Why Boredom is a Good Thing (and helpful ways to manage it)

Why Boredom is a Good Thing (and helpful ways to manage it)

The moment the dreaded words, “I’m bored” roll off a child's tongue, the parent's entire being seems to be squeezed tight.  Here stands the parenting problem: Lose your mind, start day-drinking, or pull some amazing ideas out of your pocket to entertain the kids.

I’ll start by giving you my view (and some research to support it) on boredom, and then I’ll follow up with why you clicked on this article: Boredom Buster Ideas.

I know my kids are still young, 8, 6, and 4, 1.5 years old (and a 2 month old), but we are together 24 hours a day (homeschool).  There are definitely moments (A LOT OF THEM) that are not filled with things on my checklist, or theirs. My four year old has just entered the “This is boooooooooring” stage. Smack.My.Head. My daughter still has yet to utter these words in her eight years of life, but she is a creative sole.  She can watch leaves fall with joy.  So here I am stuck with figuring out what to do with boredom. As winter break approaches, and the long cold days near, you understand what I am talking about. Of course, I started researching.  I began with learning about the developing brain and what’s occurring at this age.  (Very interesting to learn about, if you have the time.)  Then I read about socializing, interactive play, imaginative play, and independent play.  I followed all of that up with boredom and what it truly means.

Boredom is the act of having nothing to do.

Numerous studies show that boredom is not only a good thing, but that boredom creates smarter, more intuitive, happy, and inventive people.  Having something to do all the time kills the creativity. A personal example is right in front of my eyes:  We finished schoolwork early this morning.  The kids begged to watch TV, which I typically reserve for emergencies, weekends, and evening times.  I said no and all hell broke loose.  After 10 minutes of craziness, everyone was calm and sitting around sad. I *almost* gave in, but instead, I pulled out my computer to work.  Within moments, a train was being constructed from our dining room table and chairs.  My children were pretending to head to a mountain house. This would not have happened if I directed their boredom elsewhere, whether it had been the TV or my own idea of creative play.  Don’t get me wrong, there is arguing and disagreeing happening, but that is part of life.  They are falling into their roles and I am not going to interfere unless things get seriously dangerous between them. (That has never happened though, as they always seem to figure things out.) ANNNNND…. My four year old just brought me a battery, screw driver and small hand held fan to fix.  THIS is what happens when I let boredom occur:  LEARNING and creative play. I allow boredom, I welcome it into my home.  While it may drive me completely insane at some moments (yep, a possible wine time at 2pm), I know that my kids will be able to handle all types of life situations. All of that being said, I will not lie to you.  I do like to have backup plans.  For the moments I just cannot handle, for the days of rain, slush, and freezing snow, and for the days I just don’t feel like adulting and my kids are acting like… well… kids. Those are the moments that I cannot throw them all into the backyard and watch boredom play out.  My own sanity depends of pulling something from my back pocket and keeping the peace in my own home.  So here we go… Young Children Watching Television at Home

Ideas to Beat the Bordeom

Don’t overthink, over-plan, or overschedule your time.  This list is meant to be a grab-and-go idea list.  Most ideas can be put into action with little set-up, other ideas ay require an amazon order or trip to the dollar/craft store (I tried to keep those ideas to a minimum because that’s just too time consuming for me.)
  • Go Outside Anyway: This is my first resort. Even if it’s snowing, drizzling, grey and dreary outside, there is something that can be discovered.  Ride bikes in puddles, use wet chalk to draw with, dig for worms, go to a playground, stop in puddles, build a snowman, you know… BE A KID.
  • Read and Act Out Books: Go to the library, pull out old favorites and read. Read to your children and then have them retell the story through pictures, acting or words.
  • Build a Fort: Blankets, sheets, and pillows across the dining room table and chairs (or couches, or just chairs).  Flashlights, binoculars, and walkie talkies will complete the spy kit.
  • Turn the lights out and use flashlights for shadow puppets.
  • Put on a Performance: My kids love to create circus acts, dance shows, and singing performances. These normally entail costumes and lots of rehearsal time.
  • Sketch Something: Anyone old enough to hold a crayon can do this.  Set up a still life and let the kids create their own drawing version of it.
  • Cut Space Helmets: Use brown paper bags and cut a hole for the face. Instant Astronaut Costume.
  • Air Mattress Jumping: My husband does not approve of this one, but when in need, I will pull it out. Blow up an air mattress and let your kids jump off their bed, the couch, a table, whatever onto the “crash pad.”
  • Tea Party: My kids (YES, sons too) set up tea parties all the time. Let them all help you bake a special treat and then have a fancy tea party together.
  • Sensory Bins: These take planning but can be stored and kept for any moment of boredom. Large Rubbermaid tubs (with lids) that hold items that stimulate the senses: rice with dinosaurs buried throughout, or dry noodles and pom pom balls… or feathers and sand.   (These can be tricky to clean up – just an FYI.)
  • Play Dough: Homemade is the best!  Nothing fancy needed, break out your cookie cutters, butter knives, and even Mr. Potato pieces.
  • Board Games: Card games, Twister, Monopoly – it’s their time to shine.
  • Rubberband Sling Shot: Use a popsicle stick and launch rubberbands across the room.
  • Laundry Basket Soccer: Lay a basket on its side and use a safe, indoor ball to kick.
  • Crafts/Painting: There are only 1 million ideas on Pinterest to choose from.  This is my last resort, as it typically requires buying things and big messes.  But the results are always super cute.
  • Toilet Paper Bowling: Set the TP up in a pyramid shape, the wider and higher the better. Take turns knocking it down and rebuilding.
  • Write to a Friend or Family Member: Let’s not lose the love of snail mail.  Have your little ones write or draw something and help them address an envelope.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Yell out a letter, sound, or color and the kids have to find something in that category.
  Resources on Boredom: http://www.fastcompany.com/3042046/the-science-behind-how-boredom-benefits-creative-thought http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/07/01/studies_shows_why_boredom_may_boost_creativity.html http://www.edutopia.org/blog/boredom-and-creativity-ainissa-ramirez http://www.childrenandnature.org/2014/05/11/in-defense-of-bordom-it-can-lead-to-imaginative-play-creativity-and-the-great-outdoors/ http://www.bbc.com/news/education-21895704 and so many more…  
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