jar:
butterfly stickers or pictures of neighborhood butterflies
paint with food coloring in ice cubes
play sink or float
find objects that stick to magnets
make homemade dog biscuits
create a matching game of people’s names and photos
Finally, create a “surprise” item for the Boredom Jar that will inspire new ideas for play. You can keep the surprise in a shoebox or a treasure chest with items like these:
make-up brushes and nearly empty make-up
washable window markers for sliding door drawing
two dozen empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls
old holiday cards
an abandoned bird’s nest
a picture of a new dance download
a love letter from grandma
The possibilities of the Boredom Jar are limitless. Your child will also start to see the wonder of everyday things at his or her fingertips every day.