It’s summertime! While having kids out of school may be a happy disruption from the usual family routine, it might also have you asking yourself, “What in the world am I going to do to help these kids stay busy at home?” Are long lists of “boredom busters” the answer? Here’s why I say no.
You know what I’m talking about, right? A boredom buster is an activity that you give children to do so that they don’t get bored or because they come to you complaining “I’m boooooored!” all the time. You can find 100’s of posts out there full of 1,000’s of activity ideas to give your kids to do when they’re bored. In my opinion, screen time is also considered a boredom buster.
But boredom is actually something that you should embrace and, dare I say, encourage your child to be. Being bored gives a kid’s brain a chance to rest, be creative and develop curiosity. It teaches kids to be independent and explore their interests. The magic of boredom is not the boredom itself, but the good things that happen when a child figures out how to get himself out of that boredom.
Let’s look at these reasons and more in greater detail.
Boredom lets kids’ brains rest.
I’m sure you can empathize with this one. Modern living creates a massive amount of brain clutter in our lives. As a mom to 5 kids, my brain is constantly bombarded by kids asking me questions, babies crying, the mental list of all the things that I need to do, and information from TV, social media, blog posts, news articles, etc. While I’ve never done it before, I often wonder how blissful it would be to crawl right into a sensory deprivation chamber to enjoy some much-needed SILENCE.
Kids are no different than adults. Constant entertainment and information overloads the brain and causes stress. (Remember, the body acts similarly to both positive and negative stress.) In fact, scientists discovered the power of silence when they were studying how effective music can be for stress relief. When they used silence as a control in their study, they realized that the silence was actually more helpful for stress relief than the music was.
Kids that have grown dependent on a need to have constant input miss out on the chance to give their brains a break to process and relax from all that mental stress.
Being bored inspires creativity.
My mom is a teacher. She teaches a classroom full of refugee children who are preparing to enter the public school system. Many of these kids grew up in poverty and didn’t have a lot of the toys and electronics that kids here in the United States do.
She is always telling me stories about these amazing children and the wonderful things they do. Her best stories most often take place on the playground, where their ability to take common playground toys, like balls and jump ropes, and use them in unique and creative ways is astounding. They come up with their own games, they learn to do tricks, and they know how to entertain themselves with just those few simple items.
Creative children don’t need a house full of toys to play with to have fun and entertain themselves. They can invent and explore new ways of playing with them for hours and hours of creative fun.
Boredom leads to curiosity.
If a child is never allowed to get to the point of boredom, when will she ever have a chance to wonder about the world? Nowadays, it is so easy to find the answers to all of our questions. We even get a lot of answers to questions we didn’t even know we had yet!
But from that place of boredom, a child will notice things around him and be curious about them. He will come up with questions and, with a little pondering, he may even come up with the answers himself. It may also inspire him to go looking for the answers, and that is when the best learning happens.
Kids that can manage their own boredom are more independent.
Children that are given the answers to how to fix their boredom problems will become dependent on the source of those answers. If you give them ideas or teach them what to do, next time they need an idea to cure their boredom they’ll come to you.
Teaching my kids to independently amuse themselves doesn’t mean I give them free rein of the house or make them fend for themselves. They know that if they need help they can ask for it, but it’s up to them to come up with the ideas. For example, I will gladly help a child that comes to me and says, “Mom, will you help me make cookies?” over the one who says, “Mom, what can I do?”
Children that learn they are in control of their own amusement will feel more confident and capable of being able to amuse themselves in the future.
Children that learn they are in control of their own amusement will feel more confident and capable of being able to amuse themselves in the future.Breanne
Boredom will reveal a child’s true interests.
Want to find out what your kids are really interested in? They’ll do those things when they’re bored.
Want to find out what your kids like to do with you? Let them get bored and see what they ask you to play. Just today, my daughter asked me to color with her. She’s my budding artist.
Getting rid of boredom busters is good for your wallet.
I’ve been that mom before. The one who scours through lists of boredom busters to find some really cute ones and then drives to the craft store to emerge 2 hours later and $x poorer.
I do believe in a good supply of basic art supplies, toys, and building blocks. But I know it’s easy to go overboard.
I also feel like this approach teaches kids to understand the basic principles of minimalism. A kid that knows how to creatively use a few simple toys is much better off than one who complains that they’re bored while being surrounded by a room full of all the fancy toys and creative boredom busters that money can buy.
Allowing kids to be bored is more work for you…at first.
I’ll admit, if you decide to take the challenge and not pull out a boredom buster when your kids come to you complaining, it might not be pretty the first few times.
They may continue to nag. They may beg for more screen time. They will probably sit lazily on the couch and look a little lost, but that’s okay. Little by little, they’ll learn to help themselves and you’ll spend less and less time on boredom busting duty!
You don’t have to give up time with them to encourage boredom.
Remember all that time I used to spend planning cute activities to do with my kids to prevent boredom? I’ve decided it’s better spent elsewhere. Like sitting down and playing with them instead.
Just because you’ve chosen to let your kids be bored more often, doesn’t mean you have to give up spending time with them. Give them the chance to be the one to decide what you will do together. They’ll love it!
So, next time your kid comes to you and says those dreaded two words (I’m bored!) just say, “Good!” and sit back and watch. Don’t feel guilty about it either!
Because sometimes the best parenting happens when you sit back and do nothing.
More on boredom:
- Let Children Get Bored Again from The New York Times
- Can I Let My Child Be Bored from Psychology Today
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