Like most parents, I’ve spent a substantial amount of time telling bored kids to find something to do. I’m a firm believer that children need to be bored in order to learn to overcome boredom, so I hesitate to fill their hours with activities and ideas of my own making. Every now and again though, it’s fun to be the one that comes up with the boredom-buster and these five ideas are a few of my favourites. I hope you find something in here that your small (and not-so-small) folk fall in love with.
Pots and seeds or cuttings
If you have kids who have displayed even a low-level of interest in gardening, giving them with their own pots, seeds and cuttings, or their own area of the garden, can be an incredible gift not just for them, but for the entire family. Some kids will do better growing flowers, while others will be drawn to herbs or veggies, succulents, hedging or trees. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are the ones leading it. A passion can’t arise if we are constantly trying to direct it in a certain way and if you want to help your child discover what might be a passion for gardening… let them do the choosing.
Whittling knife and guide book
A few years ago, we bought our eldest son a pocket knife and book about whittling. This book has had some serious use and the pocket knife accompanies him everywhere. Since then, a few of the other kids have also acquired knives and at various times can be found whittling shapes in sticks or making gifts to adorn our mantle.
Don’t be tempted to just use YouTube videos. Invest in a book. Give them something they can hold and pour over and take with them in the car or peruse in the evening when tech time is finished. Something tangible that they can dog-ear and take notes on and cherish and lend out to a friend or pass down to their own kids.
Whittling is a beautiful, creative pastime, particularly helpful for children who otherwise struggle to sit still or develop fine motor skills and it’s wonderful to see them come back to this activity again and again throughout the years.
Sewing machine and fabric
Seriously. You can get a sewing machine for under $100 (there are plenty of used options and fabric stores sometimes have good quality machines at half their retail price) and if you have a kid who loves to sew by hand, they’ll love the pleasure of using a machine.
If you’ve never used a sewing machine yourself so can’t relay the basics to your child, YouTube tutorials will be easier to follow than a book and it might only take 30 minutes of various tutorials to be off and running.
You can get beautiful fabric from haberdashery stores or search online marketplaces where people often de-stash 10+ years worth of fabric collections for very little cash. If your teen is interested in making their own clothes, start with a trip to the op shop where they can grab a few pieces to take apart and remake, adjust or embellish.
Free reign in the kitchen
Not all gifts are bought at a shop and giving a food-loving teen free reign in the kitchen can be a huge benefit for their own learning and for the entire family. It’s something that doesn’t cost anything except for the ingredients they’re using and is on hand at any moment. If you have a teen that’s keen to cook, let them at it!
Stop motion videos
Stop motion is a form of video that is created by taking a series of photos of objects that are being physically manipulated between each photo and then the photos all play in quick succession to create what looks like motion. The idea is to create a scene and photograph each tiny movement on the scene to create something that looks seamless.
My kids love stop motion because it uses technology and I love it because it’s a great opportunity for them to practice patience, form attention to detail and develop the imagination. In the past, we’ve used things like LEGO, doll house characters, drawn mediums and even human volunteers. It’s easiest to start with something inanimate. Ask them to tell you about the scene or story they want to create and get into it!
There are dozens of apps available so don’t overthink it. Just grab one and get started. Your child will probably make their first video in about 5 minutes and then proudly play it back only to realise it lasts 1.5 seconds. It’ll then start to sink in that they’re going to need to invest more time if they want something awesome. They’ll also give more thought to the background, lighting and composition as they get better. Over time, they can create something really unique.
I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favourite boredom-buster for kids?