Idea Jar: Redeeming Boredom & Creating Memories

Guest post from my friend Brandy Sexton

These two jars are teaching my children how to think.  Especially the one on the right.  It sounds a bit crazy I know.  But my husband was really excited about it and I think you might be too.

The jar on the left has household chores inside.  These are things that really help me when they get done.  If I hear anyone being fussy about not having anything to do, then they get to pick something out of that jar and they get to be a huge help to their mom!  I make a point to tell them that they really are helping me and that I appreciate it a great deal.  But, this jar has been used only two times because of the jar on the right.

This little pudgy guy has become a favorite of my boys.  They pick a card from it so that they don’t have to pick a card from the slender one.  This pudgy jar is full of ideas for how to spend their time when they don’t know what to do.  Or when they want something to do.  Or when they want to say that they are bored, but think better of it!

But here is the magic that I see in the pudgy jar.  I am telling them what to do when they don’t know what to do.  I am giving them ideas for how to spend their time when they are twiddling their thumbs.  This jar is training them how to think about time.  There are many slips in there that are just fun and games.  But here are some of the clever slips of paper that are tucked in among the “Play with play dough” and “Play a board game” slips.

  • Memorize a Bible verse.
  • Have a spelling contest with brother.
  • Copy a Bible verse in pretty writing and then color all around it.
  • Research a topic and draw a picture.
  • Pray for your cousins.
  • Dance to fun music.
  • Call your grandparents.
  • Write a letter to your aunt and uncle.
  • Just do nothing…and enjoy having time to think about things.
  • Lie down and watch the clouds move.
  • Pray for the persecuted church.
  • Take a bath.
  • Run laps around the outside of the house.
  • Copy a poem and illustrate it.
  • Offer to help your little brother do something.
  • Offer to help your mom or dad do something.
  • Read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting.
  • Write and illustrate a book.
  • Close your eyes and listen (especially outside).
  • Pray and thank God for 50 things.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Pray for your future spouse and children.
  • Do a good deed in secret.
  • Make a treasure hunt…for your brother to do.
  • Use a “How To Draw” book and draw something from it.
  • Do jumping jacks.

The point here is that I want to suggest wise ways for them to spend their time.  Sure there are tons of fun things in the jar that are basically things to entertain that child.  But the ideas I just listed teach them to think of others, think of Scripture, think of service, think of prayer, exercise, be still and rest, or make something beautiful.

As our kids get older we could add things about planning for the future.  They could spend 30 minutes thinking about where they want to be in 10 year and how to get there.  There are worse ways for a 10 year old to spend his time than looking ahead, making a plan, and mapping out a course!

And one more thing.  These jars also bring out attitudes and ideas that need to be dealt with in our children and ourselves.  I usually just let them draw one card and they have to do that one before they can pick another.  What if they draw out a prayer card and say, “Pray?  Oh, I was kind of hoping for something fun.”  Then you get to sit down with them and really talk to them (in a short and to-the-point kind of way) about how that is one of the best ways to spend their time.  Not a lecture.  You get to help them work through their thoughts about things like that while they are still young.  You get to see areas that you might need to beef up in your example before them.  You also get to let them know that sometimes you feel like that too.  And that is when you need to do it the most.

That pudgy jar is a favorite around here.  I bet you could use a little helper like that in your house too.

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I have been happily married for 14 years to Jeremy and am a mom to 5 fun little boys. I home-school and, although I don’t think it is the only way to get a good education, I totally love it! I use Sonlight, some Classical Conversations memory material, The Well-Trained Mind, a bit of Charlotte Mason, and a hodgepodge of other things. I blog at

I would love to know what ideas you put in a jar like this.   Please leave a comment and share your ideas.

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  1. says

    I love that idea! I don’t have kids of my own, but it drives me crazy when I hear whiny, complaining children saying, “I’m bored!” When I was young my mom always made us go sit on our bed until we could think of something to do. You can be sure we always thought of something pretty quickly. 🙂 But I love the ideas that aren’t just “fun and games.”
    Great post!

    • anna says

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!

      Yes, I love Brandy’s ideas! It’s so inspiring to see how Mama’s of older children raise their children. 🙂

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