When parents hear their child say “I’m bored,” it is often followed by a feeling of guilt, which is followed by an effort to entertain them. But studies show that parents shouldn’t feel the need to combat all instances of boredom. Boredom can actually benefit children. In this quick tip episode, we discuss 3 ways boredom benefits a child’s developing mind, and why parents shouldn’t feel guilty when they hear the words “I’m bored.”
Although we may think of boredom with a negative connotation, one of the best things to come from boredom is creativity. Boredom allows our brains and imagination to go wild and come up with creative ways to stay entertained. For example, playing pretend or making up imaginary friends or games is a way for kids to entertain creatively more than they would during structured play.
Another benefit that comes from being bored is the ability to quiet the brain. When kids don’t have structured play or activities scheduled, they have the chance to settle down quietly away from the usual hectic pace their minds and brains keep and just have quality alone time with themselves.
Those snippets of boredom offer kids the chance to embrace the quiet moments. They may not realize right away, but if you don’t try to orchestrate a ton of things for them to do when they announce they’re bored, you will allow them the gift of peace, which can definitely lay a solid foundation for the hectic years of adulthood to come. Not to say you won’t get resistance at first, but you can teach them mindfulness or a short meditation game which may eventually become a habit for them when they get bored.
Foster Interests and Explore
Boredom also teaches kids to explore what they are interested in and fosters their discovery of things that enjoy doing independently. Many parents want to create a stimulating environment that would help them grow and allow them to express themselves. But what parents might not realize is that providing a busy atmosphere limits creative growth. The reality is, parents cannot foster their kids imaginations and interests—they needed to do that themselves.
Pediatricians advise that children shouldn’t have all their time planned out for them. A study from psychiatrists and neuroscientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder found that children who engage in unstructured play are better able to develop their decision-making skills and discover their own areas of interest. Which goes back to the idea that boredom fosters more creative freedom.
Filling a child’s time for them teaches dependence on external motivators, whether that be material possessions or activities. This is also lead them to continue announcing when they are bored and nagging parents. Instead, provide a nurturing environment and let your children become curious and use their imaginations when they announce they have nothing to do. Once you let them wallow in their boredom, they can begin thinking of pretend play scenarios alone or with siblings. Your role is parent, not activity director. This is also more likely to produce independent, resilient young adults.
Relief for Parents
Lastly, embracing boredom allows parents to take a break. This relief comes from letting go of the guilt parents feel if their kids aren’t thriving or happy most of the time. Kids are always going to be kids, no matter what their circumstances might be—and figuring out how to stay occupied and entertained just goes with the territory. Once kids learn to stay busy without parent interference, not only do they learn how to have fun on their own, parents get a break themselves.
This is not to say you shouldn’t plan activities or things to do, it’s a balance and a fun part of being a parent. But, you do not have to plan everything. One response when your children say “I’m bored” is to say, “Only boring people get bored,” which allows them to start figuring it out for themselves.