news Archives - Elena Paige

Introducing Taki & Toula Time Travelers

Taki & Toula had some problems being born, but they made it! I wrote this series early in 2017 and expected it to be released mid-year, but due to some delays, I’ve had to wait until now. Basically, I fired my original illustrator. Then had to hunt for a new one. It wasn’t easy. Here is a visual representation of the covers of the book so far based on different illustrators….

This was the original illustration for Taki and Toula Time Travelers: Hercules Finds His Courage. The comments I kept getting were that their eyes looked too cartoonish. So I asked the illustrator to improve them.
They came out looking so angry! This and other reasons, I decided I needed a new illustrator.
This illustrator had an inspired vision which was really quite beautiful but not really in alignment with how I saw Taki and Toula. Back to the drawing board.
This illustrator had talent but kind of lacked the comedy aspect I was looking for. Great illustrator though!
Then out of nowhere the original illustrator of Lolli turned back up. He had taken a break from illustration and hence I used a different illustrator for the Meditation Adventures for Kids series books 3-6. Josef Hill was the illustrator that did Books 1-2, and book 7 (Lolli & the Superfood Quest). He is very talented and his illustrations are quite quirky. He also did the illustrations for I Love Being Different, I Love Being Free and I Love Trying New Things. I’m often complimented on his illustrations. So here is the new book cover!


The new book is being released on FRIDAY 3rd NOVEMBER 2017. Books 2-5 will be released early in 2018. They are Early Reader books perfect for kids aged 5-8 and parents can read along for younger children. The stories are all about how Taki and Toula travel back in time and create history with the Greek gods! Lots of fun.

The last two Lolli books….

Well, that’s it; the last of the Lolli books is now released.

Last month I released Lolli and the Magical Kitchen. It was a hit with kids as they met Jimmy the Jamaican Giraffe – who makes bedtime fun! I so want a Jimmy soft toy!!!!


This month, the very last Meditation Adventures for Kids book hits the bookshelves – LOLLI & THE SUPERFOOD QUEST. As the last of the Lolli books this one is slightly different to the rest. It features one long meditation rather than three shorter ones. Children are taken on a QUEST where they must help Lolli find the necessary ingredients to re-build Cooking Castle.

Perhaps you wouldnt have noticed, the illustrations in the first two books (Lolli & the Lollipop and Lolli & the Thank you Tree) are done by Josef Hill. He is also the illustrator of the pictures in this book. I had the illustrations commissioned three years ago, and had forgotten about actually writing the story. So when I wrote this story at Christmas time 2016, I had to write the story to match the illustrations which was tough but also a fun challenge!

This book also includes eight yummy superfood recipes for kids to make at home. All the recipes are dairy free, egg free and nut free.


Lolli and the Superfood Quest from Elena Paige on Vimeo.

So that’s it for Lolli… for now. Meanwhile, I’m starting a new series that will be released later this year – an early reader series called TAKI & TOULA Time Travelers. Taki and Toula live in Crete and find an old pair of Greek shoes called “tsarouhia.” Guess what happens when they put the shoes on? Ahh! You’ll have to wait and see. This is a series that is close to my heart, as I am of Greek descent and would LOVE to live in Crete. Instead, I live in Australia, but I imagine myself in Greece when I write Taki and Toula! Here is a sneak peak of Taki and Toula finding the “tsarouhia” in their mother’s chest:

Lolli & the Bunyip Now Available!

Hi Readers

Lolli & the Lollipop is now available for sale at the launch price of 99cents on Kindle only. You can also read for free if you are in Kindle Unlimited, and the paperback version is coming next week. Three new fun adventures for your kids: Lolli & the Bunyip; Lolli & the Lonely Star; and Lolli & the Treasure Map. The adventures get even more exciting! CLICK HERE TO BUY.

Here is what Faridah Nassozi (who rated it 5 stars for Readers’ Favorite) had to say:

“Lolli and the Bunyip by Elena Paige is another amazing book of adventures in the Lolli series. This time around, you will fight off wild cats in Australia with Liquorice, suit up in your astronaut gear for an adventure in space, and finally enjoy an adventure with Bluebeard the pirate. Imagine all the fun and excitement you will have along the way. You will get to team up with Liquorice in Australia to protect wallabies against the dangerous cats, with so many new and exciting discoveries about the area and its wildlife. Moreover, this is just the beginning of the fun in this 3-in-1 adventure.

Lolli and the Bunyip by Elena Paige is another worthy addition to Lolli’s adventures. The captivating tales will completely engage kids, draw them into Lolli’s Land of Color, and make them feel like they are really part of the adventure. The meditation style of narration that starts each adventure is so much fun and both adults and kids (readers and listeners) will have lots of fun with it. The vivid illustrations make these already amazing adventures come alive even more, enabling kids to imagine it all and be part of it all. The stories are fresh, exciting and fun, and have lots of good lessons for young readers to take away. Lolli and the Bunyip is an amazing read for kids, anytime, anywhere, and they will read the adventures over and over. The Lolli series will make an amazing addition to a child’s home or school library.”

I made this fun little video with my kids about the new book. The kids think the little girl at the beginning is CREEPY! What do you and your kids think? I’d love you to write back and let us know. Have fun watching it. I hope you enjoy reading the new book as much as I enjoyed writing it for you!



NEW RELEASE – Lolli & the Bunyip from Elena Paige on Vimeo.

Is your child an EXTERNAL or INTERNAL processor?

Children and adults alike are either external or internal processors.

External processors are people that often think and talk everything out loud. I’m definitely one of those and can often drive my husband crazy!

Internal processors on the other hand need time alone to carefully think through situations or choices. So internal processors, process their feelings and thoughts internally first, rather than the external processor who is processing out aloud and with others listening and supporting as they do so.

Are you getting the picture here?

Have a think about which one you are? External processors can often seem contradictory because we say one thing one minute and then do something totally different. But we are processing our thoughts and feelings aloud. Internal processing people seem to be more stable and trustworthy as they only speak when they have thought through something. But the truth is, both type of processing is equally valid. We are who we are.

When it comes to children, knowing whether your child is an external or internal processor can be hugely helpful to you are a parent. An external processing child left alone with unanswered questions and racing thoughts and emotions can easily feel overwhelmed and frustrated. So you can best support such a child with having more talks with them. This gives them the opportunity to speak aloud how they feel, their fears and wants, and to feel heard and supported. If you’re an internal processing parent, you need to give your external processing child time to talk with you. Don’t assume they are working things out for themselves as you are used to doing.

In contrast, a child who internally processes, needs time alone to think things through. They need to quietly consider possible solutions in their own time and space. If you are an external processor parent it’s important not to back your internal processing child into a corner and force them to tell you what’s going on in their life. Forcing an internal processing child (or adult) to talk before they have had time to process can make them more confused, overwhelmed and frustrated.

I hope you find this hugely useful. I know I did with my two children.



It’s summer here in Australia where I live. And today is Australia Day. The children are still on school holidays (or summer vacation as I know it’s called in some places) and my new book LOLLI & THE SUPERFOOD QUEST is due to the editor on Monday. I’m only half way done! Normally I would panic, but the difference is I already have the illustrations for this book. My usual process is to write a book, and then ask the illustrator to draw certain key scenes. This time around,  the illustrations are already done. This is a book I was going to write very differently many years ago, so I had already commissioned the illustrations.

Writing to pictures is much easier than writing without them. In fact it not only speeds up my writing, but really stretches my imagination to make things fit. I wrote the series LOLLI’S HAPPY HEART RHYMES exactly the same way. I had the illustrations already, many of which are quite quirky and I wrote the poems to match the images. It was tough in some ways but an amazing creative exercise and it’s why I think those rhyming books turned out way better than I could have imagined.

Why am I telling you all this? Because there is great benefit in writing a story to match the pictures. Especially for kids.

Storytelling is a primal thing. We love telling stories and I think kids love sharing stories most of all. When we listen to their stories it builds their self esteem and self belief. My own children (now 10 and 13 – my son just turned 13 on Tuesday so now I have an official teenager in the house) can struggle making up stories out of thin air. So together we often look through pinterest, magazines, google images and find pictures that spark their imaginations. My children love making up stories to match the pictures. And often those stories are seriously good!

You can even use family photos in the same way. We once took a photo of our dog Lucky (he’s a Moodle) when he came back from a haircut. It was a crazy haircut! The kids took a photo of him because he looked so funny. Later on in the year we came across that photo and my son said “I remember when Lucky got his new bouffant.” So we all wrote a story called Lucky’s New Bouffant. We each wrote our own version and shared it with each other. It was the best afternoon we ever had. I might even share our stories of Lucky’s New Bouffant on a future blog post just for fun.

So, get writing and get your kids writing too. Look for images and pictures that inspire you and see what stories you can come up with. You just might surprise yourself and your children might surprise you too.

Have a great week.

Elena xox

A Few Minutes Of Your Time


Are you the type of parent who jumps in and tries to fix things for your child? How often do you catch yourself saying “You’re not listening to me?”

Evidence suggests that children, (and adults  I suspect) respond in a much more positive way if you sit down and listen to them with your full attention.

The “full attention” part is often challenging for many parents today as they juggle so many responsibilitites including work commitments. Most parents are time and energy poor by the end of the day and any opportunity for actual conversation is, at best, around the dinner table at night. It is, however, still important to have that one on one time with your child to touch base, find out how they are doing at school, what’s happening with their friends and build closeness. Children require full attention and listening time with parents, just as much as they need good food and shelter.

When it comes to listening to your child, there is listening, and then there is listening with empathy. Acknowledging a child’s feelings will help them feel understood. You don’t have to agree with what your child is saying or doing, but you are allowing them to share with you their perspective. A lot can be gained by taking the time to walk in your child’s shoes and imagine the world from their eyes. That you take the time to do this can mean the world to a child and increase parent and child bondings exponentially. So when tough times arise in future your child is more likely to come to you, trust in you and confide in you.

When you are listening with empathy to your child, it is helpful to build rapport in order to establish an environment of trust and understanding. You can do this in a number of ways. You can physically mirror their posture, facial expressions and tone of voice. You can also match their key words. For example, if they say something was ‘’disgusting” you might repeat that word back to them. You can even match their breathing. They need to know you are taking their feelings seriously and techniques such as these go a long way in helping your child feel at ease and accepted by you.

Here is an example of how an empathetic conversation may sound:

Scenario 1:

Kevin: “I am so angry at Simon for breaking my new iPod.  I can’t believe he took it without asking! I’m so mad at him!”

Parent: “Yes, I can see you are very angry. I bet you’re frustrated he didn’t ask you for it. I would be really upset too. How about we find Simon and you can tell him how you’re feeling. Then he will know next time not to take anything of yours without asking. He probably feels really bad about breaking it too.”

Kevin: “Thanks for your help Mum.”

Scenario 2:

Sally:  “I had the WORST day at school today! Absolutely the WORST!” 

Parent: “WOW honey, that sounds like a tough day. Do you feel like sitting down and talking about it? Maybe I can help.” 

Sally: “Well, Susan wouldn’t play with me today and she was really mean to me.” 

Parent:  “Did that hurt your feelings? I can see you’re really upset about it. What did you do?

Sally: ” I told her I hated her and started crying.”

Parent: “I can understand why you did that. I don’t like it when my friends are mean to me either. When I fight with my friends, I tell them they are hurting my feelings and then they are nicer to me. Maybe Susan didn’t realise she was being so mean. You could tell her that next time if she does that again. What do you think?

By keeping the communication lines open, you are giving your child the opportunity to talk about their feelings and find their own solutions. The added bonus of all this attention is that they will know they are valued and loved. You will soon find that they will recover from their emotions faster, because they release them, feel supported and the need to have them in the first place is no longer there.

Look for opportunities to really listen and empathise with your child any time they’ve had a bad day, want to talk about their emotions, or just because. It could be life changing for yourself and your family. It may only take 5-10 minutes of your time, but the lifelong benefits are priceless to your child, no matter what their age!


Article by Annie O’Brien written especially for

Creator of the E-motion Cards for kids





Hello caring parents!

It’s me Elena Paige today. I have been working really hard these past few months writing the next two books in the Meditation Adventures for Kids series. My own two children (now 10 and 12) are so helpful at helping me come up with the greatest fun and adventurous ideas to put into the meditations – after all, I want kids to read or hear them and transform, but also to have a great time.

So, I’m so pleased to introducing two brand new books, that feature illustrations from a new illustrator (as my last one literally disappeared off the planet):

LOLLI AND THE TALKING BOOKS – This book features three new adventure meditations – Lolli and the Talking Books where you meet all the floating talking books at the highest clouds, and help a new book be born. Lolli and the Chocolate Tree where you discover where chocolate really comes from in Peru and meet Spike the Armadillo. And Lolli and the Wind Maze, where you must move successfully through the maze without the dangerous wind affecting you and help new character’s Bear girl and Charity boy that will feature in their very own mystery series books next year (as soon as I can write them).

 (click on the image to view the book on Amazon)


LOLLI AND THE MEDITATING SNAIL – This book again offers three new and unique adventures – Lolli and the Meditating Snail, where you meet Fred the giant purple snail in Purple Land and he gives you a secret potion for your very own mind power. Lolli and the Food Fight, where you help heal the sick children in hospital then head on over to Fighting Land and have a giant food fight. And Lolli and the Traveling Circus where you watch a circus like no other. It features the real life Manehune Fairies from Hawaii, shy pythons, leprechauns, mermaids, crane birds and even a unicorn!

 (click on the image to view the book on Amazon)

The marketing world tells me definitely never to release two books on the same day, so sorry, I have broken the rules. Lolli is written with a love and passion for helping kids to succeed in life and most importantly to be happy. So I will release them as I write them.

I’ve tried to help solve some new and interesting problems for kids in these books – how to help them concentrate more through feeling into their own body; helping friends and being brave; sharing and not being greedy; being generous with money; overcoming shyness and more. And the adventures in these two books have become even MORE adventurous, than in the original two books. They are even more like stories now and some have missions and an aim that your child is trying to achieve with Lolli. Also these two new books feature a NEW CHARACTER that is on the front cover of all the books, but was never formally introduced until now – LIQUORICE the talking toucan. The spelling within all the books is US, but I keep Liquorice’s name spelled the UK way, because he is such a unique character. He’s always terrified of everything, and is constantly falling asleep by the end of the meditation, but he ads some more fun for kids. Plus boys love, that he too is a boy!

I hope you enjoy them. They are also now available in paperback and hardback which you can buy from Amazon, BookDepository and many other online vendors.

You can now also go into your LOCAL LIBRARY and BOOK SHOP and request  a copy of any book, and they can order it in for you. The same with any book store. You can now request the titles! Plus with Kindle Matchbooks, if you buy the paperback from Amazon, you get the ebook free. They will stay exclusive to Amazon for a while, so you can also read it free in Kindle Unlimited.

I hope all else is going well, and if you have the time, I WOULD LOVE IT SO MUCH, if you could hit reply to this email and send me any ideas or problems your child is having that you would like the next LOLLI MEDITATIONS to address. All your ideas, or problems – I would love to hear them. Plus if your kids listen or read the meditations and say “I would love a boa constrictor in a meditation” pass that along to me too. I will be writing the next 5 books in the next few months and would love your kids’  suggestions!

Thanks so much!

Elena Paige

PS If you love any of the illustrations from the Lolli books and would love to order it on a t-shirt, stickers, mugs etc, let me know and I’ll organise it. You can see some of the images I have already uploaded here, ready for sale. My kids will be ordering some too. Henry the bunyip is from Lolli &the Bunyip, not yet released, and my kids love him best so far! Here is the link for the online shop at RedBubble.

Emotional Intelligence Parenting Interview

Hi Everyone!

I recently did an interview for a different podcast I run with ANNE HUBBARD about EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE PARENTING, and given you are parents or caregivers I’m assuming, I knew you’d enjoy listening to it. So I have included it here as a link for you to listen to. There is some amazing information about helping kids to be emotionally more intelligent. The connection on Skype while recording wasn’t the best, but it’s worth listening for the amazing information! I hope you enjoy the interview, and learn some new ways to help your children to shine!

Have a wonderful week.

Love Elena xoxo



The Motivation Equation: Understanding a Child’s Lack of Effort

Hi There

A terrific article I thought worth sharing. Brilliant info! Elena xox

The Motivation Equation:
Understanding a Child’s Lack of Effort
by Kenneth Barish, Ph.D.

Child therapists often hear, “He’s not motivated. All he wants to do is watch television or play video games.” Parents urgently ask, “Why doesn’t he put more effort into his schoolwork? Why doesn’t he care?” Many parents believe that their child is “lazy.”

The answer to these questions is almost always, “Because he is discouraged.” He may also be anxious or angry, and he is stuck in this bad mood. He feels that putting effort into his schoolwork is not “worth it” and it is easier for him to pretend that he doesn’t care.

He may mask his discouragement with defiance or blame others (especially his teachers) for his lack of effort. Often, he will seek relief in activities that require little sustained effort and that offer, instead, some immediate feeling of success.

The problem of “lack of motivation” is the problem of demoralization, whether overt or disguised.

To solve this problem, we need to return to first principles: Children, when they are not angry or discouraged, want to do well. They want to feel good about themselves—and about others. They want to earn our praise and approval, and they want us to be proud of them. Children say that they don’t care, but they do care.

Sustained effort is a different matter. Our ability to work hard, to sustain effort at any task, requires a feeling of accomplishment or progress along the way, and some confidence in our eventual success. All constructive activity involves moments of anxiety, frustration, and discouragement. Children who are “not motivated” too readily give in to these feelings; they do not bounce back.

Children often hide their anxiety and discouragement behind defiant and rebellious attitudes. “What is the point of studying history or math anyway, I’m never going to use it.” “Who cares who the King of England was in 1850?” Good teachers—teachers who encourage and inspire children, and then demonstrate the relevance of learning—can help. But a demoralized child is unlikely to find any relevance in what we want to teach him. He will then be criticized, repeatedly, for his lack of effort, and he will become more rebellious. And he will look elsewhere for a feeling of acceptance and a feeling of pride.

How often do we understand the problem of our children’s motivation in this way? How often do we see a child’s lack of effort not as a problem of demoralization but as a “behavior” problem? How often do we blame the influence of peers, or television and other media distractions? How often do we become frustrated and angry, and then, in our frustration, tell him that he just has to work harder?

Children are not lazy. They may be frustrated and discouraged, anxious or angry; they may have become disillusioned or defiant, self-critical or pessimistic, and they may lack confidence in their ability. But this is not laziness. The misconception that kids are lazy is one of the most common, and most destructive, misunderstandings of children.

When you understand your child’s lack of motivation as a problem of demoralization, you will be able to look for the real causes of her lack of enthusiasm and effort, and you will be more likely to find helpful solutions.

Undiagnosed (or under-appreciated) attention and learning disorders are the most common source of discouragement and lack of sustained effort (“motivation”) in children. For these children, doing schoolwork or homework is like running with a sprained ankle—it is possible, although painful—and they will look for ways to avoid or postpone it. Or they may run ten steps and then find a reason to stop.

What Really Motivates Children?
Motivation begins with interest. Interest leads to exploration and learning, and to the development of projects. Projects then become ambitions and goals. Like all of us, children want to do what they are “good at.” They want to shine and feel proud. And, again, they want us to be proud of them.

A child’s motivation is also sustained by ideals. Children want to become like, to learn from, and to earn the respect of the people they admire. Too often, we overlook this fundamental aspect of children’s motivation and emotional development. It is easy to forget that children look to us and look up to us—and that we remain for our children, throughout life, sources of affirmation and emotional support.

Rewards and punishments have some short-term effect on children’s effort. We are all motivated, to some extent, to earn rewards and avoid punishment. But rewards and punishments cannot create interests or goals.

It can be helpful to think of children’s motivation in the form of equations:

Motivation = interest + a sense of one’s competence + relevance + ideals

Motivation = interest + confidence (the anticipation of success) + the anticipation of recognition (praise or appreciation) for our effort

Motivation = having a goal + feeling that we can achieve it
Fortunately, there are solutions to the problem of a child’s lack of motivation and effort. Following are five important principles parents can use in helping children with this common, but often difficult, problem.

1. Promoting children’s motivation begins with your enthusiastic interest in their interests—even if these are not the interests you would choose.

If you look hard enough, you will find in your child some interest—and a desire to do well. When I talk with “unmotivated” students, I often find that they are interested in many things (although not in their schoolwork). They may watch the History or Discovery channels, but they will not read a history or science book. Some read National Geographic magazine, but they do not do their homework. Many of these children spend hours searching Web sites when they should be studying. Even more have become addicted to video and computer games, to World of Warcraft or Call of Duty.

We may disapprove, but these are their interests.

When I ask children about their interests, they are usually happy to talk. Then, as long as we are respectful and not dismissive, they are usually willing, and often eager, to hear our point of view. They want to know what we think. Too often, in our understandable effort to help our children “improve,” we neglect this vital aspect of children’s motivation.

2. Find the source of their frustration and discouragement.

When children are discouraged, they often say that they hate school or hate homework. Or that it is “pointless” and irrelevant. We will rarely be able to talk them out of this, no matter how hard we try. Again, undiagnosed attention and learning disorders are the most common source of discouragement and lack of sustained effort in children and adolescents. It is essential for both parents and teachers to understand the impact of these difficulties. Even mild or moderate attention and learning problems can be a source of anxiety and frustration for children, leading to discouragement, pessimism, and giving up.

Acknowledge their frustration, discouragement, and disappointment. Let them know that you understand their feelings. For young children especially, more than anything else, it may help them to know that we have also been frustrated and discouraged.

Talking to children about the importance of effort and hard work, however well intentioned and however true, or grounding them for their avoidance of schoolwork, will not help. Children have heard this all before. Telling them that they have to try harder will only make them feel angry and misunderstood.

3. Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement.

Acknowledge every increment of effort and improvement, even when his effort falls far short of our goal, and express confidence in his eventual success. This may be the essence of encouragement: We make note of a child’s improvement and his progress toward goals, not his mistakes.

Our role model should be Dorothy Delay, teacher of Itzak Perlman and other great violinists at the Julliard School. (Delay’s teaching method is described in Carol Dweck’s excellent book, Mindset.) One of Delay’s students recalled a time when he was working to improve his sound. Delay listened patiently until he played a note particularly well. She then commented, “Now that’s a beautiful sound.” She then explained how every note has to have a beautiful beginning, middle and end, leading into the next note. And the student thought, “Wow! If I can do it there, I can do it everywhere.”

Remind them, when they are ready to hear it, of the good things they have done and will be able to do, and that no one succeeds all the time. Help them put this failure—whether it is a social rejection, an academic disappointment, an athletic defeat, or a disappointment in any area of endeavor—in perspective. There will be a next time.

Tell them, “I know that you are feeling frustrated and disappointed right now, but I have confidence in you. I know that if we put our heads together, we can figure out a way to solve this problem, and you will do better next time.”

4. Focus on their strengths.

Help them develop a different picture of themselves. Their strengths should be in the center of the picture; their difficulties and frustrations should be in the corner.

In school, we teach children that it is important to do well in all their classes. In life, however, our success depends much more on doing one thing well.

Even children with significant learning problems demonstrate areas of competence, or qualities of character, that should be a source of inner pride and a foundation for their future success. These strengths need to be recognized and supported.

5. Give him time.

Finally, don’t give up. Solving the problem of motivation will take time. Demoralization has developed over time. It will take time for your child to learn to overcome his pessimism and self-doubt and to let go of cynical and defiant attitudes. Over time, he has become sensitized to disappointments and stuck in moments of frustration. The more that his demoralization has spread, the more that his pessimism and rebellion have become habitual, the more time he will need.


To see the full article and its source

Why Boredom Is Good For Your Child

Hi There

Today I’m sharing a post from Dr Laura Markham that I loved, and really helped me see boredom in a new way with my own children, so thought I would share…..



“Mom, I’m bored.”

Makes you feel put on the spot, right? You might even feel like you’re a bad parent. Most of us feel responsible when we hear this from our children and want to solve this “problem” right away. We respond to our kids’ boredom by providing technological entertainment or structured activities. But that’s actually counter-productive. Children need to encounter and engage with the raw stuff that life is made of: unstructured time.

Why is unstructured time for children so important?
Unstructured time gives children the opportunity to explore their inner and outer worlds, which is the beginning of creativity. This is how they learn to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create.

Unstructured time also challenges children to explore their own passions. If we keep them busy with lessons and structured activity, or they “fill” their time with screen entertainment, they never learn to respond to the stirrings of their own hearts, which might lead them to study the bugs on the sidewalk (as Einstein did for hours), build a fort in the back yard, make a monster from clay, write a short story or song, or organize the neighborhood kids into making a movie. These calls from our heart are what lead us to those passions that make life meaningful, and they are available to us even beginning in childhood, when we are given free rein to explore and pursue where our interests lead us.

It’s also essential for children to have the experience of deciding for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time, or they’ll never learn to manage it. One of our biggest challenges as adults, and even as teenagers, is learning to manage our time well.

As Nancy H. Blakey said,

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS– it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision. I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty. If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

Why does “I’m bored” become a constant refrain for so many kids?

Most kids given unstructured time rise to the occasion (after some minor complaining) and find something interesting to do with it. Kids are always happiest in self-directed play. That’s because play is children’s work. It’s how they work out emotions and experiences they’ve had. Watch any group of children playing (outside, when screens are not an option) and they will organize themselves into an activity of some sort, whether that’s making a dam at the creek, playing “pretend” or seeing who can jump farthest.

When kids simply can’t find something to do, it’s usually because:

They’re so used to screen entertainment that they aren’t practiced at looking inside themselves for direction.
Their time is always so structured that they aren’t used to finding fun things to do with their “free time.”
They need some parental attention. All kids need to check in with their parents for refueling during the course of the day.

Unfortunately, our society is raising a whole generation of children who are addicted to screens. That’s because electronics (Ipads, phones, computers, game boys) are designed to produce little “dopamine” rewards in our brains as we interact with them. That’s so enjoyable that other experiences pale in comparison.

But children need all kinds of other experiences, from building with blocks (motor skills, perceptual abilities) to engaging with other kids (learning how to get along and partner with others) to creative pursuits (becoming a doer, not a passive observer). Children also need to be physically active, or they can’t focus to learn. That’s why it’s essential to limit screen time.

When children say they are bored, how can parents respond?

First, stop what you’re doing and really focus on your child for five minutes. If you use this time to connect, just chat and snuggle, your child will probably get the refueling he needs and be on his way fairly quickly.

If he doesn’t pull away from you, and you need to get back to work after a few minutes of fully connecting, consider that maybe he needs a little more time with you. Most of the time when children are whiny and unable to focus, it’s because they need more deep connection time with us. Offer to involve him in what you’re doing, or take a break from your work and do something together.

Once you’re confident that your child has a full “love tank,” you can revisit the “what to do” question. By now, he probably has some ideas for something he’d like to go do. If not, tell him that figuring out how to enjoy his own time is his job, but you’d be happy to help him brainstorm about possible activities.

What about when kids really do need help coming up with a boredom-busting activity? How can we help…while still making them responsible for staying busy/engaged?

Most of the time, kids left to their own devices end up doing something interesting, but sometimes they really do need our help, especially if she suddenly has more time on her hands than usual, or if you’re newly limiting TV and electronics. (Once kids get used to limitations on TV and electronics, they become good at entertaining themselves, and more creative at play.)

Even if you need to help your child come up with ideas for “what to do,” shift the responsibility to her by creating a Boredom Jar stuffed with ideas written on pieces of paper. Whenever a child says she’s bored, she picks three pieces of paper from the jar and chooses one of the activities. Here are some examples of ideas that might be in your Boredom Buster jar.

Make a book of jokes
Build a fort with blankets and pillows
Write your Grandma a letter
Cut out paper dolls and costumes for them
Get a magnet and make a list of everything in your house that is magnetized
Get a ruler and measure things in your house, recording their length
Run around the yard three times
Put on some music and dance
Make a laser obstacle course in your hall with yarn or tape
Wash the mirror with a sponge
Write down ten things you love about each person in your family
Brush the dog
Draw a tree
Make a dollhouse out of cardboard
Learn a tongue twister
Make homemade ice cream in a baggie
Dig a hole in the back yard
Give the dog a bath
Find shapes in the clouds
Make paper airplanes and fly them
See how many times you can dribble the basketball
Cut a guitar out of cardboard and add rubber band strings
Paint a picture
Play capture the flag
Wash the car
Make a birthday card
Plan a treasure hunt, with clues
Ride your bike
Make a scene in a cardboard box
Use boxes to build a castle
Use an eye dropper to drop vinegar tinted with food coloring onto a pie pan filled with baking soda
Start a journal
Make homemade wrapping paper
Mix ivory soap, kleenex and water to make clean clouds on a cookie sheet
Organize your room
Write a story
Create a play with costumes
Make paper bag puppets or sock puppets
Cut out pictures from magazines and make a collage
Use plain white paper and envelopes and decorate your own personalized stationery
Cut up old holiday cards and make holiday stickers for next year by coating the back with gelatin glue, let dry (dissolve 2 tsp gelatin in 5 tsp boiling water.)
Surprise your mom by making lunch
Make a zoo for your stuffed animals
Have a lemonade sale
Make & decorate a calendar of the summer, with important dates marked.
Put juice & cut-up fruit into ice cube trays to make ice cubes.
Create a family newspaper/newsletter
Make dessert
Use masking tape to make a race track for your cars all over your living room
Play Tag or Freeze Tag
Start a collection (leaves, rocks, buttons)
Hang a clothesline in your room and clip photos to it to make an album
Create a circus performance
Learn a new card game
Make a potion lab outside with food coloring and jars (wear an apron!)
Set up a shop and be the shop keeper
Make your room into a rainforest
Make a sculpture from pretzels and peanut butter
Write the story of your life
Do a something kind for someone, in secret
Make an obstacle course
Play Simon Says
Bowl in your hallway with soda bottles or toilet paper tubes
Make a placemat (just laminate it at the local copy shop)
Write some limericks or haiku
Decorate an old teeshirt with cool buttons & fabric pens
Start a club
Make rock candy
Plant a terrarium
Make a daisy chain
Decorate a rock and make a house to keep it as a pet
Use old cardboard tubes and boxes to build a marble maze.
Make “funky junk” art out of old jewelry
Read a book
Make snow globes or calming jars with glycerin and glitter
Have a water balloon fight (outside!)
Memorize a poem and recite it for your parents
Make a boat using a plastic soda bottle base & popsicle sticks (use duct tape) for the top, then float it at the pond.
Draw a picture of a desert island with all the things you would want on it
Blindfold your sibling & take them on a tour of your house & yard, then trade places.
Play a board game
Play Mother May I
Make a fairy house for your garden
Cut out a crown, tape into a circle to fit your head and decorate
Create your own board game
See if you can draw a picture with your foot.
Draw on the sidewalk with chalk
Play hopscotch
Set up a restaurant and serve pretend meals
Play jumprope
Play with bubbles in the sink
Plant some seeds
Make a windsock
Use the hose and a tarp to make a slip and slide on your lawn
Paint your toenails
Play dodgeball with a soft ball
Make a curving line of dominoes and knock the first one so they fall down in a row
Weed the garden
Make puppets with old socks, buttons & markers.
Make a list of fun things you can do without a grownup
Mix liquid hand soap, cornstarch and food coloring into paint and paint the bathtub.
String beads to make friendship bracelets.
Use the hose, pvc pipe and soda bottles to construct waterways in your yard
Use pipe cleaners to make animals
Use pipe cleaners to make an indoor ring toss game
Use a basket and string to rig an elevator to hoist stuffed animals up your stairwell
String a necklace out of pasta
Practice kicking a soccer ball
Glue popsicle sticks together to make picture frames, decorate.
Make and fill a bird feeder
Make playdoh
Paint sea shells or rocks
Make bean bags
Blow bubbles
Give your dolls or stuffed animals a bubble bath

If it really does seem like there is nothing to do, is using electronics and TV ever an acceptable solution?

The problem with using TV or electronic games to alleviate boredom is that it is one of those temporary solutions that digs you into a deeper hole. Studies show that kids who regularly use electronics are more likely to feel bored when not doing so than other kids. Even after eliminating the habit, it can take months for them to find other activities about which they’re passionate. But don’t give up — you’re doing their creativity an enormous favor!

If your child can read, there is never “nothing” to do. There is a whole world of books just waiting. Of course, you will need to schedule a weekly library trip to find wonderful books. And you will have to “hook” your child on a book by beginning it with her. Choose a book she can read, but might not choose on her own — a simple chapter book, rather than a picture book, for example. Read together until you have to answer the phone or start dinner, but a minimum of a quarter of the book, so your child is hooked. Then tell her it’s time for her read-alone time. It’s her choice. Does she want to keep reading the book you’ve just gotten her into, or read something else? Most kids grab the book and finish it themselves. (If she doesn’t, you may need to drop back a level to a slightly simpler book.) Keep choosing engrossing, slightly harder books. If you need ideas for fascinating children’s books, there are many wonderful lists online including 5 Star Children’s Books.

If your child CAN read but has been reading all day and needs a break, and you have just spent half an hour with her and can’t spend more, and there are no playmates around, and your child can’t find anything to do in the boredom buster jar, she needs a special project that she can get passionate about. This is the time to pull out something special you’ve tucked away. For me, it was toothpicks, mini marshmallows and gumdrops, which could be fashioned into wonderful sculptures and of course held special appeal because some found their way into little mouths that didn’t get much sugar. This may be a compromise you wouldn’t make, but every child has something they would find fascinating for half an hour that you can arrange for those emergency situations.

If your child cannot yet read, but you are available, there are thousands of wonderful things you can do with your child. You are likely to draw a blank in that moment when your child is whining, so it’s worth making a list in advance. Again, there are many wonderful lists online of parent-child activities. I highly recommend games that are designed to bring you closer to your child, because these will fill his cup, after which he will be more able to figure out what else to do. (They also deepen your relationship, which makes kids much more cooperative and makes you both happier.) Here are some examples: Games to Play with Your Child for Connection & Emotional Intelligence.

So those times when there really is “nothing” to do are mostly when your child cannot yet read to herself well enough to stay engrossed for an hour, and you are otherwise occupied. If you can include your child in your activity, your problem is solved. Small children love to wash windows, cook dinner, help you fold laundry, etc. If they can’t be directly involved (for instance, stirring a pot on the stove or cutting the onions), set them up with a child-sized table in or next to your kitchen, give them a plastic knife and some soft fruit, and let them make a fruit salad for dessert. You will never see such a proud child. Or let them “wash” the porch with water while you vacuum inside. Or “clean out” the cupboard where you keep your pots and pans.

If you are doing something that precludes your child helping or even being in the same room, such as sweeping up broken glass, put on some music. Most preschoolers and toddlers love music, and will happily dance to it, or march around beating a rhythm on a pot, and singing to the music. Of course, that’s not a quiet activity!

But let’s assume you are doing something where they can’t be involved, such as nursing the baby to sleep, and your toddler or preschooler needs to be kept busy and quiet. Preschoolers can often happily occupy themselves for an hour with water or sand (set them up in the bathroom with a baby bathtub of water, ice cubes, pouring toys, etc, or a small plastic tub of sand with small toys), and if you have a monitor, you will be able to hear if he needs you.

Another wonderful option is a book on tape or cd. A good one will mesmerize your child, and unlike visual screens, they stimulate the imagination and encourage a love of books and stories.

But the real issue with young children is that they need supervision. In such a case, when you can’t supervise them, is it so terrible to put your two or three year old in front of a screen for half an hour? Of course not. Choose a tape that is limited in length so there’s a natural ending to eliminate fights when you turn it off, and to keep your child from seeing commercials. Give your child something to look forward to afterwards (“Once the baby is asleep, you and I will spend some special time together”). And just be sure you turn off the screen once you’re available, rather than taking advantage of it to finish “just one more thing” on your computer!