Why boredom is healthy for your kids
Most of the time, parents are trying really hard to think of all the games, activities and things their children can do. I know I always racked my brains to try and keep my kids busy all the time, until I simply gave up.
I realised by watching them play together, that the times when I didn't give them anything to do and when they were bored, became the time when they were most creative. They built sand castles on the beach, made playdough and created doll houses, came up with the most fabulous games together that never had a name and generally just enjoyed themselves. Sure, they loved all my great activity ideas but sometimes it was good to give them the reins and let them come up with something to do by themselves.
Boredom is a wonderful thing for your kids. Children learn to let their thoughts and imaginations roam, explore ideas, think creatively and choose activities that match their moods – for example, if your child is feeling full of energy, they might want to be physically engaged. Even going for a lap around the park or playing hide and seek together is a great way to be active.
What are the benefits of boredom?
Studies have shown that, if we can engage in some low-key, undemanding activity… the wandering mind is more likely to come up with imaginative ideas and solutions to problems. A creative imagination and problem solving ability are important life skills, so it’s good for children to have these moments of ‘boredom’ and having to find ways to entertain themselves.
"Children need the adults around them to understand that creating their own pastimes requires space, time, and the possibility of making a mess. It might be messy but it will be supporting a greater impact on your child's learning", says Belton.
Boredom is fantastic for children’s play, say parenting experts
"When children are required to find something to do, they're forced to use their problem-solving skills, creative thinking and imagination to play," says Associate Professor Julie Green of the Parenting Research Centre.
"It's important for parents to play with their children but they don't have to entertain them all the time. When children are bored it creates a feeling of being able to rely on themselves to be resilient; the ability to get through something that might be a little bit tough and a little bit stressful," says Cat Sewell, play specialist.
Remember to keep this in mind when school holidays and breaks come up, and even after school. From a homeschooling perspective, you're always going to be spending time with your kids and remembering that letting them be bored is often a relief. You don't have to make sure they have something to do every second of the day!
5 Ways to Help your Kids Work Through Boredom
1. Help your kids to look at these moments as opportunities, rather than deficits
Encouraging your child to engage their creativity in their moments of in-activity will support them to discover their world in a different way. They will find new ways to play and have fun - in their own way and their own time.
Especially when they are younger, children mirror our responses to different experiences. If you are feeling frustrated when you run out of ideas and things to do, they will pick up on that. They too, will feel a sense of anxiety around "being bored."
However, using a new approach to "not having anything to do right now" will support your kids to look at these moments as opportunities to get creative.
2. Have some materials to work with
I like having a box of random things that I collect, things that are easy to work with. Throughout the week, as I ran errands and visited places throughout my day, I would collect glue, fabrics, cardboard, markers, playdough, food colouring and other things that prompt new ideas. When the time came for "play time" and they had nothing to do, the kids would pull everything out of the box and make up their own games.
Even simple things like cardboard boxes can become spaceships, cubby houses or animal barns for the creative child. Keep in mind your child's age and interests, as something like planks of wood or baskets of wool can be the source of their inspiration.
The op shop is also a good way of collecting fabrics, ceramics and other pieces that you can start creating with. It's much cheaper than buying your supplies brand new, and you're also recycling unwanted goods.
3. Support the development of their inner resources
Qualities such as curiosity, perseverance, playfulness, interest and confidence allow them to explore, create and develop powers of inventiveness, observation and concentration.
When these inner qualities are discussed and developed during your organised activities, such as ballet, soccer, or visiting the museum or park, your child will be able to use those same qualities when they are stuck with nothing to do. By encouraging the development of such capacities, parents offer children something of lifelong value.
Encouraging your children to be comfortable in their own space and supporting them to make their own games and creativity will serve you too, and make your job as a mum much easier. Anytime you need to wait in line, stand in the queue or sit at the dentist's office, your kids won't be kicking and screaming with boredom.
4. Give them prompts
This is a great way to coach your kids when they feel stuck or overwhelmed. Work with them, and notice when they run out of patience with nothing to do. Notice what they say, what they are asking for.
If they’ve run out of ideas, work with them to suggest some options and allow them to come up with the answers. This will help them know everything is okay, that you are supporting them through this and not just abandoning them to the unknown abyss of boredom. Sometimes that's all it takes.
You can ask them simple questions like:
What does that cardboard box look like? How can they make it into something different?Can you tell me a story and then re-create it with objects you have?
If you could make up your own game, what would it be? What would the rules be?
5. Teach them the value of perseverance
If something doesn’t work out like they wanted, encourage them to keep trying, and give them a helping hand if necessary. Remember, you want to be there to help and support them, but you want to allow your kids room to work it out themselves. This is another life skill that will benefit them ongoing in all their pursuits.
If they are in the middle of building a fort and need some string to tie everything together, see if they can add string to the shopping list and add it to the trolley next time you go shopping. If they are close to the shops, maybe they can visit the shops and pick up the items they need. Instead of giving up and throwing in the towel, teaching responsibility and perseverance is a wonderful skill to teach your kids.
Next time your child complains of boredom, remember:
Children develop creative skills when they have to come up with solutions to boredom
Encouraging your child to think, engage and get creative in their world without relying on you is a wonderful skill that teaches them self awareness
Supporting your kids through the process of being bored with nothing to do, to coming up with a solution that they are engaged in is an excellent way to nurture strong inner qualities
"Being bored" is perhaps the most powerful place to be, where creativity is fostered
Need some ideas to get rid of boredom?
Of course, being bored all the time isn’t healthy. What parent hasn’t dreaded the last hours of a long school break, when days of unstructured time lead to sibling squabbles and meltdowns? Where’s the line between too much boredom and not enough? It’s different for every kid and every family, and it may take some time to figure out where your line is. It can be hard to let your kids be bored. Just like you have to live through your children’s tantrums so they learn to cope with frustration, you sometimes have to live through their boredom so they learn to be self-sufficient, engaged and aware of the world around them.
If you need some ideas about different activities you can do to engage them (if you've given them enough time to be bored), here's a few great options:
3. 100 Maths Activities for Homeschoolers
Letting your kids be bored will accomplish something else important: developing them into interesting, funny, thoughtful people who can have dinner time conversations and cope with long car rides. That’s good for them and for all of us!
Hope that helps,