An antidote to boredom

Glass jar photo by Dan Dennis

Glass jar photo by Dan Dennis

Ah, those dreaded words from a kid, “I’m bored.” (Right up there with “My head itches.”) Especially when you’re up to your eyeballs yourself in plenty of things that need to be done. There are lots of fun projects you can do together (plant a garden, bake some muffins (this recipe is a favorite in our house), make pulled string art) or places to go as a family (library, museum, nature walk), but sometimes you just need half an hour (or 10 minutes!) of quiet time while the kids entertain themselves.

That’s where the I’m Bored jar comes in. It contains slips of paper with activities on it that kids can do largely by themselves (you might need to help them set up, depending on how old they are) without too many fancy materials – it’s a mix of educational things, arts & crafts and a few chores. They pick a slip from the jar and do the thing. No whingeing allowed.

The sweet spot for this list is probably about 5-8 years old – old enough to read the slips and work independently, but young enough to be excited about exploring the world around them. If your kids are older or younger, you can pick and choose the activities that would work for them, modify them slightly or add in your own ideas. And, obviously, every kid is different – if your kid doesn’t have a particular skill or moves in a different way or can’t go outside, you can adapt the ideas to work for your family and situation.

How to:

  • If you’re using the slips I made (see download below) as-is, print them out and cut them apart. Tip: If you let the kids do the cutting they’ll be less perfect, but you can count it as building fine motor skills! For extra eco-friendliness, print them on the back of some of the colorful handouts or worksheets your kid brought home from school at the beginning of summer break!
  • Use any container you have on hand – it could be a mason jar if you have a stash of them, but it could also be a sand bucket for that summertime feel, or an upcycled peanut butter jar, or a shoebox. Use your imagination and challenge yourself not to buy something new! The only rule is that it should be big enough to easily get your hand inside to pull out a slip. Your kids’ first activity could even be decorating the container so everyone knows it’s special and feels invested in it. (If you’re an overachiever, see these blogs for some fun ideas for making your jar pretty with washi tape and other fun things.)
  • When you’re ready to do an activity, pull out a slip and do the thing. It can be useful to have some instructions and basic art materials (paper, markers, crayons, watercolors, pencils, glue, scissors, ink pads) and cleaning supplies (a duster, some rags, a dustpan and broom – obviously they shouldn’t be using anything dangerous on their own) cued up in a spot where everyone can reach them so kids can dive right in without too much management from you.
  • Remember my rule from before: No whingeing. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, as we used to say in preschool.
  • After you use a slip, either put it back in the jar to use again or set it aside for future use.

P.S. There’s nothing that says adults can’t use these ideas, too – if you’re looking for inspiration, go ahead and try drawing things in your favorite color or playing with sidewalk chalk, and see if it doesn’t make you feel like a kid again! I give you permission to skip dusting the baseboards.

I'm Bored Jar Slips

50 Summer Activity Ideas

  1. Work a jigsaw puzzle.
  2. Build something with materials from the recycling bin.
  3. Draw with sidewalk chalk.
  4. Put on a puppet show. You could even make your own puppets from socks, bags or craft sticks.
  5. Build a fort, inside or outside. (Couches, tents, beds, chairs and patio tables are all good fort starters!)
  6. Draw a self-portrait.
  7. Find 5 interesting things outside/in the yard.
  8. Read for 15 minutes. (Bonus points if you’re also signed up for your local library’s summer reading program)
  9. Draw an obstacle course with sidewalk chalk (for yourself or even for your neighbors!) encouraging passersby to hop, skip, jump, etc. down the sidewalk.
  10. Make a magnetic poem on the fridge.
  11. Make thumbprint art.
  12. Write and/or illustrate a list of 5 things that make you happy.
  13. Find 5 things that are out and put them away.
  14. Write a haiku.
  15. Write (and illustrate, if you want) a wacky story using Story Cubes, story stones (you can make your own), In a Pickle cards or other prompts.
  16. Write a letter or email to your favorite author. (Suggestions for things to include in your letter: What do you like about this author’s book? Who is your favorite character and why? What questions would you like to ask the author?)
  17. Pick an art prompt to draw. (There are lots of fun prompts on the web and Instagram, but Tinkerlab has some that are especially good for kids.)
  18. Write an acrostic poem with your name or another favorite word.
  19. Write a letter or postcard to someone and mail it.
  20. Draw all the things you can think of that come in your favorite color.
  21. Draw everything you can see from where you’re sitting.
  22. Clean all the door jambs you can reach with a wet sponge or Magic Eraser (they’re probably your fingerprints, anyway).
  23. Call or email (or Facetime, etc. – this one may need a screen, depending on how you and your subject communicate best) an older relative or family friend and interview them about their childhood.
  24. Pair up all the socks from the clean laundry basket or sort laundry into piles for each member of your family.
  25. Draw a map of your house, your neighborhood or your favorite place (real or imaginary). Put in lots of details.
  26. Make paper airplanes and see which ones flies the farthest.
  27. Sweep the floor/patio/sidewalk/garage (pick one).
  28. Make something with Legos. (Need an idea? Pick something from this list.)
  29. Play with play dough.
  30. Paint some rocks and leave them for neighbors to find next time you go for a walk.
  31. Make a collage using an old magazine or calendar. (Ask a grown-up before cutting it up!)
  32. Draw an animal that’s a mix of two animals and make up a name for it – what about a mouseraffe (part mouse, part giraffe), or a monken (part monkey, part chicken)? Pretend you’re a scientist who discovered this animal and write about it – what does it like to eat? Where does it live? Is it fierce or friendly?
  33. Dust a shelf or table.
  34. Decorate some bookmarks for yourself or to give to friends or leave in your local Little Free Library.
  35. See how many dominoes you can line up and knock over in a chain. Can you make them go up ramps (books make good ramps) or around furniture legs?
  36. Go through your school (or camp) backpack and empty out anything that doesn’t belong or needs to be washed, replaced, recycled or returned.
  37. Play a board game or card game. (If you’re playing by yourself, try something like Memory).
  38. Make up your own board game.
  39. Make a town with Legos, blocks or boxes for your toy cars or people or animals to live in.
  40. Water the plants.
  41. Make a family newspaper with articles and illustrations about what your family is doing.
  42. Walk through the house and find 5 things that belong in your room and put them away.
  43. Write (or draw) a story or a comic.
  44. Put on some music and have a dance party.
  45. Dust the baseboards.
  46. Invent a superhero and draw them. What are their special powers? Where do they live?
  47. Make a treasure map.
  48. Go through your books or toys and pick 5 things you could give away.
  49. Find something in the house or yard for each color of the rainbow.
  50. Put away anything that’s on the floor in your bedroom.

Here are all the above suggestions in a handy 3-page PDF printable. This printable is free for your personal, non-commercial use – just sign up for my newsletter (also free, and I promise not to spam you, and if you’re already on my list it won’t double you up!) to download the PDF:

“I’m Bored” Summer Activities Printable

Photo of jar by Dan Dennis on Unsplash

Spring color: Watercolor egg garland

Finished watercolor eggs

Today feels like kind of a dark day in the world with the news out of Brussels, so I thought I’d share a cheerful springtime craft to try and counter some of the sadness. Sometimes it just feels good to lose yourself for a little while in making something beautiful.

Fall is really my favorite season, but secretly I admire Spring’s enthusiasm, with plants and birds and color popping up all over the place. This garland captures a little of that exuberance. We made eggs since we were in an Easter frame of mind, but you could use the same technique to make butterflies, flowers, geometric shapes or whatever strikes your fancy.

Inspired by Emily Sanford’s Spoonflower blog post about blocking off areas with tape before painting with watercolor, we’ve been experimenting with negative space and washes of abstract color around here.

Someone recently gave us a giant pad of drawing paper, so we used that and cut each sheet into two 9×12″ pieces. It was sturdy enough to stand up to the watercolor.

First we cut strips of painter’s tape the width of our paper. The only tape I had on hand was really wide, so I cut it into narrower strips. As long as I had to cut it anyway, I used the fancy craft scissors on some of the strips to get a scalloped edge. We used plain blue painter’s tape because it’s what we had on hand, but other kinds of art tape would work, too.

Speak softly and carry a big brush.

I’m trying to learn from the kids how to loosen up my painting style (kids are great mentors when it comes to art!), so we used big brushes, lots of water and lots of color. While the paint was still wet, we sprinkled sea salt in a couple places for special effects. All ages had fun playing with the washes of color and ways they combined.

The big reveal: Peeling off the tape.

Once the paint dried (that step took almost 24 hours, so plan ahead), we peeled off the tape to reveal the white stripes on our eggs-to-be. The paper on the left is mine; the right is kid-made. Our tape took off a tiny bit of the top layer of the paper, but not enough to bother me.

Painted papers.

Then I cut an egg-template, which you can download here — since it took me a solid half-hour of fiddling to make what I considered the perfect egg shape (they’re trickier than they look!), I figured I’d save you some time. I put lots of eggs on one page in case we wanted to color and cut out more eggs, but you really only need to cut out one for this project. Each egg is 4.5 inches tall.

Tracing the eggs.

Lay the cut-out space over your painted paper and decide where you want your egg to be. I like using this method because you get to see exactly what the egg will look like. When you’re happy with the design, trace lightly around the inside of the cut-out shape with pencil, then cut along the pencil line.

You could attach the cut-out shapes on yarn, baker’s twine or ribbon. I just hung mine up with tiny clothespins, since we have an existing ribbon strung up that we use for garlands throughout the year, switching out the items.

Watercolor egg garland

The bunnies are traced from the shape of an old notepad I had and cut out of scrapbook paper and other random papers we had around the house. The whole thing is happiness on a string!

Sugar scrub labels

Free printable labels for sugar scrubs, by Lellobird

I recently hosted a pedicure party as a fundraiser for our local school, and I thought it would be fun to give the participants a little treat to take home.  After a little research (hooray, Pinterest!), I made sugar scrubs for everyone and designed some custom labels for them.  I thought you might like to have a printable version of the labels, too – they’d be perfect for goodies at a spa day or bridal shower, or as a quick gift for a friend.

I tried two different recipes I found online.  My favorite (and the most popular one at the party) was the Brown Sugar-Vanilla Body Scrub from Fiber Artsy & Craftsy.  It smells good enough to eat (like cookie dough!) and contains just four ingredients, which you probably already have on hand.  I added an extra cup of white sugar beyond what the recipe called for, because it seemed too moist at first.  The recipe filled five of the 8-oz jars.

I also made the Lemon Sugar Scrub from Hey Wanderer.  With just three ingredients, this recipe is super-easy, too.  The finished product didn’t seem quite lemony enough to me, so if I did it again I might use lemon essential oil instead of lemon extract.  It made enough to fill six 8-oz jars.

Brown sugar body scrub label by Lellobird

Overall I probably spent about $10 on ingredients making scrubs for 10 people – and I have sugar and olive oil left over.

And I found these cute wide-mouth half-pint jars at Target for just over $1 per jar: Ball Wide-Mouth Half-Pint (8 oz) Jars with Lids.  So at just over $2 per person, that’s a pretty easy and inexpensive give-away — and one that everyone seemed happy to get.

I made two different versions of the labels for you (right click to save PDF).  They’ll print six per page on letter-size (8.5 x 11″) cardstock:

With ingredients listed
Sugar scrub labels by Lellobird (with ingredients)

Without ingredients listed, in case you want to use your own recipe or add a personal note
Sugar scrub labels by Lellobird, without ingredients

NB – Since all the ingredients are technically food, these scrubs are pretty safe – but, of course, you are the best judge of what you should put on your skin, so use common sense.  And do be careful with glass in the bathroom, for heaven’s sake.

These labels are free for your personal, non-commercial use.

Fonts used:
Veneer Extras (crown)
Bombshell Pro
Bergamot Ornaments (sun rays)