Being Bored Gets a Bad Rap!
If you read certain types of media, you could easily form the view that bored kids are at risk of being trouble makers. Indeed, being bored has been viewed as a state to avoid if you want your kids to ‘turn out ok’ and not ‘go off the rails’. The word ‘bored’ brings up such negative connotations, especially for kids it seems!
I want to discuss what current research says about boredom, and turn this negative notion on its head!
I’d also like to share some really effective and simple things to do when the kids are bored. First of all, though, let’s talk more about OUR perceptions of boredom and how they affect us.
When you hear your kids say, “I’m bored! There’s just nothing to do. It’s all BORING!”, how do YOU react? Do you feel the need to quell the ‘boredom monster’ at any cost? I must admit this has happened to me on a number of occasions.
(Maybe it is just me, but I suspect not!)
Why would the thought of our kids struggling with boredom create such a reaction? We certainly want our kids to turn out ok. Maybe it is the popular media depiction of ‘off the rail’ teenagers/kids being rooted in a state of boredom? Or is it to do with a societal push for a busy life full of ‘meaningful activities’? Is it the constant barrage of social media depicting amazing action-packed lives, possibly causing a feeling of deficiency if we fail to provide for our kids in the same way? Maybe it is increased use of technology, where we are rewarded with dopamine hits for our brains, available from instant tidbits of interesting information? It could certainly be any of these, or all. What do you think?
Are There Positive Ways to Deal with Boredom?
I’m happy to report a resounding yes!
Being bored is a healthy and very natural part of being human! In fact, it is an essential human process that has some surprising and lasting benefits for our mind and well-being. You can relax in the knowledge that you are doing your job as a parent /care-giver in letting your child to be bored! Knowing this is the best way to make friends with boredom!
Your kids may not instantly agree when you tell them but, as we will discuss, being bored is really good for them!
Make Friends With Boredom –
It appears, based on current research, that boredom can benefit your mind in several important ways.
Recent research has shown that being bored often results in increased creativity and increased capacity for problem solving. Professor Peter Enticott of Deakin University, asserts that ‘ …boredom could be a powerful motivator to seek more mental stimulation’. He agrees that boredom really does make people more imaginative and creative.
It also provides an opportunity for kids to think for themselves without outside interference or monitoring. This leads to developing a healthy sense of who they are and what they like – a sense of identity. As much as I love helping my children, I also have the goal of having them be confident to problem solve and think for themselves, and have a strong sense of who they are! I want to help them use boredom to their advantage!
So, now we have established that boredom is a positive and healthy state of being, how can we help our children (and ourselves) deal with the ‘boredom monster’?
What are Some Practical Ways to Assist our Kids When They are Bored?
Make Time for Free Time!
Firstly, make time for free time!! Schedule time to make friends with the ‘boredom monster’! If you want your kids to be able to think for themselves, then making time for just doing nothing and having no structured activities is the best way to start. Nominating an afternoon or a day a week/fortnight where the whole family have no plans will help kids understand that you place importance on this for yourself as well as for them.
Regular time for doing ‘nothing’ will allow you and your kids to become comfortable with this way of being – with, potentially, being bored – and it will not be such a stressful situation ! Having unstructured time to free play, both with other kids, and all by themselves, is also fundamental in learning to self-regulate. See here for more information on self-regulation strategies for your child.
Change of Scenery
Changing your outlook and perspective can sometimes make all the
difference! This can also apply when boredom sneaks into our minds.
Maybe that is why boredom exists in the first place? – It motivates us to change our perspective!
So, take your kids for a short drive or a walk – somewhere different to your usual places. Tell them you are going to take their minds on a holiday! I love going into the bush or the forest with my kids, as there is no need to do anything at all in the way of prompting their imaginations. There is
always something to amaze, collect, feel, smell, and play with. Inspiration and activities come to mind naturally, and there is just a remarkable sense of well-being that comes with being amongst the trees.
The same can be said of the beach and other places of natural beauty.
Sometimes even re-arranging a bedroom, or making a new activity centre in the corner of a room can inspire creativity and relieve
boredom. A sheet overhanging the table can be the best cubby house ever ! You
probably have many examples of your own like these! The point is to create change in your surroundings, even a small effort is beneficial!
Create a List of Possibilities with Your Child
Sometimes it can be a daunting prospect to be faced with an unstructured block of time, especially when this is an unfamiliar feeling and situation. It can be overwhelming and produce anxiety. So, for many kids it can be useful to sit down with them and create a list of possibilities as a starting point for them to explore. It is important to tell your child that there are no expectations from you at all and that there is no need to finish or complete anything.
Ideas for a List of Possibilities:
- Make a hide-out, or a cubby house
- Create an obstacle course
- Play dress ups and get in character!
- Take photos of a particular subject
- Make a mini movie
- Make an outside kitchen
- Bike ride or go for a walk
- Start a nature journal
- Make some special birthday cards
- Make up a board game
- Read a book
- Glue everyday objects together to make sculptures
- Collect nature pieces like feathers, or stones
- Paint stones!
- Draw a map
- Create a treasure hunt
- Do shadow puppets
- Make up a song
- Put on your favourite music and dance
- Train your pet!
Some activities will need support from you at first, but the idea is that, gradually, your child will be comfortable and excited about choosing and implementing ideas and activities all by themselves. This process can take time and encouragement, but if you start small, be consistent and remain positive about the idea, it will reap rewards for you and your kids.
I encourage you to turn the negative connotations surrounding boredom on its head! Encourage your children to make friends with their ‘boredom monster’! Boredom is good for them!
- Set aside time to be free of structured activities.
- Consider a change of scenery to give your mind a holiday.
- Sit down with your kiddos and explain how boredom is good for them. Help them come up with their own list of possibilities to explore in their free time.Being bored can produce profound and unexpected benefits for ourselves and our kids! It is now known that boredom can help children develop skills such as problem solving. It can foster imagination and creativity. It allows the opportunity to work out personal likes and dislikes and provides the impetus for self-direction and self-regulation. Wonderful!
It is time to look at boredom in a whole new way – as an essential
component of self-growth and an opportunity to change and discover new
ways of being and doing. Go ahead – Be bored!
It’s good for you and your kids!!
Thank you for visiting and reading this article! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas around boredom!