List of stuff to do when bored.
June 29, 2006 3:52 AM   Subscribe

"I'M BORED!" I need a list of things to do for the pre-teen and SO, in response to that so very irritating statement.

I once new a guy who had a list of things to do besides watch TV on his fridge for his kid’s reference. The standard answer to “I’m bored” was, “check this list!”. On this list was active fun stuff (go swim in a swimming hole), quiet fun stuff (board games), interesting stuff (do a science experiment), challenges (see how many times you can…) and chores (wash car for money). I thought it was the coolest idea and now I feel my child and SO could both benefit… oh who am I kidding? I could benefit from such a list!

I would love to hear any ideas from the hive on this one. We live in Vermont USA in a fairly rural area, so “go to the theater” or “take the subway to the end of the line and have lunch” are not so readily available… although “take a tour of a dairy farm”, very do-able.

This is my first question on Askmetafilter. I just can’t wait to see what this produces!
posted by vermontlife to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the theater = put on a play in the living room.

Take the subway to the end of the line = pack a picnic lunch for you (and your siblings) and walk to (X) to have it.

But I'm curmudgeonly, because my answer to "I'm bored" is "I need the dishes washed." Miraculously, they always find *something* to do.
posted by headspace at 4:19 AM on June 29, 2006

Remember this list is for the pre-teen, not you. Don't think "take a tour of a dairy farm," think "shoot rats with a pellet gun at the dump."
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:24 AM on June 29, 2006

Check out a few similar threads on ask me.
This, this and this were the first things that popped up when searching for 'board game'. Not exactly your question, but the answers have plenty of stuff hidden within that might spark your own imagination.

I'm not so sure what pre-teens are into these days, but here's a few suggestions that could be fun as a family.

- Cooking a family meal. Make this as easy/fun/complicated as you like. Make sure everyone is involved in the preparation somehow and possibly rotate the roles of responsibility (who gets to be the head 'chef' this week).

- Set up an account with an online DVD rental place (netflix is apparently good in the US), take turns in deciding what to rent. This might be a bit hard with the age difference, but not impossible.

- Family outings like you mentioned are a good idea. Make sure everyone gets to suggest a place. Make a list of places you want to visit locally.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:28 AM on June 29, 2006

My mom ALWAYS answered that statement with, "Well I'm sure I have SOMETHING you can clean." I always found some way to entertain myself.
posted by saucy at 4:35 AM on June 29, 2006

Get a camera, go out and take lots of pictures?
posted by funambulist at 5:27 AM on June 29, 2006

* Build a den/fort/snow shelter/castle.
* Ring up a friend and have them round.
* Cook some biscuits (bake cookies).
* Start a club.
* Think of something you wish you knew more about and research it at the library.
* Go for a bike ride and explore somewhere you've never been.
posted by pollystark at 5:28 AM on June 29, 2006

- Read a book
- Write a short story
- Play a computer game
- Paint a picture
- Get some beads and make jewelery
- Build models
- Work on a puzzle as a family
- Play a board game
- Play cards
- Create a little comic strip
- Bake a cake or some cookies
- Call grandma/a friend
- Write letters to relatives / friends
- Go to the movies
- Go to the bookstore
- Go hiking or for a walk
- Go horseback riding
- Go for a bike ride
- Take something apart to see how it works
posted by tastybrains at 5:32 AM on June 29, 2006

get a musical instrument and make a checklist that you have to play it for at least 5 minutes per day. You'll be surprised on the progress and how often that 5 minutes turns into an hour. Take some lessons. This is the reason they say that only young children can learn an musical instrument - not because the brain only has the capacity when you are young - but because you only have the TIME to learn when you are young.

Go to a local store and become an apprentice. If I could go back I would have done that. Go work for a tailor for a couple of months then go do odd jobs for a mechanic or carpenter. All of this with the understanding that they will teach you their trade. One of the great gifts in life is learning how to do something.
posted by any major dude at 6:02 AM on June 29, 2006

Tell them to go outside and pick up sticks, and then make them do it.

They'll learn real quick not to utter that phrase again (this is real advice, it's workeed time and time again).
posted by Mick at 6:09 AM on June 29, 2006

There is a lot to do in nature, it just takes some time to notice it all since we aren't generally looking for it. Sit outside with them and just try to notice everything going on. Journal it and compete to see who can notice the most. Build from there. The wind blowing, the clouds over head, the birds flying, the insects on the ground, the local fauna, the animals near by, the tracks they leave on the ground, the trees growing, hunting for edible goodies like blueberries, etc..

The winds and clouds are created via the same condensation process that makes water on the outside of cold glasses of water. Bird calls are a lot more interesting than most folks think*, the world of insects is fascinating and can be studied inside via an ant farm, local fauna reveals a lot about water and nutrient sources underground and is the base of modern pharmaceuticals, animals are just plain cool and can be tracked, a lot of trees are older than most people and felled ones can be examined for their growth rings which also reveal periods of drought and fires, and few things taste better than a freshly picked berry.

There's a whole world out there! ;-) It's just a matter of getting them to see it as an interesting place rather than something preventing them from exploring their current interests.

* Personal observation: the little guys actually send scouts out to new food sources and use the "dees" to signal how safe it is before everyone heads over for the food. Reveal yourself to a scout and listen to the number of dees you get.
posted by jwells at 6:43 AM on June 29, 2006

I'm sure you've got farmer's markets. To expand on the cooking dinner tip, why not go and buy some vegetables you've never eaten or cooked with before? Eggplant immediately springs to mind, but you can probably also score some kale and other interesting items. Go to a food site like or and find some recipes for them.

Books like Egyptology are also packed with stuff to do that should occupy them for a few hours. A pirate one comes out next month sometime.

Take turns playing some of your favorite music for each other. Don't just play the song, tell them why you like it. Have them pick out the bass or drum lines. Active listening can deepen your appreciation for music. Be sure to give them a turn too. You might be surprised at what you learn.
posted by Atom12 at 6:43 AM on June 29, 2006

Okay, this worked for me when I was a kid and I think the fundamental is sound. Play a role game where the kid is a reporter and you are the child's boss. Have the kid pitch to you story ideas and then when you choose one that's interesting have the child write up something on it. Story can be anything: sharks, what would happen if a meteor hit the world, or even a current news story - if the kid would find that interesting. This assumes the kid has access to internet, a library or the books are in your house.
When the story is done, critique it gently (alright, praise it), pay the kid a few bucks for the exclusive and go get ice cream together.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:49 AM on June 29, 2006

What about signing up for some sort of class or summer program? Swimming lessons, art classes, dance classes, music lessons, etc?
posted by tastybrains at 6:51 AM on June 29, 2006

Don't kids like to masturbate anymore?

Tell 'em to start a band/write a song.
posted by klangklangston at 7:00 AM on June 29, 2006

World of Warcraft. Seriously. The child will never claim to be bored ever again.

My wife and I used to do all sorts of outdoorsy stuff, dining, travel, etc. Once we started playing WoW we found that we were saving almost $1000 a month over our previous lifestyle. So it has benefits beyond the boredom solution.
posted by Binkeeboo at 7:12 AM on June 29, 2006

Knitting. Even the most elementary begginners projects can absorb days. Go to your local yarn shop, look at patterns, get your kid excited, maybe pick upa copy of Stitch n' Bitch.
Or if the kid won't knit, there's lots of other crafts: beading, sewing, wire wrapping, gardening, etc.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:31 AM on June 29, 2006

Not trying to say this has been answered before but I like this reply to the question "Is anybody having fun?"

Fun is the quickest remedy for boredom.
posted by sublivious at 8:11 AM on June 29, 2006

You've gotten some really good, thoughtful answers here. I'm including a lovely essay by a friend of mine called Bored No More that you might find useful. For those who won't go on to read the article, she makes the point that you should appreciate the fact that the child has chosen to come to you for help and that if you brush them off they'll be less likely to come to you at other times, for other sorts of help or input.
posted by jvilter at 8:14 AM on June 29, 2006

My mother told me "Intelligent people are never bored."

(I was in college when I realized she was wrong.)
posted by ilsa at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2006

The answer about birds led me to this idea. Serious birdwatchers keep a life list of the birds they've seen and the circumstances in which they've seen them. So you could start a bird list, and also a bug list, a wild animal list, a leaf list (maybe a scrapbook with examples pasted in?), etc. Maybe make it into some sort of family nature journal, with pictures.

Photography? Make it into a family game. Take unusual and/or extreme closeup pictures and see if the others in the family can identify what the thing in the picture is. This might work especially well in an area where you have access to unusual farm equipment and machinery.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2006

A wall. A ball. A racquet.

A spare ball.
posted by popcassady at 8:43 AM on June 29, 2006

A kite. Swingball. Trampoline. Tent. Books about space travel. Magic tricks. Hide and seek. Follow the dog. Hot/Cold. Treasure Hunt. Spinning round and round and running about. Metal detecting.
posted by popcassady at 8:50 AM on June 29, 2006

Make small kites (about a foot high) from tissue paper, thread, a tiny bit of white glue, and the bamboo-like stalks of tall grasses. You can make box kites, the traditional diamond shapes, or you can experiment with tetrahedrons, etc. You can fly these out of sight with a spool of thread on a day with so little wind nobody would think of flying kites.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:25 AM on June 29, 2006

Polly and Suzy in the London Times have a weekly column of fun things for kids to do (I don't think it's too UKcentric) and they also have a couple of books - I'm Bored and I'm Bored Again - which you might find useful.

My Dad used to respond to "I'm bored!" with "People who say they're bored are boring". This is much better!
posted by featherboa at 9:26 AM on June 29, 2006

1. Read Ask Metafilter.
posted by at 9:34 AM on June 29, 2006

I just remembered something for the quiet fun stuff board games category - if you have two 52-card packs of playing cards, you can play 'Machiavelli', which is the Italian version of rummikub, it works exactly the same way as explained in that link, except with ordinary playing cards instead of the rummikub tiles (ie. replace 'color' with 'suit' and 'number' with 'rank' for the groups and runs instructions - also this, this and this rule from Liverpool Rummy apply), and you cannot use the jokers, so it gets even more difficult. It can go on for hours and hours.
posted by funambulist at 9:55 AM on June 29, 2006

Pre-teens turn into teens, and before that happens you want to work on things that will make those years easier and more fun. So add to your list some activities (and if necessary some budget) designed for encouraging things like:
Communication -- holiday diary/scrapbook/newspaper?
Shared hobbies -- kid's club in your hobby area, kid gives you lessons in theirs?
Don't just follow the herd -- learn about other ways of life, maybe through working with the disadvantaged, maybe kids work together to hold a United Nations fancy dress party
Individual sports -- for lifelong fitness, individual sports last longer than playing team sports, amd they are easier to do as a family (or not) -- swimming, riding , tennis, trail walking?
Independence -- you don't keep a teen safe, you have to have taught them to keep themselves safe. List some adventures to stretch them. Get themselves around. Visit a family member in a distant place. Go somewhere where they can make new friends.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:42 PM on June 29, 2006

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