Are you at home with children? Would you rather they do something else than just look at the TV or tablet? Does your child struggle to entertain themselves? Have a read on the benefits of boredom in children.
Boredom has become a bad thing in today’s non-stop world. New research shows that fewer than 1/5 parents strongly agrees that it’s positive for children to experience boredom from time to time. (Reminisce all the fun and creative ideas Art Attack inspired with the video at the end of the article)
Why can’t today’s kids cope with being bored?
The threat of stranger danger, meanwhile, means many of us are reluctant to let our children play outside unsupervised. Observing other families’ lives on social media can leave us feeling that we’re not doing all we could do. Moreover, the increase of families where both parents are working also plays a part; as children spend more time in childcare or other organised activities.
Far from being a bad thing, periods of boredom, where children have to rely on themselves for entertainment, are essential to a healthy childhood.
1. Boredom encourages imagination and creativity
When children are left to their own devices; they must to become more creative and imaginative in finding ways to amuse themselves. Giving them opportunities to try things of their own volition builds their sense of discovery and curiosity and helps them explore what brings them joy.
Children need to learn to take initiative and think of ways to occupy themselves. It’s a stimulus to imagination and creativity. Indeed, people who have a range of boring tasks to complete show more imagination when they’re then to take part in a creative thinking activity.
2. Boredom teaches ‘grit/resilience’
Everyone wants to believe they’re good at everything, but children who never experience failure don’t know how to deal with it when it arises. Having free time to try things out without the fear of failure is essential if a child is to develop grit and resilience.
3. Boredom develops problem-solving skills
Does your child expect you to come up with something for them to do whenever they’re at a loose end?
Well, stop intervening, because boredom will help them develop their problem-solving skills. In a world where children are constantly stimulated, they can feel uncomfortable if they don’t have anything to do. Nevertheless, this encourages initiative and problem-solving, as they have to rely on themselves to tackle the ‘problem’ of being bored.’
4. Boredom helps children form relationships
Having unstructured time to play with other children will help your child develop interpersonal skills. If children experience time and space with nothing to distract them; it helps them to negotiate and collaborate with each other and develop activities jointly.
They will be learning how to communicate, make eye contact and read body language – things that can only be learnt from experience.
5. Boredom builds confidence
When your child has opportunities to occupy themselves, and manages to do so successfully, it gives their self-esteem a boost. They can try new things, test their limits and take risks, which will all build their confidence
6. Boredom improves mental health
Today’s kids (and adults) tend to be so busy that there’s little time to be still and let their minds wander. Having time to just “be” gives them the opportunity to think their own thoughts and get to know themselves better.
Research shows that allowing the mind time to wander rather than being focused on activities all the time is very important for mental health.
7. Boredom creates a sense of belonging
As well as having time to think, unstructured downtime gives children a greater sense of community. If children are always busy with some focused activity, they might take their surroundings for granted. Still, it’s important that they have the chance to engage with their environment so they feel a sense of belonging to where they live.’
8. Boredom makes childhood happier
Your child may argue that boredom is, well, boring, but actually, it could make their childhood happier overall.
When adults talk about their childhood memories, rarely anyone ever mentions anything material. It’s always the simple things they remember: connections, laughter and nature.
How to encourage your child to make the best of boredom
If your child usually has their time micromanaged, making the shift to a way of life where they’re responsible for amusing themselves some of the time can be tricky. It might be difficult at first because they don’t know how to do it; and you’ll have to be their imagination coach, but once the spark has ignited, it will get better.
Try these techniques for encouraging the benefits of boredom in your children.
- Have a weekly activity detox. Nominate one day a week where the family has no structured activities, and make it up as you go along.
- Give them a creative, open-ended task like building an obstacle course in the garden or setting up a treasure hunt. This will inspire creativity, as they have to decide what the treasure will be, hide it from you, write the clues, and so on.
- Provide low-tech toys. If you have the space, collecting things like off-cuts of wood and fabric, cotton reels, junk modelling resources and old clothes from the charity shop will give your child endless opportunities for free play. You don’t need to buy an expensive marble run when your child can make an even better one from things you have lying around the house.
- Don’t mind the mess. Everything can be cleared away, and you can make it a condition that your child has to help tidy up afterwards.
- Get outdoors. Take your child to open spaces and resist the urge to jump in and protect them,’ Melissa advises. ‘Let them climb on the highest monkey bars, and allow them to take risks.
- Be a good role model. Wait as long as you can before introducing smartphones and other devices to your child, and model healthy attitudes to technology yourself: you can’t insist that your child puts their phone down if you’re always on yours.
- Create a sense of community. If you live in an area where it’s safe for children to play outside, get a group of parents together who all know to look out for each other’s kids. It’s what we were used to in our generation, and it’ll help develop a great sense of belonging for you and your child.