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My 8yo, after school runs a tv marathon (as did I when I was kid) but that is because there is nothing to do for him, I got him books but he study/read in one go and finishes it. I live in UK so weather is always gloomy because of rain, so they cannot play outside.

I do not like the habit of watching tv unless we go outside to shop, or he find something worth doing, got him a drone (without camera) he mastered it in 1 month and since haven't touched it claming it is boring without a camera (which is out of my budget right now).

I got him into coding, with kids websites, he likes it but rather go on other profiles and see what they made, like it (as seen in his acitivity), I want him to learn skills and get off the tv and only use tv for a little bit.

My small one 4 yo is on his footstep but I know if I can change my elder behaviour the little one follows.

What should I do to get him to do anything. I really do not know what they can do.

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    When you say that your son read the book(s) you got him in one go, that sounds like he was really enticed to me. Isn't this success?
    – Arno
    Mar 9 at 13:57
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    I would question your premise that he can’t go outside because it’s gloomy. You live in the UK where dealing with bad weather and still going outside is part of the culture - as it is in others that aren’t blessed with mostly nice weather. I remember some of my best playtimes as a kid were in muddy weather and I distinctly remember one time when we came back like the participants in a mud wrestling tournament.
    – Stephie
    Mar 10 at 6:10
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    And if he likes to read, especially if he reads fast and a lot, get him access to your local library.
    – Stephie
    Mar 10 at 7:21
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    I live in one of the wettest parts of the UK, and it's certainly not "always gloomy". In fact, the sun is shining through my window right now and the sea is beautifully inviting. Even when it is cold and wet, the saying here is that there's no such thing as "bad weather", only "wrong clothes". Mar 12 at 10:30
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    Also the link between getting cold and getting sick is weak at the most e.g. biology.stackexchange.com/a/5511/46461.
    – Kvothe
    Mar 12 at 13:42

9 Answers 9

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Learning how to be bored is a skill that requires practice.

The only way he's going to get better at handling boredom is to experience it, and learn how to find something to do on his own.

Playtime, especially free play for them to do what they want, with age appropriate toys (and not screens), is extremely important for their development.

As the parent, it's your job to ensure that he doesn't not have excessive screen access. A simple, easy rule that we go by is as follows: no screentime during the week, and on the weekend, 1 hour each day after finishing chores. Set a timer for an hour (or an hour-long show or whatever), and then when it's done, the screen goes off.

This may seem like very little, because it is, but the point is to ensure that the child doesn't not default to a screen as soon as they're bored. The point is to practice boredom. It will take a couple of days of whining/complaining about no screens, but do not give in. There will be no harm to him, in fact great benefit, to go through a screen-detox. Even though it may be difficult for all of you.

Note that this is also an inconvenience to you too. This means you will not be able to just put the TV on to get him to be quiet/behave. This means you'll need to put up with whining/complaining for a few days. This means you will also not be able to watch with him around. No screentime means no screentime for you too, which is a great opportunity to be a good role model.

Being a good parent is difficult. But you'll be surprised how quickly he adapts, and how quickly he gets better at handling his own boredom, and how creative he becomes in finding things to do. It is worth it to go through this difficult period now, especially with a 4yo as well, and you will thank yourself in the future. And they will thank you too.

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    I have never understood parents who complain about their kids being "bored" all of the time and in need of constant entertainment. When I 5 or 6 I learned that saying the words "I am bored" really meant "I want to clean the house!" Learned how to entertain myself fairly quickly after that.
    – Questor
    Mar 11 at 17:02
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    @Questor yes, exactly, although I'll cut the OP's kid some slack because he hasn't gotten much practice at being bored. He's going to need a bit of time to figure that out. Once kids are older and accustomed to entertaining themselves, 100% agree that complaining about being bored should be met with, "here, clean this". I do it with my kiddo too (who is almost 6). When she was younger, my response was "go find something to do! Go play with some toys! figure it out!". Now that she's older, she almost never complains.
    – stan
    Mar 11 at 17:39
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    Amazingly, as a kid, I didn't watch much TV between when I got home from school & when my parents got home because there were only 3 channels to watch and I couldn't stand soap operas (the only thing on between 3-5pm when I was a kid). I managed to find other things to do and didn't grow up hating my parents, either. People hate their parents for disciplining them because they haven't learned (as adults) the benefits of discipline.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 12 at 14:16
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    @Kvothe, Nice username, btw. A couple of things, firstly, in this case, the kid is already pretty screen addicted, so he has a bit of catching up to do. Screen addiction is proven to be developmentally bad for children (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10353947). In the case of my own daughter, who is 6, screens are not the 'forbidden fruit' as you call it. We work in IT, we have 6 screens in our office between myself, my husband, and my daughter's pc. I know a lot about this because as a responsible parent working in IT, I have to.
    – stan
    Mar 12 at 19:42
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    Our strategy was to make screens as boring as possible (work = no entertainment/videos on screens), and keep them in the office. Apart from phones, we don't have a TV or any other screens outside of our office area. Computers are tools, which is why we introduced her to a physical keyboard and mouse when she turned 5, before a touchscreen, and now she earns playtime in minecraft by doing chores, and being well behaved. The plan is not to forbid her, the plan is to expose her to the tools that computers are, at a gradual and developmentally appropriate pace.
    – stan
    Mar 12 at 19:45
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I live in UK so weather is always gloomy because of rain, so they cannot play outside.

I'd like to challenge this idea. Gloomy weather doesn't stop playing outside, you just need to have proper clothing and/or some tolerance for getting wet. Being cold for too long can get you sick, but an hour outside in proper clothing is fine. Most of the colds your kids catch will be from other children at school, and not related to playing outside.

But getting children to go play outside by themselves can be hard. Nowadays few neighborhoods have kids playing outside anymore, so it is not easy to come up with ideas what to do. That can be a benefit, too, considering all the crazy things a bunch of kids come up with..

You could try to establish a new routine of taking the time a few times per week, always on same day and time, to go outside for an hour with your children. Figure out something to do, whether it is a ball game, walking or biking, water gun fight, hide-and-seek, whatever seems enjoyable for the kids.

Important part is that it should be predictable routine - there will be some opposition at first, but soon enough it becomes a habit. And by doing it by the calendar, you don't fall into the trap of "it's bad weather today, maybe some other time".

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    From personal experience I would say 8 year olds are still excited about playgrounds as long as it is a somewhat interesting one and not just a pit of sand. The 4 year old sibling should be excited about any playground. And kids don't care much about the weather, they will be fine whatever it is.
    – quarague
    Mar 11 at 7:55
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    From personnel experience i have found that a single eight year old outside playing on a playground will spontaneously summon other 8 year olds. Especially if you go to the playground at the same time/day every single week... Almost like there are other parents who want their 8 year olds to be outside and playing/moving instead of inside. Just give your kiddo a warm coat, and be ready to spend the first few playground visits running around for an hour... It takes a while for other parents in the area to realize that an opportunity exists.. and then to capitilize on it.
    – Questor
    Mar 11 at 17:11
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It sounds like you are looking for him to self-entertain as an alternative to screen-time, but he isn't ready yet for playing/exploring/learning on his own.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Kids need kids. Is there a neighbor, classmate, cousin to play with after school?

  • Kids play outdoors even in drizzly weather. They ride their scooters, build an outdoor fort from scraps, play with the ball on pavement, etc.

  • Visit the library once a week. Take time to pick out books and enjoy reading there. It will advance his attachment to reading.

  • Get a large set of LEGO bricks. Worth the investment.

  • Does your child enjoy building, drawing, music... expand on his interests.

  • Finally, I suggest you get rid of the TV, or limit access to a few hours of weekend only. As long as its available he won't be motivated to do other things. After a few hard days of withdrawal his natural interests and curiosity will emerge.

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    The 'not ready for playing on his own' is completely age independent and only a lack of being used to it for some kids. Kids much younger than 8 can and do master this 'skill' provided there is suitable material or options for things to do available and you provide a good list of things to provide.
    – quarague
    Mar 11 at 7:59
  • @quarague exactly. I meant, hasn't mastered this yet.
    – diyImma
    Mar 11 at 8:27
  • kids are more the capable of playing/exploring on their own at a really really young age. that is much younger then 8. Kiddos as young as 2 can play by themselves in 5 minute stretches... and that number goes up steadily over time... As long as the kid is given the oportunity to develop it (IE no TV)... This is hard, as letting the TV entertain your kido is easier... but it is better in the long run.
    – Questor
    Mar 11 at 17:05
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    @Questor my husband and I work from home, and our kiddo spent the first 4.5 years of her life in a play-area by our desks (that gradually got bigger as she grew), with no screens at all. just toys and us. My mom was worried she would get bored, but she was playing by herself with no problems at all. Now she's almost 6 and does get some (mostly minecraft) screentime, but can entertain herself for hours playing lego.
    – stan
    Mar 11 at 17:50
  • Lego is a really good option for indoors play, as it really gives endless possibilities for the development of imagination and self-directed play
    – Rory Alsop
    Apr 11 at 7:21
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Maybe he needs other children to keep him motivated. Otherwise he may get bored. You can try to enroll him to something like:

  • Scouting
  • sports: light athletics, running, ...
  • coding, programming or robotics course with teacher in a class, i.e. not an online class
  • drawing, painting,
  • learning an instrument to play in kids orchestra
  • cooking

He also may need some tasks and responsibility apart from the school. That way he learns to appreciate the work that others do. It may be something like:

  • vacuum cleaning
  • hanging laundry
  • doing the dishes
  • helping with cooking
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    "Otherwise he may get bored" shock, horror! I'd argue that the idea that other people exist to entertain me is extremely unhealthy and should not be encouraged.
    – stan
    Mar 10 at 7:17
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Many good suggestions already. To bring in a slightly different view. I don't think it would be advisable to completely define your kids' schedule, though they can use guidance for sure. It's valuable for them to be bored, as it helps them learn to entertain themselves. Perhaps play in the mud or bring out the old drone again.

For me, the intuitive thing would be to get rid of the TV and also stop watching TV as a parent.

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The answer seems so incredibly simple. You already offered him alternative activities which is a great way to go. And it seems you immediately hit the jackpot! He loved reading and finished the books at once. The answer is obvious! More books! Get him a library membership immediately! - You can't often go wrong with more books ;)

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  • I think the OP commented that the kid didn't read the books, but just browsed through them and then put them away.
    – gerrit
    Mar 12 at 14:09
  • @gerrit He did, but how to find out if we skimmed through it or read each page and understood it?
    – localhost
    Mar 13 at 13:35
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For the thousandth time, your kid's TV habit will never get better unless you act like a parent and limit TV time.

You have been complaining for years, no one is going to be able to give you an answer that doesn't boil down to "be a parent". Things are not going to get better unless you do something other than beg for magical advice on the internet.

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  • Whilst I agree with what you say, it doesn't effectively answer the question (with specific practical advice). It might have made a good comment, but I don't think it really cuts it as an answer for someone who perhaps grew up with the same parenting that's not effective for their own children. Mar 12 at 10:27
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I won't speak to UK weather. Let's just assume it's 100% earthquakes and hurricanes. (it's not, and it's ok for kids to get wet, but whatever hurricanes and earthquakes it is)

First, lets talk about the tv shaped elephant. If you don't want him to watch TV, then don't let him. If that means turning it off, turn it off. If that means unplugging it, unplug it. If that means smashing it with a hammer, then smashy smashy. You are the parent. If this is where you chose to draw the line. Be clear, direct, and follow through.

Now, you have acceptable activities. With the TV out of the way, present them. If your son doesn't want to do any of them, inform him he can sit on the floor and mope. Anything, even reading, is better than nothing. So if the choices are to sit on the floor and stare at the wall or read a book, the book will win.

Now your job, other then turning the TV off is to make sure that activities are available.

Get some crayons, a book or two, some coloring pages, a chalkboard, some kind of glue, maybe finger paints, spaghetti noodles, something that smells horrid, building blocks, legos, old cardboard boxes, and 3 wet rags. Plop them all down on the floor with the child and go, "meh, you figure it out". They will.

Mostly, you want to try to avoid, as much as you can, going, "But you're not playing the way I want you to." You have to a little bit, least the spaghetti noodles end of the wrong side of the pet dog, or the finger paints turn your ceiling the wrong color. But if it's safe let him go to town.

Looking at books is the first step in reading books. You might find more interesting books. That can be hard at first, so start with lots of books and refine them as time goes on. Anything this side of a playboy should be just fine for an 8-year-old. Context might need to be given for some more complicated books, but if your son starts reading War and Piece, then let it go.

All joking aside, "I'm bored" is relative. Right now, you don't know what his interests are, so throw everything you can at him. Don't spend tons of money, but the basics are pretty cheap. Once an interest is expressed, you can worry about how you're going to fund it. Turning off the TV, by whatever means necessary is step one.

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Dress well, with rain trousers and wellies if needed. Here are some ideas if you can go to a forest or a nearby park:

  1. Organize a treasure hunt. Ask your kids to find a pine cone, a snail shell, a red stone and other treasures. You can use them later to create art pieces.

  2. Build a hut with sticks and call it the house of a which. Bring an old cooking pot, where kids can cook a magic potion with soil and branches.

  3. Make music with drums or a Xylophone or glockenspiel. Sing simple songs that you remember from your childhood. Invent a battle cry to repeat with your kids. It can be a humorous one.

You'll find many more ideas for your small one by looking for inspirations in outdoor kindergarden websites. Then you can also find summer camp activities for your older son, by searching for website that suggest summer camp activities.

As soon as they have an interest in something, find ways to feed into that interest, to nourish it. A comment under another answer mentions that children like to play in groups. Find another child who would like to play outside together.

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