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Is Boredom Bad for Kids?

Is it bad for my child to be bored?

“Mommy, I'm bored!” Hundreds of thousands of parents are hearing this phrase right at this very moment. Some of these parents will swoop in and turn on a movie, give their child a task to occupy their time, or engage their child in a craft or maybe some other activity. But, is boredom bad for kids?

Are we there yet?

Photo by: Tommy Truong79

Is it bad if kids are bored?

These parents are well intentioned. I mean, we all want our kids to enjoy their childhoods. And what kind of parents would we be if we didn't aquiest? Surely only the laziest of the lazies don't ensure their kids have something to do during their downtime.

We have come to believe that being bored is a bad thing; that we must step in to help combat boredom. I mean, if our kids are bored, that means their brains aren't working as hard as they should be.

They aren't learning anything (or so we think), so we jump in to save them with some TV show or parent (or child)-led activity.

Boredom is a skill

What if we could change our thinking and embrace boredom as a natural opportunity for our kids to figure out for themselves what to do? What if we embraced boredom as something even greater; the beginning of an adventure of the mind, an experience in creating fun where fun isn't obvious?

What if we treat boredom as a skill; one as important as anything else they will learn in the first several years of life. What if we remove our own value judgements and trust that there is value in the play brought about by boredom?

Do you remember being young? Yeah….me, too! A life filled with discovery and fantasy. Now, do you remember being bored? I do, but I don't remember ever mentioning to anyone, because I had the mental tools to fix it. I was given the mental tools to solve my boredom, by simply being allowed to be bored!

Mental tools, folks. It isn't all about what your child knows or how about they are able to relay that information to you and others. There are many very, very intelligent kids (and adults) who own a vast array of knowledge, but are lacking in the creativity department.

Boredom isn't bad

So, what are the benefits of boredom?

  1. Increased creativity.
  2. Better problem-solving skills.
  3. Higher self-esteem.
  4. It helps them deal with discomfort.
  5. Better learning.
  6. Increased intellectual curiosity.

How do I get my kids to play by themselves?

So, we've established that boredom isn't a problem to be fixed; that it's a good thing! I've sold you on the benefits of boredom. So, how do we let it happen?

  1. Decrease screen-time. If the TV is on, your kids will probably prefer it to play, which limits the opportunity to learn to deal with boredom.
  2. Limit structured activities. Take away screens, but replace them with your ever presence, and your ideas and you may as well just let them watch TV. Remember, boredom is the goal here.
  3. Don't interrupt your child during play. When you observe your child playing, just let them play! Resist the urge to interrupt and teach.
  4. Sit close, but don't interact. If your child is new to independent play and/or boredom, start by sitting next to them while they play. Don't interfere and don't interact unless requested to.
  5. Set limits. It's ok to tell your child that you have something else to do. It is a reality of life. Parents have more to do that play with their kids all day. Dishes need washing, laundry needs folding, floors need sweeping, meals need to be cooked, and…dare I say it…parents need time to themselves! It is perfectly ok to tell your child that you are busy doing something else and that they must entertain themselves. They may not like it at first, but comfort them and explain to them that you have things to do….they will come to understand.
  6. Offer simple, open-ended toys. Blocks, Magna-tiles, Legos. Toys that utilize their creativity!

It's critical that we remember that the more we do for our children, as far as play goes, the less they will do. It's very easy to, with the best of intentions, rob your child of opportunities to fully develop.

Boredom can lead amazing things!

So, try to change the way you think about boredom. Let your child have the opportunity to be bored.

It's not just great for them, but having kids who can entertain themselves is great for parents, too!

What do you do when your kids complain of boredom?


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