Did you know that boredom is actually good for kids?
While none of us want to hear little voices saying “I’m bored!” over and over again, there are actually benefits to boredom–and benefits to letting your child navigate those feelings of boredom without you swooping in to entertain them.
Because boredom facilitates a wonderful opportunity for children to be creative.
When every moment of their day is structured and planned, kids may be productive and engaged, but they aren’t being given a chance to get creative on their own. Their imaginations, problem solving skills, and ingenuity, essentially, are being stifled. They are not given the space they need to grow into and hone these skills, which will actually benefit them greatly down the road.
(Plus, letting them navigate their own boredom can give them a chance to really unlock their own creativity and make fun for themselves. And who doesn’t want that!)
Bright Horizons gives a wonderful example of this–because it’s not just true in children! They dive into how distraction free time (like in the shower, driving your commute, etc) allows you to do your best, most ingenuitive thinking because you have the space to think freely. Your thoughts can wander as far and wide as you want them to, leading you to new ideas you may never have had if you hadn’t given yourself the space!
Shouldn’t we be doing the same for our children?
And, learning to navigate boredom on their own helps foster a greater sense of independence in children.
When they know they can find a problem (boredom) and create a solution to the problem (creative play, imagination, etc.) they become less dependent on others to manage their problems for them! Of course, this doesn’t mean suddenly they are independent enough to do everything on their own–but watch as their thinking grows when you encourage creativity. Do they come right to you to solve problems for them, or do they try to work things through on their own before asking for help?
What boredom can do for your child:
- Enhance creativity
- Boost self confidence and self esteem
- Increase development of problem solving skills
- Create a sense of independence
- Create a sense of belonging within their environment
- Increase playtime happiness
How can you leave space for boredom in your child’s life?
Leave open spaces in their “calendar”
Does your child go from one planned activity to another? If their time is filled to the minute each day, they might be doing too much. If it’s not, make sure to leave space in their week that is just for them to play and get creative. Resist the urge to plan out everything they’ll be doing.
Encourage the problem solving:
If your child comes to you complaining about being bored, ask them “okay, and what can you do about that?” Maybe they’re just used to having planned activities to do that they don’t know how to begin navigating free time on their own. Remind them that they have the tools to entertain themselves.
Encourage messiness and silliness:
Do they feel free to really get goofy when they’re playing? If they are afraid of making a mess or being too loud, your child likely will not be able to handle their own boredom. While they shouldn’t have free reign on destroying the house, there should be a space where they can make a mess. Kids are messy and being messy is part of being creative! Do they have a play room where they can be silly and make a mess while they entertain themselves? Is there space for them to goof around outside? Sometimes all kids need is a space of their own.
Model similar behavior:
Are you jumping from one thing to the next constantly? When you’re not, does your child see you entertaining yourself, or getting creative? Or do they see you on your phone, watching TV, or with your eyes glued to your laptop? Make sure you give yourself space for boredom too, and show through your own behavior that it can actually enrich your life!
-Lindsay N. Sanner, LSCSW, RPT