The Boredom Buster Box: How I Busted Their Boredom

I came up with the idea for Bickles' Boredom Buster Box when my kids were in first grade, preschool and diapers. The constant demand for something to relieve their boredom, the complaining, the expectation that I should relieve their boredom was too much for me. Desperation is the mother of invention.

It wasn't all desperation on my part. It was also a calculated effort to get them to relieve their own boredom. I want my children to be able to come up with things to do themselves. I believe it's an important skill for people to be able to use their imagination, be industrious  and entertain themselves. It is an ability that fosters intelligence and ingenuity.

The idea is simple: have predetermined activities ready for when the kids complain of boredom. Make it fun, but not too fun. Have a little bit of risk involved. It's not a reward for complaining, it's a tool to reduce complaining.

The Rules of the Boredom Buster Box:
  • If I hear anyone say that they are bored or have nothing to do, they must go to the Boredom Buster Box, pull out a slip, and do whatever that slip says.
  • There must not be any complaining when sent to the Boredom Buster Box, for now you have something to do.
I figured that if I heard them utter those words, it was a concession on their part that they couldn't think of anything to do, and so they would have to do whatever the Boredom Buster Box told them to do. This also relieved me of trying to come up with ways to entertain them or keep them busy on the spur of the moment.

It's a pretty simple idea. And it worked for us, which is the cool thing.

Why It Works: Ownership

The trick, I think, was to give my kids ownership of the Boredom Buster Box. They chose the activities, wrote out the cards and decorated the box. I presented them with the idea and they just went with it.

They chose the activities.
I knew that in order for this to work, the activities had to be things that they actually wanted to do, activities that they had agreed beforehand that they would do because they had come up with the activities themselves. I may have guided them a little bit as we made the list of activities, but ultimately nothing went on the list that they didn't agree to do. Some of the activities they could do on their own, and some of them I would need to help them with. I needed to agree to all the activities that went in the box too. 

As we came up with a list of activities for them to do, I explained that they also needed to come up with a few chores for the box, too. That's the risk with not being able to come up with something to do on your own and then saying you are bored: you might get to play, but you might have to do work.

And I reserved the right to say "not right now" to an activity that required my help if I was unable to help them at the time. I also allowed them to choose another activity if the one they chose first didn't strike their interest. However, if they chose a chore, they were not allowed to choose another activity until they finished that chore.

They helped me write the cards.
In addition to helping me come up with ideas for the activities, they helped me write them on the cards. Kaitlin was just learning how to write letters at the time so this was an important step for her to be able to help me with.

They helped pick out and decorate the box.
My son suggested an unused oval container from IKEA, so it became our Boredom Buster Box. Boxes need not be cubes. Nor need they be boxes. 

I thought of decorating it myself with paint and making it all kinds of pretty to match my decor. But then I thought, this box is their box, they ought to decorate it. I cut a piece of paper to fit the box, wrote "the Bickles' BOREDOM BUSTERS" on it, then let them have at it to decorate it as they wanted with their markers and crayons. 

I love how Kaitlin drew a sad, bored person who became happy. She got the idea. I think they did a great job coloring their own Boredom Buster Box. Much better than anything I would have come up with.

Pretty simple really.

My kids are older now and don't need the box as much as they did several years ago. Still. Every once in a while if they admit to boredom, I'll suggest they go to the box and pick an activity. They get the message.

It's become a symbol of the idea that they are in control of their response to circumstances.


“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” 


“Monotony has nothing to do with a place; monotony, either in its sensation or its infliction, is simply the quality of a person. There are no dreary sights; there are only dreary sight seers.” 


6 comments: said...

This is genius. I so need something like this for the summer.

Anne Bickle said...

Yay! You'll have to let me know how it works for you.

Jan Winnes said...

Great idea, Anne. You could market this!

Lucy said...

What a great are so the quotes too...xo

Anne Bickle said...

But then I would have to convince people they should buy my stuff and I'm not good at that. Maybe YOU should market it. lol.

Anne Bickle said...

Thanks, Lucy. xoxo!


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