“I’m boooored!” Those two words that make parents cringe. After summer camps, dance lessons, kung fu practice, day trips, and play dates, the last thing we expect to hear from our kids is “What do I do now?”
Boredom is inevitable. But boredom is also a good thing! This might sound funny coming from a toy store, but boredom is just as important as play is for kids.
“Being bored is a way to make children more self-reliant.” -Lyn Fry
As adults we sometimes (unconsciously) shield children from being bored by packing in their summer with camps and activities. However, psychologists and child development specialists warn against over-scheduling your child’s time. “I think children need to learn to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done,” says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist, in this Quartz article. “Being bored is a way to make children more self-reliant.” Giving kids the time and space to be bored and unoccupied motivates them to come up with a solution, get creative, discover their interests, and learn something new.
This time and space that boredom creates let’s kids process, explore the world around them, and contemplate life. “Children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them,” Dr. Teresa Belton says in this article.
Instead of relying on you, the parent, to fill their time, kids learn to fill their downtime with activities and interests they enjoy. “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society,” says Fry. “Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that makes you happy.”
Also, boredom stimulates imagination because it encourages young ones to think outside of the box. A child doesn’t have to be stimulated by external things, like the TV, iPad, or even a toy, to jumpstart his imagination. Kids who learn to make the most of boredom know how to develop internal stimulus. Boredom can inspire children to draw pictures, write stories, build something, or make up a new game.
“Children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes…” -Dr. Teresa Belton
Fry suggests that at the start of the summer parents help their children come up with a list of activities they enjoy doing and things they want to learn. We’ll call it “The Bored List.” The list could go something like this: play basketball, go fishing, read a chapter book, build a fort, learn to bake cookies, practice piano, etc.
When little Johnny comes running to you with the words “I’m boooored,” you can whip out the list and have him choose something to do. It’s OK if he mopes around a bit, though. He’ll be learning to find the motivation to do what he likes and the inspiration to seek creativity.
So, let your kids be bored this summer. Childhood is a time meant for self-discovery, adventure, and growth. With a little boredom, kids can go a long way!