The art of busting boredom

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

It wasn’t reverse psychology I was practicing back in the summer of 1988, but it was close.

I was working from home, and the assignments were pretty sparse, which was okay with me because I was home with my 5-year-old and 8-year-old. Summer vacation was barely three weeks old, but I could see the storm brewing. It would just be a matter of hours before the dreaded phrase was uttered: “We’re bored.”

So, I beat them to the punch. After breakfast, as the boys flipped through television channels, no doubt wondering if “I’m bored” would lead to a list of chores to do and therefore not worth the risk, I announced: “I’m BORED.”

The reaction was surprise. “We have to have some boredom busters ready to go so I won’t be boooooooored,” I told them. “Let’s write down some fun things and put them in a Bored Bowl. Then we will always have something to do.”

I wish I could tell you this had a profound effect on my children and that they now create Bored Bowls in their own families and sit around the table talking about all the fun we had with our Bored Bowl. Truth is harsher, however. They don’t remember the Bored Bowl, although they do remember that summer as being a great summer.

As a mom who would rather play than clean the house, I loved the Bored Bowl. You might, too. Here’s how to do it:

  • Get the process started after dinner one night, when the day is winding down, and you can have a longer attention span from the kids.
  • Have a designated bowl and a special place to keep it.
  • Get paper and pen and write down fun things to do to bust boredom.
  • Set limits on what goes in the bowl, depending on your family preferences and time. For example, nothing in our Bored Bowl could require a lot of advance planning, and the activities had to take “less than a day and an hour travel.” (Trips to Dollywood, for example, weren’t allowed).
  • At least one person must agree with the person making the suggestion that the activity sounds like fun.

From there, just write on separate pieces of paper all the things you can think of that would be fun, educational or just plain crazy to do together. Many of the activities will burn no more than an hour, but a one-hour activity topped off with a stop for ice cream can make a day special.

More than 75 percent of the suggestions are going to come from Mom or Dad, and many of them are going to get squashed by the kids. Remind them, however, that it just has to sound like something fun to do “sometime,” not necessarily tomorrow.

Whenever we needed a pick-me-up or faced a day of boredom, I went to the Bored Bowl and pulled out a suggestion. If it was rejected, it went back in, and we pulled out another one. Most of the time, we found something we liked quickly, and then we were off!

I don’t remember all the things we had in our Bored Bowl, and it would not matter anyway. The world has changed, and your options are different. If I were making a Bored Bowl today, however, these are some things I would try to get into the mix:

  • Visit open play time at Smart Toys & Books in Franklin Square.
  • Decorate the yard, deck or patio for a luau and grill out for dinner, getting the kids to make an outrageous side dish (Pineapple chunks with Skittles, for example).
  • Go to the Farmers Market and try something you have never eaten before.
  • Try Stand-up Paddleboarding or rent a canoe on an area lake.
  • Set up a lemonade stand in the neighborhood.
  • Go to the park and feed the ducks.
  • Give the kids the camera or phone and let them take pictures. Upload them and make a same-day photo book at Walgreens. (If your kids like this, do “theme days” and do it more than once.)
  • Have a water balloon fight.
  • Learn origami and make shapes out of glow-in-the-dark paper. Hang them in the darkest room and tell scary stories.
  • Go on a picnic.
  • Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches.
  • Plan a Scavenger hunt. The internet is full of ideas for easy, age-appropriate hunts.
  • Plant a container garden of herbs and flowers.
  •  Get old sheets, spray bottles and washable paint. Hang or drape the sheets outside and pretend to be Picasso.
  •  With $5 spending money, go to a dollar store or flea market.
  • Bake cookies and take them to the fire station.
  • Visit Outdoor Knoxville Activity Center and pick an activity: fishing, disc golf, paddling, biking
  • Make bird feeders by covering pine cones with peanut butter and rolling in birdseed.
  •  Take a free kid’s workshop at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
  •  Take advantage of the movie matinees and Regal’s Tuesday $1 movies.
  • Discover Knoxville: Go to James White’s Fort, Knoxville Museum of Art, Blount Mansion, McClung Museum, Sam Houston Schoolhouse and Ramsey House. Let the kids dress up for the time period.

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