The Boredom Jar: 30 Activities for When Your Kids Are Bored

Boredom jar

I love my kids. I really do. But sometimes I get tired of dealing with complaints of, “Daaaad, I’m bored!”. I’m all for helping them out when I can, and I think there is value in them learning how to deal with boredom (check out some of my strategies here: 6 Tips for Getting Kids Past “I’m bored!”).

But sometimes I don’t have the time and the kids just need to do something so I can make dinner. That’s when I turn to the Boredom Jar, a container filled with little pieces of paper with activities that’ll take 30 minutes to an hour.

Before I go on, I have to vent. Most searches on the topic of “activities for bored kids” stink. The suggestions people give are not realistic. The person writing the article clearly just thought of 100 random activities and didn’t try most (or any) of them.

If you’ve tried making elephant toothpaste with your kids, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s about 20 minutes of the parent getting all the ingredients, a chemical reaction that takes 10 seconds, and then another 20 minutes of the parent cleaning everything up. So in total, the kids were entertained for 10 seconds while the parent spends 40 minutes prepping and cleaning.

I also yawn when I read suggestions like “plant a vegetable garden” or “have a dance party.” We need real activities (some of which involve parental participation) that the kids will actually have fun doing for a while.

Ground Rules for the Boredom Jar

There are a couple of ground rules to set before I get to the list. First, every activity needs to be something we can do right now. No ordering specialty equipment or ingredients from Amazon. No going to the planetarium only to remember it’s only open on the weekends (I’ve definitely made that mistake).

The second rule is that if the child chooses to pick an activity from the Boredom Jar, they must honor that activity. No re-dos or takebacks. If they’re not thrilled with what they picked, they have to deal with it (or help you do chores around the house…mwahaha).

Now onto the list of boredom jar suggestions…

1. Bottle Flipping à la Dude Perfect

If you haven’t watched Dude Perfect on YouTube yet, check it out. You’re welcome. Simply fill a water bottle with an inch or two of water, screw the cap back on, and start flipping. My youngest can do this for hours.

This is original content created from

2. Have a Nerf Target Competition

Either line up some paper/plastic cups or make a fancy cardboard cut-out (like we did, below). Have a seat and challenge your child to a Nerf target shootout. Fancy Nerf guns are not required. In fact, for target shooting, I like to have one of the smallest ones they make: the Nerf N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster. It’s also the cheapest and slows the game down because you have to reload. Optional: get a 200-pack of Nerf darts).

Nerf monster target
Our family’s DIY Monster Nerf Target

3. Build a House of Cards

Every household should have at least one deck of cards lying around. It might have been a while since you built a card house yourself and you might need a refresher on basic techniques. Luckily we have YouTube for tutorials!

4. Paint Like Michelangelo

I’m not very good at drawing. Or painting. Or any sort of art for that matter. I can color. But coloring isn’t super thrilling by itself. So let’s change things up and put the coloring sheet on the underside of the table, and let’s color like Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Paint by number or using paint pens are also great options.

To learn more about painting like Michelangelo, check out Easy Michelangelo Art Project (Paint the Sistine Chapel)

Boys coloring like Michelangelo
My boys coloring like Michelangelo

5. Set Up and Knock Down Dominos

Lily Hevesh is a domino rock star! Check out some of her domino creations and get inspired to make your own creation! If you decide to get really into this, get some of her dominoes designed for knocking down here.

6. Play Pandemic (or other board game)

You know you have a bunch of board games lying around. Have your kids pull one out and play it. Unless you’re super into Monopoly, don’t play Monopoly. It takes too long and the losers get mad. Our personal favorite is Pandemic. Everyone works together to save the world – you can help younger kids with strategy.

For board game ideas, check out 30 Old-School Games Your Kids Will Love (with Commercials!).

Pandemic board game
Our very well used Pandemic game

7. Fold a Paper Airplane Like a World Record Holder (and See Who Can Go the Farthest)

We’ve all made paper airplanes before and have our favorite design. But how about learning the science behind what makes it fly super far from a world-record paper airplane designer? Check out as John Collins shows you how to build 5 different types of airplanes and what makes each design special.

This is original content created from

8. Turn a Bedroom into a Camera

Admittedly, this will take some parental setup, but the end result is worth it. Simply cover a north-facing widow with black plastic, turn out all the lights so the room is completely dark (I mean completely light-tight dark), cut out a small hole in the plastic, and watch the wall opposite the window. The results are fascinating!

Check out more about how to turn your room into what’s called a Camera Obscura here: Turn a Bedroom into a Camera (In 5 Easy Steps)

Camera obscura
My son’s room turned into a Camera Obscura

9. Play Wiffle Ball

You’re missing out if you never played wiffle ball. It’s less athletic than baseball and you can throw some of the wildest curve balls. It’s also super family-friendly. No need for gloves, the bat is super light and can be used by a 6-year-old, and it doesn’t hurt if you get beamed by a pitch. Homeruns also don’t go super far so you’re not running to chase down the ball (which is good because I’ve gotten horribly out of shape since I had kids).

If you never heard of wiffle ball, check out this new video by Mark Rober (Ignore the picture of the baseball. It’s really all about wiffle ball.):

10. Create Melted Crayon Art

You know all those crayons you have lying around? Especially the ones that are broken that your child doesn’t have the heart to throw away? Or the giant collection of 3-pack crayons in the back seat of your car from every restaurant you went to? Let’s put them to use.

There are a couple of ways to do this, so if you don’t have a heat gun, don’t worry, you still probably have everything you need. You can glue the crayons to a canvas (like in this Easy Dripping Melted Crayon Art Project) and use a cheap Harbor Freight heat gun (or hair dryer – it’s a bit messier) to melt the crayons. Or shave the crayons with a pencil sharpener or cheese grater, dust the shavings on a piece of watercolor paper (the textured paper works best), and put it in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Melted crayon art
Our family melted crayon art

11. Build Lego Battle Spinner and Have a Tournament 

Don’t know what a Lego Batter Spinner is? Neither did I. My brother-in-law and his kids invented it and haven’t stopped creating new battler spinners since. Simply use those mismatched Legos to design spinning Lego creations that crash into each other. And while you’re at it, learn a little something about physics.

4 classes of Lego Spinners
4 classes of Lego Spinners

To find out more, check out his 3-part Lego Battle Spinner Series:

12. Tattoo a Banana (then Make Banana Pudding)

Yes, you can tattoo a banana. We all know bananas turn brown when they get old. If you take a pin and poke tiny holes into a pattern or design, the holes will brown much faster and reveal your creation. If you stink at drawing, print an image, tape it to a banana, and poke holes through the lines. Remove the paper and prepare to be blown away!

Find out more about creating Banana Art here. And when you’re done, make banana pudding. Even better, figure out which cookie is best for banana pudding with this Banana Pudding Cookie Experiment.

Tattooed banana
Tattooed banana

13. Become Penpals with an Alien

When I first taught my oldest son the Pig Peg Cipher, he said it looked like an alien language (if you don’t know what the Pig Pen Cipher is, you can learn what it is and how to teach your kids here). With a bit of leftover PVC pipe, I created an interstellar communication device that contained a coded message from outer space. This led to an awesome correspondence between my kids and Spaceman Spiff and his quest for knowledge of the planet Earth.

You can learn more about becoming Penpals with an Alien here!

Graphic of an alien

14. Have a Water Fight

Admittedly this activity is limited to the summer months, but it’s still a great option. I remember playing for hours with my brothers with the classic Super Soaker. It’s also super cathartic to blast your kids with the hose. Just sayin’.

You can be super frugal and get a couple of tube water shooters at your local dollar store or be super extra and get the new Spyra 3 Water Blaster (Yes it’s $180. Check it out online and you’ll want one too!).

15. Go to a Local Brewery (and Play a Game)

No, I’m not suggesting you take your kids drinking. But most local breweries are super kid friendly and have their own house rootbeer. They also usually have some games for you to play (usually board games or other games like corn hole). Yes, you need to leave the house for this one, but you get a beer as a reward!

People at a local brewery

16. Make a Hoop Glider

Hoop gliders are super easy to make and can fly farther than most paper airplanes. Simply take two 1-inch strips of paper and tape the ends to make hoops. Make sure one is bigger than the other. Tape them to the opposite ends of a straw. Toss and enjoy (and see if you can fly them farther than a paper airplane designed by a world record holder)!

To learn more, check out Make a Hoop Glider from Straw and Paper (and How it Works!)

Hoop glider

17. Take an Online Art Lesson

What did we ever do without YouTube? There are so many great online lessons to learn. And it’s free. Whether it’s painting, drawing, origami, or whatever, you can learn how to create just about anything. My favorite channel is the Art for Kids Hub. Check it out!

18. Go Geocaching

I have to thank my brother and sister-in-law for introducing me to Geocaching. Simply download the Geocaching app on your phone (there are free and premium versions. The free version doesn’t show all the available Geocaches, but it’s enough to get started.). Follow the app to find a hidden treasure using the GPS on your phone. If you get super into it, you can start leaving your own hidden treasure for others to find!

19. Send a Postcard to the Grandparents (and Become Penpals)

It doesn’t matter how instant we get with telecommunications, there’s something special about receiving an actual letter in the mail. And you know the grandparents miss the kids like crazy, even if they live in the same town. Take a minute to show your kids how to properly address a letter and have them write a special message for loved ones.

Child writing dear grandma

20. Launch Rockets 

Okay, so this one takes some purchasing, but it’s one of my favorite activities to do with my kids so I’m keeping it on the list. Besides, when you’ve done it once, you have the necessary launching equipment for future rocket launches. Run out to Hobby Lobby to get a couple more rocket engines and have fun launching your rockets hundreds of feet in the air!

New to model rockets? Learn more about the hobby here: Model Rockets with Kids (What to Get and Where to Launch)

model rocket launching
Launching the family Fat Boy rocket

21. Build a Rube Goldberg Machine

A Rube Goldberg Machine is an overly complicated, chain reaction contraption designed to perform a single simple task. You should have enough toys and other bits around the house that you shouldn’t need to buy anything to build your own!

22. Play Tabletop Paper Football

This is an old-school classic. I’m talking back to when I was in elementary school. Fold up a piece of paper to make a triangle. Players then take turns tapping or flicking the paper football to the edge of the opposite player’s side of the table. If you get the football to hang over the edge without falling off, you score 6 points. You then get the option to flick the football through the field goal (made by the opposite player’s hands) for an extra point.

23. Have a Home Run Derby (with a Tennis Ball)

This is one of my childhood favorites. Grab a bat and a can of tennis balls. Go out back (or somewhere with plenty of space), and take turns seeing who can knock more out of the park! (If you really want to hit them far, use racquetballs).

24. Play American Gladiators (with Nerf Guns)

I’m especially talking about Assault, for anyone who remembers the show American Gladiators. Set up a couple of stations in the backyard with a couple of different Nerf guns and a target for your kid to try to hit. Meanwhile, Dad (the gladiator – what else would he be), gets to try to shoot his kid with a Nerf gun. If you want to get extra, build a dunk tank that drops a bucket of water on you when your child hits the target!

This is original content created from

25. Make Kool-Aid Gummy Bears (or Other Candy)

I’m breaking my rule again. This will probably need a couple of items from the store. But trust me when I say it’s worth it! You can get everything online, at Walmart, or Hobby Lobby (which has some of the best silicone mold options). You can also make free-form lollipops or Kool-Aid Candy Dots, which don’t need extra supplies.

Check out Make Your Own Gummy Bears with Kool-Aid Mix

Homemade Kool-Aid Sour Gummy Worms
Homemade Kool-Aid Sour Gummy Worms

26. Do Some Trick Shots Around the House

This is another inspired activity from the guys over at Dude Perfect (can you tell we’re fans of the channel?). Try some crazy trick shots using things around the house – without putting a hole in the wall or breaking a window of course. (Disclaimer: Dad Stuff is not responsible for any mishaps that happen while making up your own trick shots….).

27. Make Rice Krispie Treats but with Different Cereals

Sure you’ve made Rice Krispie treats before, but have you ever made it with Cocoa Krispies? Or Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Or how about with whatever cereal you have lying around? Even better, take the basic recipe, split it in half or quarters, and make a couple of small batches. Compare to see which one everyone likes best!

28. Play a Card Game

Everyone has a deck of cards lying around (we established that back at No. 3 when we talked about building a house of cards). Chances are if you grew up somewhere in the American Midwest, you probably grew up playing card games. If not, you might need some help learning a couple of games. Check out 15 Card Games to Teach Your Kids (That Don’t Suck) to learn how to play a bunch of card games for any age.

scattered playing cards

29. Play Game of 7 Ping Pong Challenge

This is a simple game with two players that sit on opposite sides of the table. Each player takes a turn bouncing a ping pong ball a certain number of times across the table to the other player. First, one bounce, then two, and continue consecutively until the first player reaches seven. If a player doesn’t get exactly the right number, they stay on that number. The first person to seven wins.

30. Learn a Magic Trick

Once again, we’re turning to YouTube. There are a lot of great channels that explain how to do simple (and complex) magic tricks. Oscar Owen and Alex Boyer have great YouTube channels with lots of how-to videos. Have your child spend and hour or two and impress the family. (Dads, this is also your chance to up your Dad-game. You know you want to learn from these videos too!)

Gregory Grabowski

Greg Grabowski is the principal creator of, a website for dads by dads. Inspired by his two boys Ben and Sam and his wife Dianna, Greg loves to make things, learn things, and loves doing fun stuff with his family.

Related Posts