A Boredom Jar

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 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.

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, plain cookie jar, 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. 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)
* body painting
* paint rocks
* draw a picture (for in-home art display area, send to grandma, or as a thank you for the mailman or baker at Publix)
* junk art (keep a stash of recyclables for gluing, painting, sculptures, collages)
* dress-up party
* read to stuffed animals
* make new clothes for paper dolls
* dance party
* 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:

* small cars
* 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 fingertips every day.

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