How open-ended projects can keep boredom at bay

5 ideas to keep children engaged during the day

I speak to parents regularly and one trend I see these days is that children are tending to get really bored at home. There are only so many online classes one can attend in a day. There is only so much colouring and painting one can do. And no parent feels comfortable letting their child play outside in public parks for extended periods for fear of catching the virus.

An aspect of Tinkerbola that we intend to build out over time is the creation of open ended projects which help children discover facets of learning which they don’t ordinarily come across in school curicula. While most traditional school curricula is focused on the retention of information (an important stage in anyone’s education journey), most information of this sort doesn’t stir excitement or emotion in children.

Neuroscience research shows that in order for information to be retained by the brain, there has to be an emotion associated with it. As such, emotion is a core component of learning


What we have learned is that such projects achieve two very important goals:

  1. Given their open-ended nature, they allow plenty of room for creativity, research and problem solving. There is no one way or right way to do them. As long as there is a relatively open project brief, children are often able to create amazing things using the simplest of materials which are easily found at home
  2. Children often spend many hours tinkering with these projects. Even after building them, they keep coming back to us with ideas on how it could be improved. Often, they are able to come up with their own solutions to their problems.

Given the above, here are 5 ideas for you to try with your children at home:

  1. Build a boat that doesn’t sink: Do all boats have to be the same shape? Children are likely to come up with a variety of designs — a good time to introduce physical concepts. Depending on the material used, the boat will quickly absorb water and start to sink. What can you do to prevent that from happening?
  2. Build a model of a house / building: Ever wondered why drawings and paintings often have a house or a building? I suspect it is because there is something about it that children love creating. In creating a model of a house, you can talk about area, measurement concepts and even materials.
  3. Make a reduce / reuse / recycle scorecard: A simple project to get children started on thinking about the environment and developing a critical awareness about the various kinds of plastics and packaging that we use in everyday life.
  4. Make a layered painting: Children love to draw, paint and colour. How about introducing them to layered art? It is simple enough to do and can lead to many creative innovations that the children will enjoy pursuing.
  5. Build a board game: A child I teach recently created a 2 board space game. It is a simulated version of what one would experience if you exited the earth’s atmosphere. Though he had help from his parents, the game mechanics include worm homes, black holes, asteroids, starts and distant galaxies. Children are naturally good at creating games — all they need is a little support for the finishing touches and making sure there is a logical way to win / end the game.

I will post about more ideas in the future. For now, why not give these a try and let us know how it goes!

This article first appeared on Tinkerbola’s blog. Go ahead and see if the resources on there catch your fancy!

Learner | Teacher | Experimentalist | Here to drop words on education, learning, and of course, my experiments :)