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I'm Bored! How to Stop being Responsible to Entertain Your Kids and Encourage Them to Do It Themselves

July 26, 2021 | by Dini Harris

Being bored is their problem, not yours.

When I was a child we didn’t worry about what we were going to do every day. Other than an occasional family trip and a visit with the grandparents, my parents didn’t schedule activities for us either.

We just went out and did. We climbed trees, built tree houses, rode our bikes, roller-skated or bladed, jumped rope, played ball or just hung around. We were happy entertaining ourselves.

Everyone looked forward to the summer as a safe and happy time.

How different things are today! Parents fret: What in the world are we going to do with our kids all summer?

And even if the kids are enrolled in day camps and sports activities, there’s still extra “dead” time that needs to be filled.

Instead of keeping themselves busy, they badger their parents with insistent requests that they take them somewhere or buy them something or complain that they’re bored.

Part of the worry is legit – today both parents are working and it's a real issue. But some of the concern is because the onus of entertaining kids has moved from the kids to the parents. So instead of going out and keeping themselves busy, they badger their parents with insistent requests that they take them somewhere or buy them something or complain that they’re bored.

We frantically fill up the time with taking them to arcade rooms, trampoline parks, amusement parks and bowling; buy them electronic gadgets and action figures and order expensive craft projects and specialty baking ingredients. And the next day, we're once again greeted with that dreaded refrain, “I’m bored!”

Fortunately, I realized that with my large family I would never be able to keep up in the entertainment department. There are too many kids of too many ages, who need too many activities for one mother and father to juggle.

With no other choice, we reverted back to the old-fashioned route and put the kids back in charge of entertaining themselves. Being bored is their problem, not mine.

Thank God, it works. Not only do the kids keep themselves busy, they have become more independent, creative and responsible.

Here are some dos and don’ts that help my kids entertain themselves successfully:

Do: Tell your kids that it’s their job to entertain themselves.

How? When they tell you that their bored, ask them what they plan on doing. When they ask to go on a trip, say “no.”

Push the job of entertainment back to them, where it should be.

Do make sure that there are craft supplies and games and toys that your kids can play with.

Do pull out some oldies-but-goodies, like Monopoly, and put them where the kids can see them. Every few days, change the games that are out on the table.

Do invite friends, unless you have a gang of kids yourself. Kids enjoy spending time with each other. Having more kids around is sometimes easier to handle, because they entertain each other.

Do keep your eyes on what’s going on and supervise as necessary. Kids needs to know that entertaining themselves doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want. There are still house rules, like no painting on the sofa.

Please don’t use the television or computer as a babysitter. Why would you make your kids fat, violent-prone and intellectually dull?

Do sit down with your kids at times. It’s fun to make crafts but it’s even more fun to make a craft with Mom or Dad.

Do schedule family trips and activities at times. You’re not in charge of entertaining the kids every minute of their day, but you do want to create warm family memories.

Do encourage the kids to spend time outside. Instead of electronic toys, buy them a ball. One ball and an empty lot or the nearest park can entertain a bunch of kids for hours.

Do maintain a loose schedule. Breakfast, lunch and supper should be part of the schedule. Hungry kids are kvetchy kids.

Don’t give in if the kids try nudging and badgering you to entertain them. Self-entertaining is a skill that they can only learn by doing it.

Leave them with a table full of odd craft supplies (including recycled products, like empty cereal boxes and tissue paper rolls), start washing dishes or sit down at the computer to get some work done, and leave them to it. When they realize there’s no point in complaining, they’ll sit down to having a good time.

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