Idea: ‘I’m Bored’ Jar

Brilliant Idea: I'm Bored Jar

When her kids lament that they have nothing to do, my friend Yen has a genius response. “We made an ‘I’m Bored’ jar,” she says. “We came up with activity ideas together and wrote them on slips of paper. Now the jar sits on our bookcase, so they can pick it up whenever they like.”

Here are a few of the slips:

  • Build a pillow pile and jump
  • Call Grandma or Grandpa
  • Draw an object you see
  • Find ten blue things around the house
  • Kick a ball in the hallway

Brilliant, right?

P.S. Yen’s rainbow bookcase, and funny bedtime routines.

(Photo by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo)

  1. We also have a Wiggle Box that has tokens of activities to get them moving. Things like, “wriggle like a snake,” “hop 10 times like a rabbit” it’s super fun! Winter is long…

  2. Just wrote a list of 20 ideas to do with my two-year old! Thanx so much for the idea. x

  3. This is a really great idea. Must try it! :)

  4. Takes me back! Growing up the ‘B’ word: bored. Was a major no-no in our house. My mother made us feel all kinds of awful, mostly by guilt tripping us, if we ever even mumbled the word. She told us we were far too bright, creative and fortunate to use the word.

  5. Jill says...

    Sometimes kids just get bored and that is ok… I get bored sometimes and that feeling is what motivates me to try something new and come out of my comfort zone.. As a parent of three occasionally “bored ” kids .. I’ve learned not to try and “fix” it for them

  6. Sometimes you do have those days where you need to get everyone up and moving – love the idea of essentially stockpiling activities for those moments.

  7. Love all the above ideas! I don’t ever remember being bored as a child (many moons ago!) but I think my mother’s response to “I’m bored” would have been, “Go outside then!” No TV, computers for us way back then! I will pass all your suggestions on to my children though.

  8. Jasmine says...

    I’m with those who say that boredom is ok… the most creative and imaginative things come out of my kids when they have too much time and need to fill it. Especially as kids get older, we don’t need to plan everything for them.

  9. I need to make one of these jars for myself.

  10. Andrea says...

    We had this growing up, but my mom only ever put chores in there…we learned to keep our boredom to ourselves :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ha, i love that! smart mom!

  11. We do races and relays when the kids are bored. Have them run around the house 4-5 times, as fast as they can, or hopping, skipping, tumbling each round. It revives their energy when they are bored, and tires them out for a good night’s rest!

    Analog House

  12. Lola says...

    If my kids ever tell me they are bored, I put them to work. It makes me laugh because I am noticing them start to catch themselves before whining that they are bored. :o)

  13. Yes this really is a brilliant idea! I would add a “read a book” message :)

  14. Love this idea so much. I don’t have kids yet, but I would definitely do this little project if I did, and you know what? Sometimes adults get a bit bored on the weekends too or just run out of ideas so I wouldn’t actually see it as such a stretch to make this for fun for myself as well.

    Rae | Love from Berlin

  15. Laura C says...

    When my girls get bored, they just hang around and find something to do or play. I like how they manage to find some activities without any suggestion!

  16. Why didn’t I ever think of this!?! I love this idea. I’m totally gonna make one!

  17. I have been starting something similar in preparation for the winter. I call it my anti-winter blues list. The trick is to make a list of things you want to do/enjoy doing in winter, but you have to make the list now while you are happy and active in summer. Being excited for fall helps with ideas too! You could put everything in a jar just like Joanna as well. Great ideas!

  18. I love this!!

    I miss the days when I was bored often (i.e. childhood!), because now it seems like there’s so many things I’d LOVE to be doing or getting to and never enough time!

  19. I love it! I’m writing these down. Such a great idea, especially since winter will be here before long.

  20. Alexandra Marie says...

    I dunno. My mom would just tell me there was no such thing as boredom and I needed to find something to do. Isn’t a jar like this keeping kids dependent upon you to find things for them to do?

  21. Jen says...

    My boyfriend and I have this so we make sure we carve out time to do fun things together on the weekends. So far, it has been really fun!

  22. Guylaine says...

    I love this!!!! I also love (and use) the tip about kids putting their hand on my arm instead of interrupting me. Works brilliantly!

  23. This is such a cute idea. Lovely exercise of random creativity :)

  24. Rachel says...

    Growing up, my Dad had my brother and I do something similar. We each had a growing “bucket list” (although I don’t remember what we called it) that we were constantly adding to and crossing off. “I’m bored” were unspeakable words in my home. We were always encouraged to go pick an activity to eradicate that potential boredom. I love this idea! I give credit to my Dad for my adventurous and self-sufficient spirit for activities like this.

  25. I love this idea, it’s definitely something I need to remember!

  26. Celeste says...

    My mom encouraged us to develop our talents and take up hobbies. She would always tell us when we were bored, “well, go do something constructive!” Then I would think of something to make, learn, or do. She was a smart lady.

    I love this as an idea for trying new things and spurring hobbies or discovering talents! (Also, I love the “call grandma” slip as a way to develop relationships. I can see my mom writing, “visit a neighbor” or “write a letter to your cousins” on our slips if we’d had this.)

  27. eliza says...

    I did a similar thing as a kid, only we called it “the boredom box” and used an old recipe card box with index cards. It was so much fun to come up with all the different things I could do if I got bored…which happened often:)

  28. Yes. We had this exact thing when I was little. Spurred me to write many an overdue thank you note & a whole lot of haikus.

  29. NicoleD says...

    We had one of these when I a kid and I loved it – ours had craft project ideas on it, indoor games and outdoor activities. And the best part was we created all the slips and ideas ourselves, so everything in there was something that I wanted to do. Genius mom move.

  30. Heather says...

    I’m on the fence on this one. While I haaate the phrase “I’m bored” and have considered making one of these jars myself, I have mixed feelings about giving my kids solutions to their boredom. When the moments come up, I try keep the phrase “the gift of boredom” in mind — instead of looking at my kids’ boredom as a nuisance, I try to view it as an opportunity for them to use their imaginations and come up with their own fun, you know?

  31. Yes!! This is the best idea ever, it works SO well! I made two versions of this (and put them on my blog with free printable labels!): one small jar of popsicle sticks with quick ideas, and another larger jar of folded up pieces of paper with more in-depth ideas. The small jar has ideas like “bake cookies” or “build a fort,” and the big jar has ideas like “write a story about a pirate who wants to adopt a pet parrot.”
    They are a life saver come the witching hour.
    I love the “find ten blue things” idea! I have to refresh our jars! Thanks so much for sharing!


  32. JPB says...

    It’s a nice idea & I remember making one for my best friend when we were about 12. But it’s not really the direction of parenting, that I would want to take. I remember you posting about slow parenting a while back, this sort of feels like the opposite direction.

  33. You know when I first saw this I thought it was going to be that if your kid says they’re bored, they have to put a nickel in the jar or something. That would be a good motivator too! With my three year old, I normally try to inspire him into action whenever he’s bored by making sure he knows he only has a finite time to be bored before something else happens. So I’ll say, ‘Well you can only be bored for two more minutes because then I need you to help me start dinner.’ Normally those two minutes turn into 30 and I can get dinner done mostly by myself. Seems to be working for us right now. :)

  34. Great idea!

  35. Laura says...

    We have an “I’m bored” jar at our house, too, but it involves a bit of risk: while there are activities like listed above, there are also chores — sweep the back porch, clean all the mirrors in the house — and there are always one or two “wow” things like going to get a snow cone!

  36. Elisabeth says...

    Cute idea! When my siblings and I were young and complained of boredom, my mom would always reply: “Well, you could empty the dishwasher… Fold laundry… (Insert list of age-appropriate chores here.)” We would always scurry away quickly (lest she follow through with a suggested task) and come up with ways to entertain ourselves. My mom always says that boredom best inspires creativity.

    • Allison says...

      Your Mom’s method is mine. I think it’s good for kids to get bored and have to be creative. And if they can’t be bothered, then I get help with a chore. (This works extra well when they are young enough to still find some chores really fun).

    • Katie says...

      My dad made me mow the lawn if I complained that I was bored. I quickly learned never to make that mistake again ;)

  37. Genevieve says...

    My mom did something like that with me! She would go to Michaels and get a bunch of craft kits, of varying types and time commitments, as well as a few books and fun things she’d see on sale, and kept them hidden up in her room. If we were bored, we’d be occasionally be handed one of those things (or just given a lengthy list of ideas of things to do–Otherwise, we’d have been “bored” all the time as kids, knowing we’d get a new toy!!)

  38. Mama says...

    So far, our boy (4yo) hasn’t learned this phase but since he’s just started Kindergarten I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it comes home and when it does our jar will be ready!! Thanks Hun x

  39. When I was young, my mum always used to say, “there are no boring moments, only boring people.” Perhaps not as involved as an “I’m Bored” jar, however, it did teach me to entertain myself and see the fun in most situations. (I didn’t want to be a boring person!).

  40. LOL. I wish I could do this with my ‘To Do’ list.