Boredom breeds trouble in our household. Typically when I’m entrenched deep in a task, like paying the bills, doing the laundry, or preparing a meal, my children will inevitably find trouble. Like discovering the bath paints (purposefully) hidden deep in the cabinet, and painting the entire bathroom a variety of colors that are impressively vibrant and surprisingly durable. Or maybe the youngest will find a way out of the house and treat himself to a nice leisurely unsupervised stroll around the block. Or perhaps they all decide to give the cat a makeover and use my Big Sexy Spray & Stay Intense Hold hairspray, which is known for being the strongest and longest lasting hairspray EVER. Or maybe these things don’t happen to other people and it’s just us…?
Boredom also breeds bickering in our household. It starts with mild picking, which leads to rough housing, which always ends in a round of tears. With less structure in place to keep my little people from turning on each other, this can be a daily recurrence during the summer. So let me introduce you to one of my summer’s saving graces: Busy Boxes. These tools need to be in every mother’s toolbox, right next to their Magic Eraser.
We homeschooled our brood this past year, and my greatest take away was this: I cannot be all things to all people all the time. I am not Jesus Christ — and the world is a better place because of that! When one child needed me for something it inevitably cued all of them to need me at the same time. I quickly realized the need to have something in place to direct my children to when they were waiting for me, bored, or had free time. So I made us some Busy Boxes.
Each child got a Busy Box of their own. I used small plastic color-coded bins and put age-appropriate items that were easily found at the Dollar Store, Hobby Lobby, or the dollar section of Target. I put sticker books, crossword puzzles, a children’s Almanac (my kids love these), trivia cards, doodle books, markers, stationary, a book or two, Lego sets, building blocks, watercolor kits, puzzles, and anything else I came across that I knew they’d be interested in playing with. I made a few kits with challenges inside, like a magnet kit that came with instructions to find 10 items around the house and see which ones were magnetic. They had to write down which discoveries surprised them. I found a book of cool kid’s science experiments and each week added one science experiment to the boxes for them to try. (The key is finding experiments that you don’t have to supervise, or else it defeats the purpose.) I rotated items in each child’s box so they would stay interesting, and I never had more than a handful of options at a time. At any point during the day when the kids were bored or had too much free time, I directed them to their Busy Boxes to pick an activity. Some days we had regular Busy Box time so that I could get some things done without micro-managing everyone. It was bliss. Who knew?
Overall the Busy Boxes took me about an hour to put together and a few minutes each week to maintain, and ended up saving me hours of bickering and boredom. They saved the cat from many makeovers and the bathroom from further painting expos. And now whenever I’m out and about, the kids and I keep our eyes peeled for fun things to add to our Busy Boxes. Our entire family has benefited from them, and we hope yours will too!