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It’s summer break here in the northern hemisphere and there is a barrage of articles on how to keep your kids entertained throughout the summer. Instead I suggest you do your kids a favor and let them get bored. Painfully bored.
The Effect of Boredom on Kids
Boredom is good for kids. It forces them to entertain themselves, which ignites their creative intelligence. From this, they learn that they can solve their own problems. This is HUGE!
Some will protest this idea, suggesting either 1) boredom leads to trouble, or 2) we should want to play with our kids. True on both accounts.
But, since most kids are good kids (and hopefully yours is!), boredom usually leads to ingenuity rather than trouble. Bored kids recover by turning to books or art. Their initial frustration, if left unfettered, forces them to turn inward to solve their own problems.
While parents do need to connect with their kids, connection is different than entertaining or micromanaging. Connection occurs most naturally through child-led play. Play is your child’s natural form of communication.
If you are a chronic child entertainer, then it’s time to change your game. This doesn’t mean cutting all ties with your kid. Do take time to meaningfully engage with your child everyday. But not all day. Set him free to discover his own ideas and interests. To do this, he’ll need to get bored. Constructively bored.
How to nurture constructive boredom:
- Brainstorm ideas with your kids. Help them come up with ideas and activities that they can do. Keep “doing nothing” or “relaxing” as viable options.
- Take time to transition away from entertainer. Your child may protest this initially. Continue to encourage him, but do not get swept up into a debate or battle. Remember 1-2-3 Magic.
- Turn off the TV. Limit all screen time significantly. TV isn’t likely to bring out your kid’s ingenuity.
- Go outside. If you wish your kids would go outside and play, you might just need to model this for them. Explore outside, in all kinds of weather.
- Read a book. When your child is looking for something to do, sit down and get out a book. You can invite your child to sit with you and look at or read his own book.
None of us intend to raise kids who can’t figure out how to entertain themselves. Yet, a highly-sheltered, over-structured childhood is a by-product of the society in which we live. This results in kids who are dependent on constant direction. In other words, they have not learned to play by themselves or entertain themselves. They are always seeking entertainment. Our kids have become entertainment junkies.
Furthermore, we live in a world that values convenience and fun. We’ve internalized a message that if our kids are bored we need to fix it. When your child complains of being bored, remind him that bored people are people who can’t figure out what to do. With all the confidence in the world reply, “I’m sure that you can find something interesting to do or simply relax”.
Easy anytime activity:
Put a small pile of shaving cream on a table or countertop and allow your child to explore. It can be very soothing to those seeking sensory input, inspires creativity, and is easy to clean-up.