Encouraging Boredom For Our Kids?

On these cold winter days, when we tend to find ourselves inside due to poor weather, many parents can be struck with a feeling of dread – what can we do today to prevent the big “B” word? That “B” word we are talking about is boredom, and for many parents it is something we go to great lengths to avoid. To keep our children stimulated and engaged, even in these winter months, many parents choose to fill their children’s daily schedule with activities and events.

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As well intentioned as this may seem, a recent article by the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/being-bored-is-good-for-children-and-adults-this-is-why?utm_content=bufferb8f6b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) suggests that there is value in letting our children be bored. As the article’s author explains, boredom can be seen as an opportunity rather than a deficit. Boredom helps to prevent the expectation that children should constantly be entertained or on the go. In boredom, we give children the opportunity to create their own pastimes and explore their inner curiosity, perseverance, and playfulness. Plainly put, simplifying our schedules and powering down from the outside world can be a great benefit for our children! As Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D, a developmental and clinical psychologist in Oakland suggests, children need to read, write, think, draw, build, and create. So much structured time does not allow for this to happen.

As Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting suggests, by consciously saying “no thanks” to packed days, parents and children can “gain time, connectivity, security, and ease.” Here are a few tips she suggests for simplifying our family lives:

  • Avoid overscheduling. Moderate your family’s extra activities, focusing on essentials, so that you and your children can function at a sustainable place. 
  • Embrace ordinary days. Not every day needs to be exceptional and our children shouldn’t expect that. Learning to appreciate the ordinary days can build character and encourage creativity.
  • Cut back on screen time. Eliminating screens helps foster children’s interactions with other humans and encourages exploration with the environment.
  • Reduce toys. According to Payne, simplifying play makes parenting easier. She suggests doing this by keeping a small selection of open-ended toys, like blocks and simple dolls. Echoing the same sentiment suggested by the World Economic Forum, Payne suggests requiring children to play outside often and allowing them to be bored. Through boredom, we can help to facilitate basic creativity and resourcefulness.

Here are some additional tips for finding that balance between over-scheduling and boredom:

  • Be a role model. Make sure you enjoy unstructured time so you children will value it as well!
  • Check in with your child and make sure that his/her activities are things they truly like to do.
  • Make time for unstructured family time so that you can create opportunities for bonding, problem solving, and physical activity.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep and create a bedtime routine that works for the whole family.

So here’s to relishing this time of year!

-Genevieve Levin