Boredom – Is it OK and should it be practiced?

Boredom – Is it OK and should it be practiced?

“I’m Bored!” is a phrase that every parent and teacher cringes at when stated by a child.  Should boredom be avoided?  An old saying comes to mind “An Idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”  But is it?

What causes boredom? Boredom has many culprits including inadequate sleep and rest, hunger, decreased mental stimulation, or a lack of control over activities throughout the day.

Boredom is more than ok—- it is needed.  When children are bored it allows them the opportunity to explore their personal creativity and the environment around them.  It also allows them to be present in the moment.  This is something that we as adults often forget to do.  When is the last time you took time to look at the leaves changing colors or how the clouds were moving in the sky?

The next time your child tells you they are bored ask them to describe four items they see in their environment.  Maybe they will see all the colors on an insect, or the flower growing in the crack in the sidewalk, or even all the different colors of candy bars in the checkout line (This might prompt the question “Can I get a candy bar,” – but hey they are looking around their environment.)

Boredom helps spark creativity and imagination in children.  It lights an “internal stimulus.” So, instead of turning on the TV or pressing the button on the tablet why not encourage your child to be creative and use their imagination.  Tapping into these skills will encourage them to create a play or skit, design a new outfit, make up a new game or build the tallest building out of legos, blocks or cardboard boxes.  Throughout these activities, children are “thinking outside the box” and practicing problem-solving as well as many other social skills that are needed well into adulthood.  Boredom can help a child discover their true interests.  

Prior to Covid, many of our schedules were packed with many activities which allowed for little time to be bored.  Our role as parents to help prepare our children for adulthood and if we fill up all of their spare time now how will they address leisure time as an adult?  Boredom is a skill set that needs to be developed as it fosters independence and self-responsibility.  

In my household, we practice being bored.  This may come as a shock to many of you reading this but it is an important skill.  How many times as an adult do we need to wait in line?  What about waiting for an appointment? A long car ride? Surely, many of us turn to some form of technology like a phone or tablet to help us pass the time but what if the battery dies or there is no service?  Then what?  Boredom – that’s what.

Why not take time to practice the act of being bored?  This time will help your child learn coping skills that can be utilized in a variety of situations.

Of course, being bored all the time isn’t beneficial or healthy either.  There is a fine line between being too bored and not bored enough and this will differ from person to person.  It can be very hard to help our children learn about boredom as it is not a fun skill to master.  Frustration and tantrums can be an unfortunate outcome of learning this skill but the development of coping mechanisms is beneficial throughout adulthood.  As parents, we live through our children’s tantrums we can and will also live through their boredom.  By doing this we help them become more independent and self-sufficient.

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