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Surviving Boredom

January 21, 2013 by  

Surviving Boredom

When I was 8 years old, my family experienced a power outage that lasted for three days as the result of a storm.

We were fortunate in the fact that we had a gas water heater, so we still had hot water and could take showers, and we had a natural gas furnace that kept us warm.

In addition, we could travel about 1.5 miles from our house to the city, which still had power and was operating as usual. We ate meals at restaurants, we kids went to school and our parents went to work. For the most part, life went on like nothing had happened. The life-changing impact came on the home front; my parents were forced to deal with a teenage girl and two young boys whose motto became, “I’m bored!”

As a prepper, when all the basic needs have been met, the second tier of priorities (comfort and luxury items) comes into play. Within this secondary tier fall entertainment items, the No. 1 defense against boredom in any situation. This is especially true when the everyday things that we take for granted, like electricity, have abandoned us. Entertainment during a disaster is limited only to the resources that are readily available. Consider some of these tools currently in use in the war on boredom for addition to your blackout kit:


There are a literally dozens, if not hundreds of games that can be played with cards. A survival situation will likely provide plenty of time to hone those gin rummy or go fish skills. Put the odds in your favor that you will not run out of games before the crisis is over; scour local thrift stores or garage sales for a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games or Hoyle Book of Games. This will ensure not only that you have a wide array of games at your disposal but, most importantly, that your siblings, parents, significant other, neighbor, dog or whoever you are playing against is following the rules. In addition to the variety of games that can be played with cards, they are also cheap and lightweight and they hold up well in almost all conditions. In addition to regular playing cards, there are also several other games that use cards, such as Uno.


Having a variety of board games in the closet can provide hours of family fun. Sometimes, depending on the game, a single round will last for hours. Just like cards, board games can be played by candlelight, lantern or just about any light source, making them a great source of entertainment in a survival or disaster situation. Board games can be found cheaply brand new; or buy used ones at garage sales, thrift stores and other places. A word of caution with used games, though: Make sure you get all of the pieces. Keeping pens and paper handy will provide an option for playing games like tic tac toe or hangman.


Puzzles are another option. While puzzles are something that I am not sure I would be brave enough to attempt to conquer by candlelight, it is reasonable to expect that a 500-piece puzzle could be completed in one day during the daytime.


Music can really make time fly, especially during periods of time that are incredibly boring or painful. There are a variety of portable music players that run on readily available and fairly cheap batteries. The hand crank style of radio is also becoming more common. Have a few CDs and a CD player on hand so you’ll have some music to listen to. An instrument like a guitar or harmonica can also be a great source of music and entertainment for those who have the skill to play. In addition to passing the time through music, having a radio on hand can provide a news outlet to keep up on local, regional and national conditions during a time of disaster.


There is a book to suit everyone. Books can be found free, cheap, reasonably priced or all the way up to horrendously expensive. The significant advantage of a collection of books for the prepper is that while serving as entertainment, books can also serve as a point of reference for important subject matter like natural medicine, hunting, fishing, cooking, preserving food, spirituality and survival. Don’t forget to take into account the age range and ability of the different readers who may be perusing the book collection.

Activity books are another option. They are plentiful and readily available for everyone from young children (coloring books) all the way up to senior citizens (large-print crossword puzzles). Most grocery stores, gas stations, dollar stores and supercenters carry a variety of activity books for all ages in the magazine or bargain section. At a few dollars or less for a sizable book of games and puzzles, an activity book can be the solution to boredom following a disaster or just plain handy to have if you catch yourself waiting for an appointment or a connecting flight.


Kids love toys, small kids and big kids alike. Keep a few favorite toys in a readily accessible area to help keep the kids busy. If the power goes out, it might be a great time for those toys with all the flashing lights to get a good run for the money.


A period of downtime during a survival scenario could provide the perfect opportunity to spend some time on an existing hobby, get back in to an old hobby or learn a new set of skills that you have been thinking about picking up. Some eligible hobbies might include:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Crocheting
  • Wood carving
  • Jewelry making
  • Fly tying
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Making origami


Sitting around waiting for the ice and snow to melt below the roofline of the house could be the chance you’ve been waiting for to share some embarrassing stories about other family members or yourself. Or maybe you could have a fiction storytelling contest. Maximizing the opportunity to sit together and share stories may provide the chance to learn more about each other or relive old memories. It is these family times that also provide a window to share traditions, beliefs and folklore between generations.


The TV not working might be a blessing in disguise. Use the extra time to get up from your chair and go outside and take a walk, have a pushup contest with your siblings, or play a game of hide-and-go-seek with the kids. If the weather outside is nasty, then walk the stairs. There are many exercises that can be done with a partner providing the resistance using a minimal amount of floor space. Whether it is high-intensity cardio or low-impact muscular strength, exercise can get you past boredom.

If your preps include a source of power like a generator or solar panels with a battery bank, additional sources of entertainment could include DVDs that can be watched on a laptop or portable DVD player and portable video game systems. Make sure that if power is used for entertainment, rationing is considered. It would be a bummer to use all the generator fuel to watch a movie and then have no way to cook dinner because of a failure to ration fuel resources.

Take care of the basics of prepping first. Once the essentials are complete, tend to the luxury and comfort items like entertainment needs to avoid the chant “I’m bored!” when disaster strikes at home. How will you survive boredom?

–Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller

lives with his wife and three sons in the Northeastern quadrant of the United States. He has completed countless hours of advanced training in both clinical and trauma medicine and is a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician. Tom has also completed several courses in disaster and emergency planning/management as well as hazardous materials handler and transport certification. He graduated with honors from American Military University with an Associate of Arts in Real Estate Studies. Tom is a U.S. Army combat veteran who served with honor as a combat medic on his multiple overseas tours during the Global War on Terror. During his time in the Army, Tom became an expert in the use of several weapons (including long guns, sidearms and improvised weaponry) and obtained competence with many other weapon systems, including foreign firearms. The Army also afforded Tom the opportunity to become proficienct in the driving and operation of several different vehicles from Humvees to heavy trucks and tracked vehicles. If there happens to be any free time available, Tom can be found sharing his passion for fishing with his sons, working on a project in the wood shop, tending to the garden or trying to maintain some resemblance of physical fitness. Tom's other writings can be viewed on his blog, The Prepared Ninja, at If you are on Twitter, Tom can be followed on the handle @preparedninja.

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  • dan

    I think Thomas is a kindred spirit who would not only survive an EMP
    but would thrive . Adversity often reveals that which is best about us…..
    which might explain a lot about the state of the world.

    • Robert Smith

      Setting up some car battery power ahead of time would facilitate not only a small TV screen and being able to recharge a laptop, but would also facilitate local low power (less than 5 watts) Ham radio communication.

      I get “old” batteries from a friend of mine with a garage. I’ve got half a dozen in parallell. Toss a little trickle charge into them and they are good for awhile. Ain’t scientific and it ain’t elegant enginearing, but it works for awhile.


  • ibcamn

    Most children now a days are tied to electronic devices and they have no idea how to entertain themselves!right?my 10 year old girl can be the same,but for the most part i just remind her of all the things she has and what other kids don’t have,and i don’t hear a thing till the following day,and it starts all over again!most of the time she’s outside or riding’s up to the parents to point the kids in the right direction.get them involved into sports and less video(games).my girl don’t play a whole lot of video games and we have them in the house,some from when her older brothers were living at home yet,but the new ones’s not like i didn’t allow them(she just got a cell phone)her and i play checkers(chess)cards,battle ship,etc..,i just gave her options and she would rather be outside!THANK GOD!!

    • RJT

      I hope you didn’t teach them to write. Your message is fine, but it is hard to read.

  • Polly

    My household was without power for about 14 days due to an ice stone. I was lucky to have a gas stove, gas logs in the fireplace and a gas hot water heater. There was one teenager and one elderly person staying at my house amoung others. We worked puzzles, played cards, listened to music and actually talked to each other. Once the weather warmed up a little we would go outside for walks (around all the fallen trees). The utility workers in my neighborhood who had been working so hard were glad to get a cup of hot coffee or cocoa.

  • Hedgehog

    For staving off boredom in a no power situation, don’t forget archery! Archery is fun: target practice with re-usable ammunition, making your own arrows, bowstrings, bows and perhaps even getting some meat or fish for the pot.

  • Steve E

    I just installed a natural gas generator at my house two weeks ago. The only drawback is that you gas bill will go way up if you have to use it, but it’s better than being in the dark and I can still read PLD.

  • Fred

    One must nurture strength of spirit, grasshopper, and if you are truly nurturing strength of spirit, “bored” will not exist in your vocabulary.

  • Michele

    Growing up if the word bored came out of our mouth we were handed a fork and told to go clean the calving stall. Or Mom suddenly needed us to clean house or do some baking…something called “work”. I think we each said we were bored about one time. Seven kids – seven annoying “I’m bored”. Not perfect, but pretty good. After that we pretty much learned how to look around and find something fun to do. I have little kids and since I don’t allow much tv, or computer they use their imagination all the time. Right now they happily reading, and playing little people. But when the word “bored” spills forth, my house shall sparkle….heheheehe.

  • Carlucci

    I lived in the Middle East for a few years in the Eighties. We only had a crummy “in house t.v. station” which was heavily censored (cable and satellite t.v. was forbidden). So a big group of friends on our compound used to meet at the pool on weekends and play Jeopardy! or Trivial Pursuit. We all had a blast and learned some interesting stuff from the games. The suggestions above are great, and I highly recommend the games I mentioned for anyone at any age who is “bored”…

  • SSMcDonald

    “I’m bored”…..Here’s a bucket and a mop. Here’s the windex and some paper towels. Here’s silver polish for the good silverware. Here’s some carwax and towels. Here’s some bath scrub and cloth. I don’t think you’ll hear “I’m bored” any more when the power is off

    • Melissa

      Exactly, I like your comment very much.

      Children are part of the family and they want to help, washing the dishes could be a game for them, helping the parents make them feel usefull.

      In earlier times there where hardly any toys, Children played with what was right in front of them.. A ear of corn could be a doll

      I used to tell my children:”
      Iam not your entertainer, Iam your mother
      If you are bored the joke is on you.
      It’s your own fault, if you a bored, find your self something to play or something to do. I wll also make some suggestions”.

      Everybody has to live and experience boredom, like we all do, its part of live, is part of frustrations tolerance, what a lot of people of the young generation are missing.
      Because they have not being teached to live with dissapointments or boredom and make the best out of it. and they want everything now.
      . This mentality compared with the entitlement thinking will hurt us in the future.

      • Melissa

        Oh and I forgot to mention an animal, a cat or dog will help alot to teach a child responsibility and against boredom it always helps to go for a walk with a family member and the dog.

  • Dan Mancuso

    I guess all the values learned by the generation that lived through the Great Depression are lost on people today.
    My parents passed those values on to my siblings and I.
    Values like appreciating what you have and being thankful for it. Like electricity and ALL it brings you. Imagine reading by candle or oil lamp light and being grateful to have any book, even the Bible. Or, having a wood stove for warmth and cooking, not to mention the benefit of strenuous exercise to get firewood. Or, once a day sitting around with family and friends and listening to the radio. Or, having a car and gas and a grocery store to drive to to get whatever luxury you can imagine, instead of the hard work it takes to have a garden and go hunting for your food.
    People are bored today because they have lost touch with what’s important because there is such a vast wealth of ‘stuff’ available to everyone. You think you’re poor? Hard done by?Being ripped off by the ‘rich’? Try living in poverty in a third world dictatorship!

  • Carol J

    We gres up without a TV. We were allowed to go to a friends house once a week to watch Howdy Doody until we moved to a very small town. The only time I can remember watching TV after that until I got married was watching the inauguration of Eisenhower. I was a requirement for school. Since there were only 23 students in the school, we were welcome in the home to watch. My Mother said until my brother and I had graduated from high school, there would be no TV. My dad would go to the mens club in the next town to watch football and boxing. He finally got a TV when he retired and was given on by his fellow workers. After, of course, they asked my Mother if it was OK.

    • Carol J

      Sorry about that gres. Was supposed to be greW. Proof read, proof read, proof read.

  • JimH

    If we were bored as kids, Mom would always find something for us to do.
    It generally involve a broom, rake, or paint brush. We learned to never be bored, evn when we were.
    We used to go long periods of time without electric. It was call the family camping trip.
    Plenty to do.(even without rakes)

  • Scott

    My Mother had a very effect means for quelling the whining of kids who dared to claim to be “bored.” It was a method that worked equally well for power outages and those weekends and summer vacation days where there was “nothing to do.” We learned very quickly to find some other — ANY other — way to amuse ourselves than to dare say the “B word,” because if we did, we very quickly found ourselves dusting, polishing, vacuuming and washing windows, and once we started, we weren’t allowed to do anything else until the job was done to her satisfaction!

  • Deerinwater

    A whole three days! that’s funny ~ I was eventually raised in a house that had electricity ~ We didn’t have much use for it at the time ~ Just did have anything to plug in. ~ The radio was battery, the lamps kerosene, and Ice box used blocks of ice. ~ the stove was wood fired, ~ as was the fireplace.

    You get use to it ~ My uncle did have a TV by 1950 ~ huge box with small screen ~ and in between flips, ~ you could see people inside! Amazing! How they get those people in there?

    Went I was a boy ~ me and my brothers could play in the dirt all day with six spark plugs and 5 thread spools. ~ And cry when we were made to come in.

  • http://midcontent ridge runner

    This kids being bored can beny neighborhood, and placed on the wimpy socialist democrats, kids can not do anything but all under 21 people should just fo and do nothing but go to school. The spoilt pukes like Rapist Ted Kennedy, and several other morons, who wanted education and unemployment bewnefits for(cattle guards), which are welded pipe creating a path wat for vehicles, so nobody had to open a gate. Of course these socialist/facists stopped kids from using lawn mowerrs with motors over 3.5 horse power. In the late 80′s and early 90′s a young person could make money mowing lawns. Gp to any town, city or a neighborhood and see what age group is just wandering doing nothing justexcuse to get into trouble, or trash something. Again it is the liberial BS that everyone is OK just over look the run away from destructive troubling crap. A good sessions of breaking big rocks into small ones cures alot of the troublemasking attitudes. I( know I was the manager of school transdportation. . If someone cut the seats on the buses, broke windows, trashed school property, or wouldn’t stop cussing at drivers, teachers, or fellow class mates, they all got an hour od breaking 6″ minus rocks for a hour for every offence. Parents were really supported the plan and especially the high school kids. Both the superintendet, and proincial were nervous as hoes in church. In 4 years nobody sued or whined. 10 years later these young adults were always coming up and giving me 5 for teaching them a valueable lesson in actions have consquences. My 1 sn and 5 daughters never said they were bored, there was always cars, pickups or equiptment to change oil, grease and check lights,change brakes, or straighten steeples or nails. All are supervisors of banks, business and officers in the military, so hard work and a early job nver hurt anyone.

  • Christine

    Boredom?? What about games like kick the can or red rover? Maybe we need to go back to the time when people actually talked to each other instead of plugging into the latest electronic gadget.

    You don’t need electricity to listen to music. Just get an instrument and learn how to use it, or even better, teach it to someone. It’s a shame violins, cellos, harps, and other such lovely instruments have been bumped out of style by loud, ear damaging, electrically powered noisemakers. Children might learn to love the pleasant sounds that come from learning to play an instrument, and might even keep it up once the power comes back on.

  • charlie

    by Thomas Miller.
    Bad article. ‘Twenty ways for idiots to induce self-pleasure’, seems like a better title.
    Seventy years ago the words ‘I’m bored’ would cause a list of things that needed to be done around the farm, rain down on ones head. A list long enough to consume about one-half of your ‘extra time’, even before you joined the others on the work details. A list that would consume your day, long after the sun had retired.
    This was the same generation that won two world wars – not so shabby for folks that believed in the providence of God and the ‘sweat of thy brow’; and always had things to do.


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