Boredom can be a good thing

Many of us are eagerly counting the days until the long summer holidays. Longer days, great weather, trips to the beach, summer fruit and Christmas and New Years celebrations are certainly something to look forward to.

However with Australian children having up to fifty-six days break from school, all us parents know there is a dark underbelly of the long summer holidays – the inevitable cry of “I’m boooooooored!” These two words can make us nervous, have us frantically googling “things to do on school holidays” and reaching for our credit cards. But what if we did nothing?

Next time your children say, “I’m bored”, sit back and relax, knowing that you are being a great parent and helping their development. Letting your children be ‘bored’ once in a while, allows them the opportunity to plan, daydream, imagine and do. Having time in their day to be ‘bored’ allows children time to develop their thoughts and ideas into action so that they stop feeling bored.

Business, education and HR leaders around the world tell us that critical thinking, problem solving and adaptability are some of the top skills needed for employment in our world of constant change. Yet, research shows that childhood creativity is on the decline, showing falls of up to 85% on measures such as original thought, elaboration and problem solving between 1984 and 2008.

As we increasingly adopt digital technologies that encourage constant engagement, it seems what our children (& adults) need is time to be in bored (in moderation). Sure, it seems uncomfortable at first and those first few minutes may seem like they’ll never end, but as we push past these we begin to daydream, which allows us to develop innovative and creative ideas, along with new goals and plans.

As parents, there is much we can do to support creativity and imagination within our children. Prepare for the inevitable cries of “I’m bored” by following the tips below:

  • Give your children time – it takes children a long time to look around and see what’s around, who they can play with, figure out what to play and negotiate the rules…and that’s before they even get to the business of playing.
  • Make room for creativity – ensure there is a space that they can use without the worry of ‘getting into trouble’ for making a mess.
  • Collect engaging materials – make sure children can access safe and engaging materials on their own so they are empowered to act on their ideas.
  • Manage mess – provide a place for all materials, have a place for rubbish disposal, have materials for clean up easily accessible (rake, paper towel etc).
  • Expect the unexpected – do not assume that children will use materials (even toys and games with a specific purpose) in a certain way or place expectations on them with regards to a specific outcome.
  • Step back – if a child feels they are under constant scrutiny they are less likely to take risks which reduces their creativity.

So resist the urge to plan every moment of the school holidays &/or to provide digital technology as ‘down time’. Make time for boredom and you are likely to be amazed at the adventures that unfold. You might even find time to feel bored yourself…who knows where your daydreams may lead!

Written by Madeline Avci. Mum of 3 active boys. Occupational Therapist. Owner of Jump Up for Kids (including Jump Up Outdoors). Madeline is passionate about making the outdoors part of everyone’s day and supporting families to navigate the challenges of our modern world.

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