Activities for Bored Children

photo by: Ricardo Gomez Angel

I feel like I should have gotten to this one before snow season came to a close, but to be honest it would have slipped my mind completely were it not for the suggestion of a reader—also it doesn’t really snow here ever. That’s alright, we get our turn soon. We’ve got a veritable monsoon season coming up and that’s going to make it hard to get outdoors; stuck inside moments happen year round anyway, bonus points if the power is out. You’ll be bored, the kids will be trapped indoors, and you may be thinking about all the stuff you could be getting away with doing if they weren’t busy bouncing off the walls and getting into everything. So what do you do to avoid going crazy in these situations?

First, I suggest making sure your situation isn’t self-inflicted. I’ve caught myself plenty of times lamenting the fact that I was stuck in the house with the kids when it was sunny outside. Sure it was hotter than I wanted it to be, but it was about as safe to leave the house as it could ever get. This wasn’t a tornado warning or being flooded in or snowed in. I was just so bored I was making myself even more bored. Check yourself first for situations you are in control of. That being said let’s move on to our boredom toolbox.

If you are genuinely stuck inside, the particulars of your situation are going to affect whether or not a certain suggestion applies to you. For instance, we’re going to talk about baking a little bit and those of you with gas stoves can do this when the lights are out. Electric stove owners cannot, at least, unless you’re on some sort of heavy duty back-up power. See what I mean? The small details matter, I will be doing my best to cover a lot of bases but I can’t possibly cover them all.

So we’ll start with the classic inclement weather scenario. It’s raining or snowing or freezing, and it’s not an immediate danger to the family but getting out onto the road would probably be a less than ideal scenario. In situations like these there are many things to fall back on, and we’ll get to a few, but my favorite by far is passing down skill sets to the little ones in fun ways. Perhaps the easiest example of this, and one perhaps most of us can identify with, is baking cookies. Who’s not interested in cookies?! Depending on their age, you may have to limit their involvement, but even our three year-old is game for standing on a foot stool to watch us mix the batter and is definitely a good helper when it comes time to licking the cookie dough off of utensils prior to their disposal. It’s also a great way to just get them used to the idea of cooking, teaching oven safety, and if they get interested in actually making a batch themselves later on they’ll already be familiar with the process enough that you’ll be able to focus on the fun bits. Do you have a hobby that can be done indoors? Do you find yourself wishing you had the time to share that with your children but can’t seem to find it? Think about it the next time the weather keeps you cooped up.

Staying on the inclement weather kick, sometimes you really do just need a good Netflix marathon. I like to use this in situations where the weather seems scarier than it is—lots of lightning or above average winds for instance. Meet noise with noise. When I was growing up this wasn’t always a reliable option, and many are still in that boat. We had broadcast television and lightning storms tended to knock that out. We did however have a stereo that worked, and when the lights managed to stay on putting on a classic vinyl or two suited just fine. Be flexible, suggesting a Netflix marathon doesn’t mean you can’t go to your DVD or Blu-Ray library if you have one—just make some noise to lessen that thunderclap or that wind howl.

For those of us with an open air porch or similar structure I also find it’s nice to just arrange some chairs—maybe get some rockers for this—and just sit and enjoy the sounds for a few minutes. Strike up a conversation. It’s a good way to make up for lost time at the dinner table too. Some quiet face-to-face time may just be something you’re behind on.

Board(bored) games come in two distinct varieties in my experience. The first type has you interacting primarily with the people playing the game. The second type generally has you interacting with the board itself, avoid those. That’ll be games like some classic dominos, Trouble, Candy Land and Mankala. The first type is preferable, as it engages entertaining interactions. That’ll be stuff like Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Jenga, or Pictionairy. There are some type 1 games I’d avoid though, as they easily turn into drudgery, like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Curate your board games carefully to fit your family or they will never leave the shelf, especially when they need to, like say in a power outage. On that note, simulate power outages and remove electronics from the family routine now and then. You should have some semi-regular periods where there’s no TV, Phone, Internet, etc, otherwise you’ll never sit down to a table top game and you won’t even know if you like what you have.

Sometimes the mandatory indoors period is going to drag on for a while. In these cases your entertainment options may not help at all because the restlessness is being caused by a lack of physical exertion. Get your kids in the habit of exercising indoors so they’ll be able to burn that energy off when they can’t go outside. Children need to physically move around and exert themselves regularly or they become restless and can act out. I find yoga actually tends to keep kids entertained. The type of exercise matters, hardcore workouts can intimidate them and are typically low on fun quotient.

These are just a few of the basic tools we keep around for when we can’t leave the house, but they cover some basic scenarios and needs. Think about the things you like to do indoors but never seem to have time for, think about how prepared you are to entertain yourselves during a power outage too. Oh, and one last tip, do not neglect to get out of the house the moment you are able. It’s really good to reset the clock on cabin fever as soon as possible.

Do you have strategies for staving off cabin fever or passing the time on rainy days that I didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments!

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