Why boredom is good for kids

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My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Thanks to a post yesterday by LA called Boredom, I remembered I had written about the subject years before. I dusted it off and updated my thoughts on being bored and how boredom boosts creativity.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it didn’t last. I could go outside when we lived in town and ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. I run to the lot where a brown quarter horse lived. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

When we moved out to the country and we didn’t have close neighbors to play with, I would lay on the grass and watch the clouds.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in their screens. They don’t know what it’s like to have to use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids last week, here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “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.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave them more hours for imaginative play. Swim meets also gave them time for creativity. They would sit under a pop-up tent for hours with their teammates. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

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The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What are your thoughts about boredom? 

16 thoughts on “Why boredom is good for kids

    • I think it’s easer as a parent to keep kids busy rather than let them be bored. But, it’s important that they learn to entertain themselves and let their imaginations take over. Thanks for commenting!

  1. Well…you know…but when my daughter was younger I had a five drawer plastic draw thing filled with art supplies. I also had a 90% firm no phones at table or when waiting policy. We were big on the alphabet game…we’d name a subject and alphabetically find things that fit. While the game itself was a scapegoat, after a few minutes it would relax my daughters brain so she could just be. It was like a gateway to brain chill

  2. Boredom is good sometimes. I remember walking outside on our farm, playing with my paper dolls, etc. What I noticed teaching younger kids is the need to be entertained immediately and it is exhausting. Let the mind rest. Even as an adult, sometimes boredom is good .

  3. I rarely got bored as a kid, because we had a park with a small creek (“crick” if you live in the south), and that creek had unlimited tadpoles and unlimited mud. I was on my bike by 8AM, in the park by 8:05, joined by my pals by 8:06 to start a game of neighborhood baseball followed by previously mentioned mud/tadpole excavation. The only rule we had to worry about? Be home before the streetlights came on.

  4. This is so timely! My granddaughter is here visiting and she is the only kid. She is used to having her sister and cousin around to play with. But on this trip, she came alone. She whines at least once a day that she is bored. I was contemplating what to give her to do while I’m in a meeting today, and you have answered my question. I’ll provide some craft supplies and let her have at it. My meeting is only 30 minutes so surely she can be creative for that amount of time. With any luck, she will entertain herself long enough for me to complete any tasks that arise as a result of the meeting as well!

  5. I’m with you in that my childhood experiences were so different than today’s. Then as now, however, my go-to cure for boredom was and is to crack open a book.

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