The Bored Jar – Tip for Moms

The Bored Jar for Moms

At our house, boredom is not allowed and is never an excuse to watch TV or complain. My children know all too well that complaining “Mom, I’m bored,” is a fast way to get assigned an extra chore or two.

Recently, while visiting a friend, I saw an intriguing system she used to help encourage imagination, cleaning skills and healthy habits in her children. She called it “The Bored Jar” and I asked her if I could borrow her system and share it because it works so well.

The Bored Jar

The basic idea of a “Bored Jar” is a jar, box or bucket of some kind filled with ideas of chores & activities that children can do if they complain of boredom.

At my friend’s suggestion, I created this as something to send my children to if they got bored, but they ended up loving it. In fact, they call it “the fun jar” and even ask on occasion if they can pick out something to do.

I filled our jar with wooden tokens that I had written activities, exercises and chores on. I made sure to have a good mixture of things that they enjoy doing and chores that they don’t enjoy as much so they’d be willing to pick something. I also found that the younger kids typically want to tag along with the older kids’ jobs so it has been a good way to foster teamwork.

The chores in the jar are either above and beyond their normal chores or chores that can be done more than once per day (like sweeping the kitchen floor- at least at our house!)

Bored Jar Activity Ideas

The activities will vary by your family’s needs, but here are some ideas from our jar:

  • Clean the hall bathroom
  • Wipe down all downstairs door frames with a microfiber
  • Do 50 jumping jacks
  • Write a note to a friend
  • Do 30 squats
  • Rearrange and re-fold a dresser drawer
  • Do 10 handstands
  • Draw a picture
  • Water the plants
  • Read for 10 minutes (or more)
  • 35 wall balls
  • Make a treasure hunt for a sibling
  • Write a story
  • Run around the yard 5 times
  • Build a blanket fort
  • Make a list of something in the house/yard that starts with each letter of the alphabet
  • Vacuum upstairs
  • Vacuum downstairs
  • Sweep the kitchen (5 of these in the jar)
  • Mop the kitchen
  • Collect broken crayons to re-melt in silicon molds
  • Jump on the rebounder for 10 minutes
  • 10 minute dance party!
  • Do a puzzle
  • 25 cartwheels
  • Play a board game
  • Climb the inside rope
  • Wash a load of laundry
  • Fold a load of laundry
  • Clean upstairs bathroom
  • Invent a new game
  • Paint
  • Play music
  • Clean all the mirrors in the house
  • Dust house
  • Have a picnic
  • Draw a picture of your family
  • Load dishwasher
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Do 40 Pushups
  • Climb the rope 4 times
  • Write a note to an extended family member
  • Watch an educational movie (the one they always hope to get)
  • Make paper airplanes
  • Find a new recipe to cook in a cookbook
  • Alphabetize books
  • Sweep garage
  • 10 pull-ups
  • Play hide and seek (inside or outside)
  • Nerf gun war!
  • Run up and down the stairs 5 times

How to Make a Bored Jar

Really any kind of container could be used for a bored jar and even something as simple as paper strips could be used inside.

I know how rough my kids are on things, so I opted for these wooden disks and a heavy duty glass jar that I picked up at a thrift store. My friend used popsicle sticks in a metal bucket.

I just wrote the activities on the wooden coins and put them in the jar. The Bored Jar now sits on a shelf in our living room and gets used daily.

What do your children do when they are bored? What activities would you add to the jar?

The Bored Jar is a fun way to give your children activities and chores when they get bored. Made with a jar or bucket and activities written on items inside.

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Reader Comments

  1. My kids are all grown now, but when they were little and bored I’d tell them to clean their closet. In doing so they’d always discover some long forgotten treasure to capture their interest in the moment.

    • I love that idea! You kill 2 birds with 1 stone there, get the kids to clean the closet and foster their creativity. Awesome. Your experience speaks.

      The bored jar is an awesome idea! I cannot wait to get started on this. My 3 year old can occupy herself, but my 5 year old gets so restless and like she says “needs an activity…..because she needs to live her life” Yikes. That’s what I’m dealing with. At times, it’s’ tough, I have to get dinner on, I love the idea of pulling out the bored job so I can get on with the laundry and dinner. And she’ll have fun making it with me. Thanks =)

  2. Love this! What a great idea!

  3. I LOVE this idea!

  4. Love this! Wish I’d known about it years ago.

  5. This is excellent!! Also, the extra jobs can add up to special credits for earning money, free time, etc. Thanks so much !

  6. I think I might make one of these for myself! (I’m a 20-something grad student who lives alone. I’m not bored very often, because school keeps me plenty busy, but sometimes on the weekend I can’t get myself motivated to get up and do anything. Something like this might help!)

  7. I love this. what a great idea!

  8. Do they pick, knowingly, what the chore is? I mean, are they consciously choosing the chore or fun task or do they stick their hands in the jar and pull a chip out not knowing what it will say?

  9. So looking forward to trying this!

  10. Love this! I get your if heading I’m bored. Thank you Wellness Mama!

  11. I love the idea… But the real message a child sends when they say.. I’m bored.. is I want to spend time with you. A good way around that would be to think of ways to let them help you.. in the kitchen. .. Although there are times when its perfectly okay. for children to be bored.

    I just listened to a science friday pod cast on the connection between boredom and creativity.
    They are actually doing research on the affects of boredom and creativity.

    Great post.

    • I dont think we should make blanket statements like that, it’s a little extreme to say all kids that say they are bored really mean they want to spend time with you is too much of a generalization, and just simply not true. I am sure that it is indeed true for some kids, but not all.

      My kids complained of being bored just this afternoon, right after we made homemade play-doh then played with it for about 2 hours. Making fruit and veggie shapes that we are growing in the garden; they were a bit tired and they were hoping to watch cartoons (their TV time is very limited) but we went outside and blew bubbles instead. I think they just get bored. And this Bored Jar is a FABULOUS IDEA. If you feel your kids do need more time with you then put some activities in the jar that make you a part of them.

  12. This is perfect for the whole family :)) thanks for posting!

  13. Love this idea! I have no kids but will pass this on to other with kids..Thanks

  14. It seems like an awesome idea. I can’t wait to implement when my two girls are older. Thanks.

  15. Great idea… We grew up with the same sort of idea that being bored just wasn’t allowed. Either we would find something to entertain ourselves or my Mom would find something that needed to be done. We got creative with our downtime so we didn’t risk getting assigned a ‘bad’ job. To this day I am never bored. Always something to do/learn/enjoy.

  16. Wow! This is a great tip! Zaps boredom while cleaning up the house. Cool!

  17. I sent this link to my daughter who loves this idea. She is filling a jar as I type!

  18. Great idea.
    Our 3 kids are all grown now, but when they were little I would always say that there is no such thing as being bored, go make a “project”. I had a closet stacked full of bins with all sorts of scrap: yarn, paper scrap, fabric scrap, wood pieces – everything. Enough material to get their creativity going all by themselves. Never bored and to this day they are all very creative.

    • Same at our house when my 3 were growing up- bored was considered the ‘b’ word and if they ever said it,I’d rephrase and say, ‘oh you can’t decide what to do?’
      Love the ‘b-word jar’ will definitely pass on to my kids for their own!!

  19. Love this idea…I am creating one and we will start implementing this in our nest. I bet I will never hear those words again!

  20. Hi, Katie:

    My daughter is well beyond the years of coming to mama when she’s bored. I wish I had thought of using something like this to take the charge out of those “Mom I’m BORED!” moments. Even more than that I wish I hadn’t made boredom the enemy. Boredom is one of those states that often (though not necessarily always) is a cover for something more authentic beneath. Boredom left to its own devices can become be a catapult for day dreaming – something our culture also tends to disapprove of despite the fact that many great and influential ideas came in “Aha!” moments discovered when a mind was wandering. A ‘shower moment’ if you will. What about a ‘One Minute Hug from Mom’ chip Or a ‘Take Five Deep Breaths’ chip? The hug/breathing can help your child (and you) tolerate the discomfort of boredom and help them unearth the more difficult thing beneath it or help them remember the fun thing they wanted to accomplish. One minute seems short for us but it’s a rather longer time for young children and for a hug. I’ve read that hugs only become effective if they are held for 11 seconds or more. Don’t take my advice but check it out for yourself. It’s only 11 seconds and yet……! I’d love to hear about it if anyone starts experimenting with this!

  21. Intrigued… what is the inside rope?

  22. Great idea, but I might use it a bit differently. When I was a kid and spent every single second that I could reading (there is no boredom when one is inside and amazing story),, I could have used this a “finish one of these random tasks before you can go read for an hour.

    I can see this could work for me now too!

  23. this is a great idea. i’m going to do this (for myself, 48 years old, no kids). there are so many big and little things on my ever-growing to-do list. usually i can’t face it and wind up not doing anything. this breaks the list down into manageable chunks. baby steps make a difference.


  24. This is also a great system for a “Bicker Box”, as I have been meaning to start here for quite some time. In fact, I think I’ll finally sit down and do that right now! Thanks!

  25. I totally did this way back in 2009 and we still use this jar!!

  26. Lol! This reminds me of how when I was a kid and when I would tell my mother I was bored she would always say that she had plenty of work for me to do

  27. i love this idea; my son is 7 and has recently started the ‘I’m bored’ mantra, personally I believe that it’s because he has too much he can do but doesn’t know what to do (he always had this problem at pre-school and in reception at school) so this jar would be a great idea.
    I’m going to go and work one out now. Thank you to you and your friend for the idea.

  28. This is awesome! My kids are still too young for this, but I will keep it in mind… or simply use it on my BIG kid of 36!!!

  29. I Love this idea.
    Can I share and translate the idea on my blog into German?
    Kind regards

    • Hi Anita- I am fine with you sharing this one post with attribution in German. Thanks 🙂

  30. This is an amazing idea. I’m stealing it! ?


  32. I am totally gonna save this for when my daughter is older. She’s 18 months now, but there will be days, I know!

  33. What are wall balls? Totally sharing this with my friends that have kids! 🙂

    • It is basically where you hold a basketball or larger ball (or often a weighted medicine ball), and squat down about 6 inches from a wall. As you stand from the squat, you throw the ball up and bounce it off the wall. As the ball falls, you catch it and go into another squat, etc

      • Ok…Thanks! I might need to do some of those myself 🙂

  34. Just found this and I’m going to do it with my kids. My little ones and teenagers have days when they are bored or don’t know what too do. This will give them lots of choices and maybe my house can be cleaner. Thanks for the great idea.

  35. Definitely going to use this! =)

  36. How about a “take out the compost” chip?