It’s imperative that kids are bored sometimes. Here are five important reasons why.
“Mom, I’m bored!”
“Dad, I’m booooooored!”
How many times have you heard either of those phrases? Probably too many times to count, I’m sure.
As parents, we often have the urge to fix each and every problem our children have. Even if it’s not really a problem, like boredom.
But the truth is, it’s important to take a step back when the kids are bored. Boredom is a good thing for kids. It’s very important for children to have free time that’s not directed by adults.
It Really is Okay When the Kids Are Bored
In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s imperative that kids feel boredom from time to time.
Here’s why you shouldn’t feel the need to plan activities for the kids all day, every day:
1. Unstructured time helps children explore their creativity.
Oftentimes, when kids are over-scheduled they don’t get enough chances to really be creative. Children need to use their imaginations, and they don’t always get the chance to do so when everything is planned out for them.
Feeling bored means the kids are put into a situation where they need to creatively problem solve. This boredom might very well give children the chance to paint, begin a new science project, learn an instrument, or even just sit and ponder the different colors out in nature.
2. When kids are bored, they have the chance to find out what they’re interested in.
When adults are planning every part of a child’s day, he may not fully be able to explore things he’s interested in.
Yes, planned activities can help broaden a child’s horizon by introducing new things to try. But without free time, kids may not get the chance to see what really fulfills them.
Take a moment to consider your own hobbies and interests. How did you discover them? Sure, some may be because you were told to try a specific activity. But I bet that’s not the case with all of your own down time activities.
Plus, independent time allows kids to expand on and practice things they’ve been taught or introduced to. For example, a child taking piano lessons might choose to spend part of her free time practicing a new song or making up one of her own.
3. Being bored gives children the chance to work on their independence.
Eventually, we want children to become independent. This way, they can handle themselves as they get older, be it going off to kindergarten or moving out on their own. The foundation for this independence starts at home, by being taught how to care for themselves, how to complete chores, how to interact with others, etc.
Time to be bored gives the kids a safe space to be independent in small ways. They get to decide, on their own, what they’re going to do. They’re able to determine how much of their free time they want to spend on an activity. This allows them to make their own choices in a manageable way.
Yes, there will likely be rules governing their independent play time, but that’s the “safe space” I was referring to previously.
4. Kids can practice time management when they’re feeling bored.
This may seem like a rather inane reason to let kids be bored, but it goes hand in hand with learning independence. When they’re bored, kids need to decide how they’re going to spend their time.
For example, the kids have an hour until dinner time and “nothing to do”. They finally settle on wanting to paint and wanting to play outside. With that decision made, the children have to determine what portion of that hour will be spent outside and what portion will be spent painting.
Time management is an important concept for everyone, from kids to adults. Giving children the chance to practice time management in small chunks will likely make them more productive as they get older.
5. Everyone needs down time.
I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy time when there’s nothing planned and no pressing matters to attend to.
Even if the kids are complaining that they’re bored, they truly need down time too. Maybe their down time will be full of loud activities. Maybe it will be full of quiet contemplation. Either way, it will be a time to decompress from the stresses they’re dealing with (yes, even kids have stress) and the daily busyness that sometimes comes with life.
Down time for kids, as for adults, allows their bodies and minds to unwind and decompress. Even if they don’t understand that right away!
What You Need to Do When the Kids are Bored
Now, let’s take a look at what parents should do when their kids are bored. In a word, nothing. Let the kids feel the boredom and decide how they’re going to handle it. Of course, saying “do nothing” is a rather simplistic answer. You’re going to expect the kids to keep the household rules, and they may need a quick reminder of the rules before moving along.
Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m sure you’ll find something to do,” in response to “I’m booooooored!” In fact, remind yourself that it’s oh so important for kids to be bored sometimes. You’re doing them a favor.
Mary Catherine is a mother, an early childhood educator, and the force behind Fun-A-Day. She’s passionate about keeping early learning fun, meaningful, and developmentally appropriate.