For Teachers

Kids Bouncing Off the Walls? These Boredom Busters Fill Time Gaps with Activity

Many ADHD experts swear by the Pomodoro Technique for time management, which organizes the day into 25-minute increments separated by 5 minutes of activity and blood flow, plus a few larger gaps in the day. Use these recommended boredom busters to keep your child moving during their 5-, 15-, and 30-minute breaks while learning at home.

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Q: “My first-grader’s mind and body are voracious. Her energy and creativity are non-stop. It’s tough to keep her focused and busy — without meltdowns or disastrous messes — while she is home from school. By dinner time, her most challenging ‘wild evening hours’ are underway and I’m wiped out. How can I keep my young child motivated and productive, while providing healthy activities in between her assignments that don’t cause a backlash like screen time so often does.”


A: In the torrent of homeschooling resources flooding our feeds over the last week, we noticed a great collection of 5-, 10-, and 15-minute activity ideas compiled by the F.D. Titus Elementary School in Warrington, Penn. — a public school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Below, we have augmented that list with additional suggestions from educators and ADHD experts who understand how movement can spur greater focus and learning.

5 Minutes 15 Minutes 30 Minutes
  • GoNoodle Videos on YouTube
  • Jump rope
  • Create Play-Doh sculptures
  • Color a picture
  • Dance to your favorite song
  • Try Kid’s Yoga YouTube videos
  • Do 5 different exercises for 1 minute each
  • Build a paper airplane and fly it down the hallway or outside
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk
  • Paint with watercolors
  • Ride a bike
  • Play hide and seek with a sibling or parent
  • Build a LEGO sculpture
  • Play a sport outside (baseball, basketball, soccer, football)
  • Take pictures of nature in your yard
  • Take turns telling silly jokes with your family
  • Bake a special sweet treat
  • Make a fort using sheets and pillows
  • Play a card game (Go Fish, Old Maid, War, Uno, etc.)
  • Create and complete a nature scavenger hunt
  • Make a craft from recycled materials
  • Make an obstacle course with simple toys and complete it
  • Play a board game with your family
  • Play dress up and put on a show

These movement breaks dovetail perfectly with the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management system built on the premise that the best way to accomplish goals is to work with time instead of struggle against it. Specifically, it contends that humans are most productive when working in 25-minute increments, broken up by 5-minute activity breaks that help to maintain energy and focus. Every hour and a half, a longer 30-minute break helps the brain and body reset for more work. This intuitively makes sense to many parents managing a homeschool schedule for the first time, but the challenge quickly becomes finding and introducing short activities that kids will love and do independently — away from their screens, in most cases.

First and foremost, we recommend getting your child dancing, stretching, and jumping by checking out the GoNoodle channel or YouTube exercise videos for kids. Here are some more ideas for getting bodies in motion and minds recharged.

[Need More Daily Exercise Ideas? 10 More Ways to Improve Focus with Movement]

5-Minute Transition Smoothers

These are quick ideas most school-age children can do without interrupting mom and dad.

#1. Access a library of free, 5-minute exercise videos from The Body Coach TV, a P.E. teacher offering fun physical activities for kids, via YouTube.

#2. Jump rope inside or out. Jumping rope improves cardiovascular fitness, is great for coordination, and strengthens the arms, calves, and back muscles, too. If it’s raining and slippery outside, jump rope in your empty garage or basement.

#3. Have a ball with a tennis ball or other lightweight ball. Toss and catch a ball overhead several times. Continue tossing the ball and add leg lifts to the routine. Stand upright and hold the ball over your head with both hands on the ball. Lift your leg the waist level and lower the ball to touch your toes one leg at a time. Repeat these movements for 5 minutes.

[Read This Next: Are You Home Schooling? Advice for Parents-Turned-Educators]

#4. Staircase fun run. Run up and down the staircase until you’re exhausted. See if you can go up and down 20 times in 5 minutes.

#5. Play indoor sock ball or balloon volleyball. Transform the largest pair of socks in your drawer into a soccer “ball” that won’t damage furniture or break delicate indoor objects. You can also play a quick game of volleyball by blowing up a balloon and lining up plastic cups or rolls of toilet paper for the net.

#6. Shake, rattle, and roll. Tell your children to stand side-by-side and run in place as fast as they can for a minute. Then shake, shake, shake their bodies moving from top to bottom. Instruct them to shake their heads, wiggle their shoulders, move their torsos side to side, shake each hand, then each arm. Shake the right leg then the left leg. Shake each foot and then reverse direction and go from the bottom of the body to the head. Finally, drop to the floor and roll — without rattling anyone else in the process!

#7.  Be still. Grab a pillow from the couch, plop it on the carpet, and have your child sit with legs crossed, allowing their mind to wander and daydream. Take note of any interesting thoughts or ideas that come up when the time is up. Brilliance can be born out of boredom.

#8. Make a rabbit, an eagle, or a face with your hands. Grab a flashlight and find a wall. Show your kids how to make shadow puppets with their hands. Talk about good, old-fashioned fun.

#9. Have a musical moment. Demonstrate the mood-altering impact of music by playing a soft tune and asking your child to close their eyes and place a hand on their chest to feel their heart rate slow. Then play a lively tune and dance. Your child will quickly understand how music naturally inspires movement. You can also play a favorite song and ask your kids to name the type of instrument being played: percussion, brass, woodwind, string, or keyboard. Learn more at study.com

#10. Play a quick and silly game of “Simon Says.” When mom and dad play along, this game never gets old.

#11. Practice good posture. Have your child stand against the wall with their heels pressed to the baseboard. Tell them to stand up straight, press their shoulder blades against the wall, lift their chin and look straight ahead. Place a book on top of their head and see if they can keep it balanced while walking across the room.

15-Minute Focus Sharpeners

During the Victorian period, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle coined this wise phrase: “A change is as good as a rest.” When family members start to feel restless, change it up with these 15-minute break ideas.

#12. Tabletop fun with cards. A deck of cards can be used for more than just “Go Fish,” “War,” and “Old Maid.” Cards can be a source of entertainment and simple construction projects. Plenty of quick, easy card trick tutorials are available online, and kids of all ages love to build a house of cards. Your child can also test their telepathic powers by pulling a card from the deck, hiding its face, and seeing if they can use their innate “powers” to name the card.

#13. Learn math by singing. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and even fractions may be easier to understand and execute through song. Songs for Teaching uses music to promote learning. See if adding some jingles to your day makes a difference.

#14. Divide and conquer. Speed clean your house — one spot or room at a time — with a little help from your kids. Come up with a list of household chores that can be completed in 15 minutes (collect and empty trash cans in bedrooms and bathrooms, clean a sink and a toilet, dust the furniture in the family room, etc.) You can set a timer and turn the task into a contest to see who finishes their chore first. Chances are they will embrace the challenge if you also tie completion to a reward like extra screen time or their favorite dessert.

#15. Surprise grandma or grandpa (or another elderly loved one who could use a boost). Social distancing is leaving many senior citizens feeling lonely. Encourage your child to write a handwritten note or carve out time for an unexpected FaceTime call. Doing something kind for someone else has another benefit – it makes you feel good, too.

#16. Do the 7-minute workout twice! This high-intensity workout was developed by exercise experts to encourage optimum fitness in a short-period of time. It consists of 12 easy moves that require no special equipment (unless you count a sturdy chair as special equipment) and is scientifically backed.

#17. Exercise using a deck of cards. Here’s a fun way to get them moving using a simple card deck. The card you draw dictates the type of exercise you do and the number of repetitions for each exercise. Ace, king, queen, or jacks equal 10 moves. Draw a joker, do 10 burpees. Clubs are jumping jacks; hearts are squats, diamonds are mountain climbers and spades are pushups. Ready, set, go!

#18. Break out the coloring books. If your kids haven’t spent time with coloring books lately, they might enjoy the quiet, soothing change of pace.

30-Minute Resets

Use these ideas for those longer breaks throughout the day, like ‘recess period’ after lunch.

#19. Build an indoor fort from cardboard, couch cushions, or blankets. If you’re anything like us, you’ve accumulated a fair number of cardboard boxes in the basement or garage. Put these to good use by challenging your child to cut, duct tape, and assemble them into a fort they can use for reading or hiding from siblings.

#20. Build an outdoor fort with a sheet, a hula-hoop, and some string. Kids can hang it from a backyard tree or the swing set and have their own private picnic or just a quiet, outdoor space to curl up with a book.

#21. Take a nature walk. Nothing restores the mind and body like a brisk walk outside. Take in the fresh air and sunshine together. To keep ADHD attention rapt, create a scavenger hunt for your child that includes a squirrel, a red-breasted robin, a bicycle, a mail truck, daffodils, and other neighborhood sights they might otherwise overlook. Don’t forget the binoculars.

#22. Hone your child’s culinary skills. Even young kids can learn to safely make a batch of cookies with minimal supervision. For more adventurous and eager chefs, work on basic kitchen lessons like how to peel veggies, slice fruit, and measure wet and dry ingredients. Get inspired by scrolling through recipes online and plan a fun recipe or menu from there. You will find plenty of how-to cook videos on YouTube. For other inspiration, consider your family’s heritage and plan what you need to make a traditional dish. Look through some options together and see where your child’s curiosity takes you. Bon appetite!

#23. Button up. Teach your child how to sew a button onto a piece of fabric. Buttons have a fascinating history (they date back to the 13th century) and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Some are pretty enough to pass as jewelry! An endless number of kid craft projects can be created with buttons and some folks enjoy collecting them.

#24. Put on a show. Challenge your kids to create a skirt or short show based on something in one of the day’s lesson plans. Act out a scene from a book they’re reading or a chapter of history they’re learning. If your child is a music lover, have them choreograph a dance to one or two of their favorite songs.

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Updated on August 11, 2020

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  1. Great invention and strategy for dealing with boredom and other monotonous activity. I appreciate how regardless of age-grade, people can have such a fun time.

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