Be forewarned: I grew up with this being the idea of how not to be bored: "Go outside. Or read a book." I can't break free from my old-fashioned upbringing of total self-entertainment responsibility.
I also can't break free from the thought of rotting brains. That is, if my kids are sitting in front of a TV, or playing a video game (which would be quite difficult because we only have an old broken set, that takes so long to set up it's not worth it), or on any other device where homework isn't being done, there is some alarm that goes off inside me, beeping constantly, saying, "Rotting brain, rotting brain, rotting brain." Don't get me wrong, my kids DO sometimes rot their brains, but only in emergency situations (like the 14th day of 14 snow days (the worst winter in recorded history since history has been recorded), hyperemesis, or Mom has gone somewhere and Dad is home, yay!)
So if combine my fear of rotting brains with my old-fashioned "find something to do" upbringing I come up with a list like this:
1. Bake. Yes, there will be a mess, it can be contained. Whether it's brownies, or cookies, or hot pretzels, or an easy concoction that are really called Resurrection rolls but somehow were renamed Jesus rolls in our house. This can keep one or two kids busy, and it can be as easy following directions on a box. (And it's not just for girls, my boys love it also.)
4. Lego/Duplo villages. The photo above is a Lego village that covers an entire table top-Andrew and Patrick and neighbor friends have been working on it all winter long.
6. This basketball hoop is the best thing I ever bought and games are played every day for hours.
7. So this might not be something the kids yell, "Pick me, pick me!", but giving Sammy a show dog grooming session could kill a good hour and usually ends up being fun (and productive!).
8. Good old-fashioned forts.
9. Games. I find that kids will play games if one of us gets them interested by playing as a family first. (Or if we are at a friend's house and their kids are into it). One year "Monopoly Deal" was all the rage, this last year "Tensies" (a really easy dice game) and now my kids are playing Group Solitaire and Rummy.
10. A yard project, weather permitting. One year I built this (really easy, no sawing involved) sandbox with the kids (they were little so not really "with" them though they "helped" pick out the wood and dump the sand) and I know because it was a project "we" all did, it made the sandbox a huge hit.
11. Geo-caching. This is so fun...I didn't really "get" this till I read up on it, and a friend helped me (thanks Jane) but it's such a neat idea. You will need a GPS, but basically other people (and you can too) "hide" things in specified locations around town (around the world?) and you go on a hunt to find them...the fun is in the seeking. Some are far, but we found a few within biking distance in our little town.
Here's a much better description of what Geo-caching is.
12. Once, in March, after a long cold winter (but one without any snow), I was desperate (crazy, idiotic, insane, slap-happy, cabin feverish) enough to let the kids sled down the stairs. No one got hurt (not hurt enough to warrant medical help-which around here means your bleeding out so much a cloth diaper can't keep up, or your arm is hanging by a tendon and I can't stitch it myself, etc.). I am not saying this is a good idea, just explaining that I understand boredom desperation very very well.
13. Abbey and her friends loved "sewing" clothes for their stuffed animals and dolls. Basically it was pieces of felt I had found at a craft store and extra scraps of material, glued (use Stitch Witchery or other fabric glue) and/or safety pins. Sometimes they even just tied corners together to make little tops or skirts.
15. I had to include this photo too, because one spring break, when we didn't go anywhere "fun" our backyard flooded so badly (that's usually grass-we didn't realize we had a drain that had been covered by dead leaves) after a torrential down pour. Andrew waded back to the shed and got out Jeff's kayak and paddle and had a great time in our beautiful back yard "pond".
I guess the lesson in that is they'll find something to do. If not, I have a bunch of jobs.... :)