IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

41 easy ways to overcome that summertime refrain, 'I'm bored!'

Ahhhh, summer — that magical season of loooong, unstructured hours. Don't panic, parents: The TODAY Parenting Team has got you covered.
/ Source: TODAY

Ahhhh, summer — that magical season when the days are long, the hours are unstructured, and the kids sing (or whine, or scream) that oft-repeated refrain: “I’m bored!!”

Chalk art that reads, "School's out! Help me!!"
Courtesy of Mary Ann Ware

Sound familiar? Don’t panic! The TODAY Parenting Team has got you covered. We asked contributors to share their secrets for enjoying the Best Summer Ever, and many offered up an abundance of simple, stress-free ideas for keeping the kiddos content and saving your sanity.


You can always join in the conversation by becoming a member of our team, and stay connected to TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page. If you’ve got your own cures for summertime boredom, please share them with the rest of us! (Please!!!)

Here’s a round-up of some of the great ideas that have come in so far:

1. Tackle boredom head on by creating a “Boredom Buster Chart.” (Dawn Falcone)

“I created a chart, together with my son, to help cure any summer boredom blues that may come our way. There simply will be times when he'll have to occupy himself and the chart will help. ... The sky's the limit as far as activities go. You and your kids can come up with all kinds of imaginative ideas. Once your chart is complete, post it somewhere easily visible. I put ours on the fridge so my son can take it down to view when he needs to.”

Boredom buster chart
"We have enough activities to keep our Monkey Boy busy, and he'll have fun and grow his imagination in the process."Courtesy of Dawn Falcone

2. Summertime fun does NOT have to cost a fortune. (Keeper of the Fruit Loops)

"Libraries with summer reading programs are always a huge hit, and movie theaters across the country offer free or nominally priced showings of recently released movies. And, don’t discount the benefit of handing the kids the hose and telling them to go wild in the backyard. When my children were small, they’d spend HOURS 'painting' the deck with a paint brush and a bucket of water. Fun for them and peace and quiet for me. WIN-WIN, I say."

3. Even eating fruit can be turned into a game. (Noelle Kirchner)

“(Have) a watermelon seed-spitting contest in the backyard. Have your children spit where they'd like to see watermelons grow — they'll get a kick out of that. Seedless watermelons are not allowed!”

Watermelon artwork
Have fun with fruit!Courtesy of Noelle Kirchner

4. Fill (and occasionally restock) a box full of fun. (Lisa Maxwell)

“Have a summer box! I fill it with balls, bug catchers, bubbles, crayons, paper, stickers and anything else cheap from the dollar store that will keep them entertained. Buy a few extra toys to hold back that you can throw in the box weekly to keep it interesting.”

Toddlers playing on the beach.
"Summer can be stressful, but just remember it's short and this is your time to have fun with the coolest little people you'll ever meet."Courtesy of Lisa Maxwell

5. Become a tourist in your home town. (Thriller Mom)

“The YMCA and aquatic centers offer swim classes (and more) to the public usually at discounted rates. ... During my searches, I’ve also located local farms that offer tours with animal and child interaction. There are so many places that I didn’t even know existed in our area!

Girls running in the grass
"We have many things on our list but all activities aren’t outside of the home. ... We cook together (purposely) some days and play outside."Courtesy of Thriller Mom

6. (through 16!) Consult this handy boredom-busting list. (Samantha Ettus)

(These are just the highlights ... consult Ettus' full post for details!)

7. A picnic — in your backyard.

8. Water balloon mania.

9. Walk the hood after dinner.

10. Ice cream sundae bar.

11. A national park road trip.

12. A summer relay race.

13. Bedtime reading — under the stars.

14. The lemonade stand.

15. A kite affair.

16. A farm visit.

Girl running on the beach
"Summer is a mix of the great — the sun and the fun — and the struggle — an excess of free time and later bedtimes."Courtesy of Samantha Ettus

17. (through 26!) Or give this boredom-busting list a try. (Mary Ann Ware)

(Here are just nine of Ware’s 100 ideas ... see her full post for details!)

18. Plan and record a parody or lip-sync video. You know, like the ones you see on YouTube!

19. Build forts inside with sheets and clothes pins and anything else you can find.

20. Use toothpicks and mini-marshmallows or Dots candy to build things on a rainy day.

21. Watch a movie from the 1980s. Tell the kids what life in the ‘80s was like. Share pictures.

22. Put glowing neon bracelets into plastic Easter eggs. Hide them at night and enjoy a summer egg hunt.

23. It’s pizza night! Experiment with new crusts, sauces and toppings. Make a dessert pizza.

24. Build a fire. Let the kids burn something from the school year that has passed. Roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Make s’mores. Talk.

25. If you have a dog, learn how to teach it new tricks. Then teach it something!

26. Write down questions to prompt dinner conversation. Who was your favorite teacher and why? What was the scariest moment of your life? Put them in a jar. Pull one out at dinner.

27. Get outside and hike. (Keeper of the Fruit Loops)

“My latest obsession for keeping my kids busy and active on the cheap is trail hiking. Our area is chock full of great trails to explore and it doesn’t cost me a dime to strap on some hiking shoes, load the kids in the car and tire them out with climbing and exploring. And bonus: trails are often shaded and near streams, which is a great way to cool off on hot summer day.”

28. Just say yes and let them make a mess. (Jamie Taylor)

“Can we make a fort? Can we get the craft ‘stuff’ out? Can we play in the sprinklers? Yes, kids. Yes, you may. You may take up residence in my family room with excessive, messy force. You may fill my dining room table with an assortment of papers, markers, stickers and glue. You may fill my backyard with shrieks of laughter, and my laundry room with extra towels to wash, dry and fold. Because I love you, I am giving you permission to expand the territories of your imagination. Truthfully, I am giving up a small corner of my sanity for your satisfaction.”

Mom playing with a toddler
"Sometimes the best scenario for you is not the most pleasant for me."Courtesy of Jamie Taylor

29. (through 39!) Try the ideas in this great list. (What’s in Your Mom Genes)

(Here are just 10 of 51 suggestions ... see the full post for details!)

30. Zoo trip.

31. Bike riding.

32. Fruit picking.

33. Visit a local fair or festival.

34. Drive-in movie. (Great for toddlers who won’t sit still in a theater but love to play in the car.)

35. Geocaching.

36. Tea party (hosted by kids).

37. Sign up for a kids’ workshop at your local Home Depot, Lowe's or other hardware store.

38. Roller skating — indoor or outdoor.

39. Bowling.

"51 Things to Do with Kids in Summer" art
Courtesy of What's in Your Mom Genes

40. Keep boredom at bay in long amusement park lines. (Amanda Mushro)

“Combat long lines, boredom and meltdowns with small baggies of snacks, dollar store toys, and cheap souvenirs you bought BEFORE you came to the park. Bonus points if you coordinated the bags with the ride they are waiting to get on.”

Mom on amusement park ride with toddler
"If roller coasters, water slides and a few too many turns on the merry-go-round are on your family’s agenda this summer ... a few parenting hacks (can) make your day and night a whole lot more fun."Courtesy of Amanda Mushro

41. Savor some one-on-one time. (Amy McCready)

“Sometimes, ‘I’m bored’ is code for ‘I really want you to spend time with you.’ Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do to make summer days go more smoothly — with less complaining and more cooperation — is to spend one-on-one time each day with your kids. When you take the time to play with them or take a quick walk or whatever they like to do, you’ll meet their need for emotional connection. Let the laundry pile up, the garage cleanup wait, and spend 10-15 minutes per day, one-on-one, doing what THEY want to do. You’ll feel so much better about your day and so will your kids.”

Follow writer Laura T. Coffey on Twitter @ltcoff and Google+.