‘Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves’ – Dr Vanessa Lapointe
With the school holidays upon us, many parents will be frantically trying to find new ways to fend off boredom for their kids.
And thinking of new and exciting activities to do is always going to be a good thing…
Organised activities involving sports, music or education have proven to be beneficial to a child’s physical, cognitive, cultural and social development.
But there is also something to be said for allowing a child to be left to their own devices, or to experience ‘boredom’, according to Teresa Belton, visiting fellow at The School of Education and Lifelong Learning.
‘Children need time to themselves – to switch off from the bombardment of the outside world, to daydream, pursue their own thoughts and occupations, and discover personal interests and gifts.’
And it doesn’t matter if your child doesn’t have any obvious personal interests or hobbies that they can pursue independently.
‘Just letting the mind wander from time to time is important… for everybody’s mental wellbeing and functioning.’
‘A study has even 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.
And it will also encourage the ability to be quiet and mindful as an adult, without the constant need to be on-the-go or entertained.
But how do we handle the ‘bored’ child, and teach them to embrace these moments of free time?
- Help your kids to look at these moments as opportunities, rather than deficits.
Give them the encouragement and ability to do so.
‘Children need the adults around them to understand that creating their own pastimes requires space, time, and the possibility of making a mess‘, says Belton.
2. They’ll need some materials to work with.
Simple things like cardboard boxes can become spaceships, cubby houses or animal barns for the creative child.
For older kids, even planks of wood or baskets of wool can be the source of their inspiration.
3. Support the development of their inner resources even more than the material ones.
‘Qualities such as curiosity, perserverence, playfulness, interest and confidence allow them to explore, create and develop powers of inventiveness, observation and concentration.’
So develop these faculties during organised activities, like at the museum or park, and then show them how to keep using those faculties at home.
‘By ecnouraging the development of such capacities, parents offer children something of lifelong value.’
4. Give them prompts.
If they’ve run out of ideas, suggest some options…
What does that cardboard box look like? How can they make it into something different?
What’s a story they could create with the materials they have?
5. Teach them the value of perserverence.
If something doesn’t work out like they wanted, encourage them to keep trying, and give them a helping hand if necessary.
This is another life skill that will benefit them ongoingly in all their pursuits.
Of course, with months of long summer days ahead of you, easy options like the television or tablets will be a reasonable from time to time.
But next time your child complains of boredom, remember:
Boredom gives children an inner quiet that helps with imagination and self-awareness.
Creative processes can stimulate interests that will stay with the child for life.
Children develop creative skills when they have to come up with solutions to boredom.
And that’s certainly worth putting in a little extra effort for.