School is almost out which means your children’s schedules will completely change. Where there were once fully scheduled and regimented days, there are now stretches of unstructured time. This will at first be a novelty for kids, but as with everything, the novelty soon wears off.
A common refrain from kids, that all parents will recognize is, “Moooom or Daaaad, I’m bored.”
You may even remember saying it yourself as a kid. If you do, you remember the feeling. There is nothing to do. Of course, as a parent, you know there are nearly unlimited things to do. You may even suggest some of these things, only to be met with an, “I don’t feel like that.”
Today we are going to give some suggestions about what to do when your child is bored and what your child might really mean when he says he’s bored.
Is your kid really bored?
Younger kids are not always great at labelling exactly what it is they are feeling all the time. So when your younger child says she is bored, she may actually just not enjoy what she is doing. With a very young child, it is a great idea to step in and direct activities. Through elementary school, children need more direction from adults for entertainment, this can be done through exposing your child to different activities to give more direction about what is entertaining. That doesn’t mean that even young children can’t benefit from occasional boredom.
Another thing that kids may mean when they are bored is that they need attention from you. Again, this is more common for younger children, middle school and under. If you think this might be the case, if you can, stop what you are doing and sit next to your child. Look him closely in the face and start asking questions about why he is bored or how he feels. Check in about what your kid likes to do encourage him to stick with the difficult activities and the activities he loves the most. Listen to what he tells you and give him your full attention. If it seems like he needs your attention, try to give it to him. If you can’t give your attention to your kid at that time, make a date to spend time together.
Why is your kid bored?
You may be thinking, how can my child possibly be bored? There are a thousand things to do and she has activities scheduled all day, every day. Not to mention the Wii, tablet, TV, Netflix, DVDs, etc. How can they be bored?
First a disclaimer, Imagine Toys is not anti-television or video games. We believe that screen time can be a part of every child’s life, and even teach them a lot. However, experts believe that if a child relies on screen time too much for entertainment, they can lose the ability to find entertainment elsewhere. Finding ways to entertain oneself is a skill that is learned. If a child doesn’t learn, or forgets how to do this, it will be harder for them to not be bored when not looking at a screen. If you think this might be the case for your kids, the solution is obvious. Cut back on screen time and start focusing on quite, reflective time.
It may surprise you that children who have a highly regimented extra-curricular schedule may also lose the ability to self-entertain. Having quiet time that is undirected is vital for children to learn coping skills and to develop their own sense of what they like and don't.
How Boredom Helps Kids
When I was a kid and I told my Mom that I was bored, she would always tell me to go play outside. It wasn’t a suggestion, it meant I had to go play outside, even if there was nothing to do. Of course, after I spent some time outside, I inevitably found something to do, often something I never thought of doing before.
Boredom is good for kids, and adults too, because it stokes creative fires. Only in the midst of true boredom can a child discover that they love nature, or building, or writing, or any one of hundreds of possible things to like. They also learn what they don’t like. These likes and dislikes start firming up around middle school and will have long term influences.
Boredom is also a great time for kids to be driven back to old projects that were deemed too difficult and often they find solutions that they wouldn’t think of while distracted. This also creates a sense of motivation to find other activities. These skills will be used throughout a person’s lifetime.
Dealing with your kid’s boredom
When your child is bored this summer, do her a favor and let her be bored.