“I’m bored!” says your child again, and you woefully remember that summer break is only half way over!
What if I told you that you didn’t have to feel guilty about your child being bored? What if I told you that boredom was healthy? What if I told you that you should praise and encourage boredom? What if you didn’t have to rush to entertain your child every time they say they “have nothing to do?” My guess is that you would feel relief and a whole lot less guilty!
We live in an instant gratification society where most of our children’s time is spent on a screen or in front of expensive toys designed to hold their attention, not participating in old fashioned playtime. The reality is, play is the most important work of children, not screens or “time wasters” like TV or a parent entertaining them every waking second.
Imagination, creativity, time management, self-discovery, and self-governance are all benefits of being bored. In fact, they are life skills and they are usually sharpened and discovered in the vacuum of boredom.
Boredom usually isn’t distressing for a child, even though it isn’t fun. “Life requires us to manage our frustrations and regulate our emotions when things aren’t going our way, and boredom is a great way to teach that skill.” - Stephanie Lee, PsyD, director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute.
Our society looks down on being bored, but in reality American children lead highly structured lives full of classes and activities that once were reserved for adult college students. When thinking about mental health, it’s important to just let your child “be” without a screen or a class or a schedule. It’s not a bad thing to sign your kid up for a sports class or a summer camp, but also schedule time for them to rest and be bored--filling and navigating alone time is just as important a life skill as learning how to make new friends. It’s also important for kids to learn the importance of self discovery which they can’t do in front of a screen or in the distractions of a strict schedule. Show them that boredom is a great way to rest and let your mind follow to it’s natural rhythm.
Here are some benefits to boredom.
Boredom Encourages Your Child To Plan Their Time
Children don’t plan their day or their time, but when they are bored it teaches them that if they want to feel accomplished or entertained, they need to be strategic and fill their day by themselves. They have to develop a plan, organize their materials, and solve the problem of boredom on their own. What to do with time is a life skill, so if you are filling a child’s time up with extra activities, they might never learn how to do it on their own. This summer, make it a personal goal to take a back seat and let them be bored.
Boredom Is Good For Your Child’s Mental Wellness
Doctors recommend having at least two hobbies for mental wellness, and by letting your child have unstructured free play, it is the best way for them to discover what they like and what they are good at. But also, being bored is a way for your child’s brain to take a break from the rythm and consistency of everyday life.
Boredom Teaches “Grit.”
“Everyone wants to believe they’re good at everything, but children who never experience failure don’t know how to deal with it when it arises. Having free time to try things out without the fear of failure is essential if a child is to develop grit and resilience.”-- Melissa Bernstein, founder of Melissa And Doug
Being Bored Will Inevitably Lead To Creativity
Everyone knows that creativity is probably the single most important part of being a kid. Boredom is the gateway to the world of creativity. Your child might be uncomfortable for a short time, but that uncomfortable feeling will motivate them to paint or write or build with blocks.
Boredom Teaches Problem Solving Skills
If you won’t fix your child’s boredom, it means they will have to figure out how to alleviate it themselves. While they might feel like it’s unfair at the moment, they will see one day that you taught them how to solve problems on their own.
When kids have free time without imposed structure, they can try new things, test their limits, and take risks. These are the things which build their confidence because they are discovering who they are.
Last But Not Least, Boredom Makes Childhood Fun
When kids “get lost” in play and creativity, that’s when the best childhood memories are made! They will remember the fort they built on the back patio, or the mud castles they made in the yard, or the flowers they potted, or the messes they made with paint and googly eyes, or the imaginary friends in the attic. Childhood isn’t always about how academic your child is--chiefly, childhood is about fun and the magic of playtime.
As you can see, being bored isn't a bad thing. In fact, if you run to find a new activity every time your child demands you to play with them, you might be stunting their development.
Here are a few things to say to redirect your child when they find themselves bored. Try to encourage your child to do things that encourage stillness, rest, individual play, and play that uses their imagination--this allows them to be alone with their thoughts and discover who they are, what they like, and to think about big ideas. It also allows their busy brains and growing bodies to rest and recharge.
Redirections To Boredom
“Go lie down on your bed and daydream for a while.”
"Go find a cozy place to read a book."
“Go learn how to make lemonade.” (or suggest a cooking activity that is age appropriate and can be done solo.)
“Congratulations! It’s good to be bored! You will find something to do.”
“Go cup clippings out of a magazine and make a collage."
“Go outside and play with a magnifying glass.”
“Why don’t you call a relative or a friend?”
“Build a fort with sheets and blankets on the couch.”
“Play a board game with your sibling.”
You can also make a list with your child of things they are interested in, and redirect them to their list when bordism hits!
Also note that if your child is interested in something like drawing or a board game, show them that you support them by helping them buy the supplies to get started. Get excited when they say they are bored and let them know that boardism is fun and you support it!