The benefits of giving our kids the gift of boredom.
Today I came home to find a fort in the living room and a fort in the kitchen. I'll be honest. My first thought wasn't "Imagine the executive functioning skills my kids developed in planning their blanket structures!" My first thought wondering who was going to clean the mess. However, instead of verbalizing this thought, I put it on pause and admired the handiwork of the mini-architects begging to give me a tour. It's a couple of hours later now and my kids are in great moods, very loud great moods. Trust me, I deal out my fair share of screen time when I need to, but moments like this give me a chance to see the benefits of offering boredom instead. Happy kids after an afternoon of problem-solving and creative play is pretty solid evidence.
This article by The Child Mind Institute talks about the benefits of boredom for kids including managing their tolerance for calm and quiet allowing minds to reflect and wander. Additionally, boredom allows children the chance to problem-solve and get creative. I commented on my own post recently (so cool of me) in an effort to get a conversation started (it didn't work....yet) about the concept of "And."
Beware of over-relying on offering boredom in the name of a scientific article. Kids need structure AND boredom. Kids need interaction AND exploration. They need play that is guided AND play that is self-directed. Sometimes we can let them be bored and interact with some materials or toys we offer them, other times they can figure it out themselves.
Are you more of a structure-every-moment parent or "free-range"? Are you more of a "let's play" or "go play" parent? Maybe you wish you could be more of one or the other but something gets in the way. Give yourself a break and remember that kids benefit most from multiple experiences- some structured, some unstructured. You aren't doing something wrong if you don't have everything planned out for their free time and you aren't doing something wrong if you do structure every moment!
When they need a little something extra to get the boredom started...
Not a Box- A family favorite! This simple book shows the many ways the character uses a box and their imagination to play. We use the phrase "it's not a box" regularly now to explore multiple uses for all sorts of items!
Shameless plug- I even wrote a book about what to do when you're bored. It's quite a helpful response to a bored kid to say, "I even wrote you a book about what to do when you're bored! Find an idea in there!" It's hard for even my 7-year-old to argue with that.
As a middle school teacher, I created these Boredom Busters for use at school and for parents to use at home. Free download using the link!
Want to know a secret? I wrote this post with an ulterior motive- to beg for comments from you, reader, teaching me all of your parenting wisdom (btw, I was today years old when I learned how to spell "ulterior"). Please, spread the love via comments!!
What boredom busters do you use?
If this is something you want to try out: I double-dog dare you to give your kid(s) the gift of boredom when you would usually give them a screen at least once this week! Tell us how it goes!
Imperfect in Arboro,