TV-Free Activities for Bored Kids
With a little creativity and imagination, you can turn the tables and find fun things to do without running to the store or turning on the television.
By Amanda Formaro
When it’s raining, snowing, or just plain too cold to play outside, your household can fall victim to the “I’m Bored Blues”. With a little creativity and imagination, you can turn the tables and find fun things to do without running to the store or turning on the television. Keep this list of ideas handy, or write each idea on a slip of paper and put them in a hat. The next time the kids are bored, let them draw a slip of paper from a hat to decide which activity to do first!
1) PLATE OF BUBBLES – All you need for this fun activity is a small plate, a plastic drinking straw, dish washing liquid and tap water. Place two drops (that’s all you need!) of dish washing liquid in the center of a plate. Carefully run tap water onto plate, pointing water over the dish soap to create some foam or bubbles. Carefully place the plate on a flat, sturdy surface, such as the kitchen table, and have your child point his straw into the water. To create bubbles, blow gently and slowly into the sudsy water. Not too fast, it won’t work! Slow and steady will create huge bubbles!
2) ANIMAL JUMBLE – This works best with 3 or more children, but can certainly be adapted for 2 kids. Assign each child a ‘secret” animal part, the child choosing the animal. Have them draw their part on white or construction paper. The idea is that each child does not know what the others are drawing. For example, have Bobby draw the head (maybe he chose a dog), Cindy draws the legs (she chose an elephant), and so on. When they are all finished drawing, have them cut out their parts and tape the animal together. Have fun choosing a name for their animal. You may be the first to discover the “Dog-aphant-monk-iraffe”!
3) CARTOON STRIP – Many parents will remember this from their own childhood! You will need a pad of paper and something to draw with. At the bottom of the pad, starting from the left, draw a stick figure, a box car, cartoon dog, anything you want to put into motion. On the next page, draw the figure again with a slightly different pose and a positioned a little bit to the right of the page before. Repeat this process on each page until you reach the right side of the pad. Now fan the pages with your thumb to watch your character move across the page!
4) COFFEE CAN STILTS – Turn 2 coffee cans upside down so that the plastic lids are on the bottom. Poke a hole on each both sides of each can using a screwdriver (parental supervision is recommended). Use rope, bailing twine, or several strands of yarn braided together for strength and thread through one hole. Thread the other end of the rope through the hole on the other side and tie off inside the can. Be sure that the rope is long enough so that when your child stands on the cans, the rope is high enough for them to hold in their hands comfortably without hunching over.
5) COOKIE CUTTER GLITTERS – Pull out the construction paper, glue, glitter, stickers and cookie cutters. Kids can trace around the cookie cutter shapes, spread glue over the shape and decorate with glitter and stickers. This can be a messy craft, so be prepared with a disposable table cloth and garbage can for scraps. Using a vacuum with a hose attachment is a much easier method of cleaning up glitter than a broom.
6) FEELY BOX – Use any box that closes or has a lid, a shoebox is ideal. Cut a hole in the side of the box large enough for a child’s hand to fit inside. Place an object inside the box and see if they can guess what it is. If they can’t guess right away, let them ask questions or provide them with clues until they figure it out.
7) HIDE THE OBJECT – Using any ordinary object (stuffed animal, vitamin bottle, drinking cup, etc), play this fun hide and seek game with your children. Simply have your child hide their eyes, then place the object somewhere in plain view (on the fireplace mantel, on top of the TV, near the front door, etc) and then have them look for it. Another idea is to use objects relating to a particular theme each day. For example, if your Kindergartener is focusing on the letter “A” that week, use objects that begin with “A” (apple, alligator [stuffed of course!], etc) You can adjust this game for older kids by hiding the object a little deeper. You might place the vitamin bottle halfway behind the picture of Grandma, or maybe tucked halfway down the side of the couch.
8) WRITING BOX – If your house has kids, you need one of these. You can find shoe box sized plastic containers with lids from your local dollar store. Stock the box with crayons, markers, colored pencils, small plain paper pads, stickers, stencils, a pencil sharpener and an eraser. This box should be kept stocked so that when needed, everything will be at your fingertips. Explain to children that this is a “special” writing box and that everything that comes out, must go back in for the next time they want to get creative.
9) PICNIC INDOORS – Pack a basket with paper plates, utensils and cups. Make sandwiches, pack fresh fruit, pretzels, a thermos of juice, and yogurt for dessert. Spread a blanket on the living room floor and serve a picnic lunch indoors! Add to the fun by dressing in summer clothes or beach attire. Be sure to wear your sunglasses and your sunscreen!
10) PAPER BAG PUPPETS – The easiest form of this requires only a paper lunch bag and crayons or markers. Simply draw on a face and you have a puppet! To make the characters more elaborate, decorate with yarn for hair, buttons for eyes, and glitter for cheeks. Ribbon can be added to the hair or made into a bow tie for the “neck”. Draw on eyelashes and lips with colorful markers.
11) COLLAGES – Save old magazines and catalogs and store them in a cabinet just for this purpose. Have the kids cut out pictures and paste them onto a piece of cardboard or construction paper. You can let them cut out whatever they want, or assign each child a letter of the alphabet or a theme to go by for a more challenging project. Keep a trash can close by for the scraps and be sure to keep a stock of glue sticks on hand!
12) COLORING PASTA – Place a handful of dry, uncooked pasta, such as ziti, rotini or farfelle, into a plastic zipper baggie. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar and 2-3 drops of food coloring. Close the baggie and have the kids shake the bag until the pasta is completely colored. Spread out onto a paper plate or paper towel and allow to dry. Use several baggies to create different colors. Once the pasta is dry, kids can use yarn to string together pieces to make necklaces and bracelets, or glue them to paper plates or construction paper to create a work of art.
13) SHADOWBOXES – Paint the inside of a shoebox with black or dark blue poster or acrylic paint. If you don’t have any paint handy, you can glue black construction paper inside the box. Using white crayons or stickers, create a nighttime scene with stars and the moon on the black background. You can use small plastic toys to create a scene inside your shadowbox, or make your own with construction paper and glue. Cut out small pictures from coloring books and color and adhere to your scene. Hang a spaceship or shooting star with a piece of string and glue.
14) INDOOR HOPSKOTCH – If you have a cement basement floor, use chalk to draw out a hopscotch board. When you are finished playing, the chalk will wash off with a mop and warm water.
15) FAMILY MEMORY GAME – Play a family memory game with your kids by asking questions like “What is Grandpa’s first name?” and “Who is married to Aunt Tammy?” Look through old photo albums and see if kids can guess who is who in each picture.
16) HOT BEANIE – This variation of the old favorite “Hot Potato” uses a beanie type toy. Have everyone sit in a circle and toss the beanie from one person to another, never knowing where it’s going to end up.
17) NAME THAT TUNE – Hum tunes from popular songs and see who can guess it first. Whoever guesses correctly becomes the next “hummer”.
18) CREATE A STORY – You can do this out loud or have kids write their entries on paper. Someone starts the story with “Once upon a time there lived a…”, that person chooses the character and setting (princess in a far away land). The next child tells the next part of the story, and so on around the room, the story changing with each new addition.
19) NEVER ENDING ADJECTIVES – Ask your child to point out an object, then takes turns coming up with adjectives for that object. For example, you may say “a ball”, your child would say “a big ball”. The game might continue with “a big round ball”, “a big round bouncing ball”, “a big round bouncing white ball” and end with “a big round bouncing white beach ball”.
20) SARDINES (REVERSE HIDE AND SEEK) – One child is the hider, everyone else is a seeker. The hider hides while the seekers seek. However, when a seeker finds the hider, instead of pointing him out, he joins him in the hiding place. Soon, the children will all be stuffed in one place, like a box of sardines! The first child to find the hider gets to hide next.