When You're All Out of Ideas

It's a new year, a new beginning, and we have a new guest blogger today!  Jana Langebartels is mom to five beautiful kids.  She shares her thoughts on motherhood and faith over at her blog, and she is a deep, deep well of wisdom.  We are so excited to introduce her to you today as she helps us all cope with the "I'm Bored" blues we moms tend to hear right around this time time of year.  Take it away, Jana!!


When You’re All Out of Ideas


I know you’ve probably heard it before: I don’t know what to do! I’m bored! I'm pretty sure every mom has heard it from their child once or twice (or a hundred times). One of our five children has an especially hard time playing independently or thinking of an activity for herself. So together we created an idea jar.


Truly the most important part of this process is involving your child in setting up the jar. When my daughter felt ownership, she was more inclined to go along with actually using the jar. (This is important!) First, I asked her to write down twelve of her favorite non-screen activities. I helped suggest a few ideas but it was mostly her brainstorm. Most importantly I needed to make sure all of the activities were things she really enjoyed doing.

idea jar image

We put our first idea jar together a couple of years ago when she was seven-years-old. Here are a few of the ideas she wrote down:


  • Playdoh

  • Riding her bike

  • Perler beads

  • Drawing with a YouTube video (Art Hub for Kids is her favorite!)

  • Playing with her dolls

  • Legos

  • Puzzles

  • Reading


Next she wrote the ideas on small slips of yellow construction paper. She then folded the strips and we put them in a large jar. And the jar went on a shelf in our kitchen, just waiting for the next time I heard those dreaded words. There’s nothing to do! Next time, we would be ready!


Saturday is usually my daughter’s hardest day to stay entertained. It seems like she flounders a bit without the normal rhythm of school and our Monday-to-Friday schedule. So Saturdays became our typical day to pull out the idea jar. She picked out a slip of paper and then she had to do that activity for the next twenty minutes. I set a timer and she got busy. Often twenty minutes ended up extending if she started to really enjoy her project. But if she was ready to move on when the timer went off, she picked another piece of paper and we started the timer again! Some mornings she would work her way through five or six ideas, but it helped to pass the time and to keep her occupied with fun activities.

Here are a few ideas to mix it up:


  • Every couple weeks switch out a few of the slips of paper with new activities

  • Get a few new craft sets that are saved only for the idea jar: rock painting, origami, sewing, or spiral art

  • Make sure a couple of the ideas need a partner so she can choose to pull in a sibling or parent to complete the activity with her

  • Include an activity or two that will bless a friend or neighbor: draw a card to mail to grandpa or make cookies for an elderly neighbor


Our idea jar really did help to bring activity and fun back to those moments of boredom, reminding my daughter of all of the fun things to do around our home with items we already have. If there was a bit of complaining or pushback when I suggested we pull out the jar, it always helped to remind her that she filled out all of the slips of paper with activities she enjoyed. As my daughter told me, “The idea jar helped me not to wonder what to do all day!”


It's about helping our children learn how to self-entertain and to play independently when that boredom bug strikes. That's a good skill for them to develop. And I hope this idea jar helps!