Why you should let your children be bored
In the era before screens dominated our lives, children’s complaints of being bored were often met with a simple solution: “Go play!” As it turns out, those parents were onto something. Extensive global studies indicate that enabling children to encounter moments of boredom and motivating them to discover engaging activities can serve as a catalyst for nurturing enhanced emotional well-being and mental health.Rather than avoiding boredom, this state should be embraced.
Leah Stevenson, a learning advisor in an interview with the Resilience Project, agrees and emphasizes the importance of allowing ourselves and children to embrace our feelings instead of constantly seeking ways to escape them. She explains that technology often numbs our emotions, preventing us from giving our thoughts the space to wander and daydream. By not allowing ourselves this time for introspection, we miss out on an opportunity to process significant emotions, especially trauma. This is equally important for children. Stevenson believes that device-free time creates presence, which leads to conversations, connection, and ultimately resilience.
Research supports the idea that boredom can be beneficial for children. In a 2017, survey by Toy Company Melissa and Doug, asked 1,000 parents from the UK, Canada, and Australia about how their children spent their free time. The survey revealed that many parents try to keep their children entertained with technology and devices rather than letting them be bored. While more than two-thirds of parents expressed worries regarding their children’s excessive use of electronic devices, only a quarter of them permitted their children to independently face and overcome boredom.
According to research conducted by Scientific American, unstructured play that relies on imagination rather than strict rules aids in the development of fine motor skills, while also fostering crucial social, communication, and emotional abilities that contribute to resilience. VicHealth further asserts that this form of play promotes risk-taking, normalizing the idea of making mistakes and teaches children how to handle the consequences of those mistakes. These skills play a vital role in navigating through life’s challenges.
Role modeling is crucial when it comes to influencing children’s behavior. Stevenson emphasizes the need for parents to reflect on their own habits and consider how often they allow themselves to reflect on their thoughts or take a break from their devices. Engaging in mindful behavior sets a positive example for children. For instance, instead of mindlessly scrolling through our phones in a doctor’s waiting room or a café, we can use that time for introspection. By substituting screen time with activities that embrace boredom and stimulate creativity, we can teach our children how to find joy in independent play.
Promoting children to venture into their surroundings presents an effective strategy to counteract boredom. Whether it be their residence, the backyard, or a nearby park, suggesting an expedition of discovery can trigger their curiosity. Encouraging children to fabricate a race track or a miniature town using masking tape on the floor can provide extensive hours of imaginative play, especially when supplemented with small cars, building blocks, or Lego. In moments of boredom, presenting old cardboard boxes alongside drawing materials or embellishments can ignite their creative faculties, resulting in the fabrication of rockets, cars, planes, or vibrant play spaces. Moreover, establishing a fort using sheets and chairs can captivate younger children or serve as inspiration for older ones to engage in games of house, neighbors, or camping and spend hours immersed in creative storytelling and role-playing.
The benefits of embracing boredom extend beyond the immediate advantages. Children can develop essential skills, creativity, and self-esteem through managing their free time. By engaging in conversation with children about their interests and passions, parents can collaborate on creating a list of activities and projects to tackle. Plus, you’ll have more peaceful and productive days without constantly hearing the complaints of boredom. Embracing boredom as a positive experience is a win-win situation for both parents and children.
It’s essential to remember that boredom doesn’t mean children have to be left alone without any guidance or support. It’s about finding a balance between providing opportunities for independent exploration and stepping in when needed. As parents, you can act as facilitators, offering suggestions, setting up the environment, and being available for guidance if children get stuck.
So, the next time your child utters those familiar words, “I’m bored,” embrace the opportunity. Encourage them to explore, create, and invent their own “boredom busters”. Provide them with the necessary materials, offer guidance when needed, and celebrate their independence and creativity. By allowing children to experience boredom and empowering them to find their own solutions, you’re not only supporting their emotional and mental growth but also providing them with the skills they need to navigate life’s challenges.
In a world filled with constant distractions and overstimulation, boredom can be a valuable gift. It’s a chance for children to tap into their innate curiosity, unleash their imagination, and discover the joy of self-directed exploration. So, let’s celebrate boredom and watch our children thrive as they learn, create, and grow into resilient individuals.