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Ode to Boredom

Ode to Boredom

If it’s not one thing it’s another. Mother Nature can be fickle and she LOVES to play games with your plans. Whether it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, or some other such nonsense, your plans for family fun are ruined.

Now what? Prepare yourself because I’m about to propose something truly radical – let your children be bored.

Since one of the main objectives of this site is to help parents find local family-friendly activities, I fully realize the irony of making this statement. What can I say? I’m a walking contradiction. So indulge me for just a moment as I sing the praises of letting a child experience full, deep, and true boredom.

[sws_pullquote_left]That staring at clouds time is good for them. It gives them time to be creative, to reflect, to just BE. [/sws_pullquote_left] Expert after expert will tell you that unstructured play is crucial to healthy brain development. Children need to be outside more, they need more time for simple play, and they need to step away from the screens. Basically, they need to be BORED.

I have two small children so I get how scary that sounds. Bored children are underfoot and make it difficult for you to get anything done. Bored children have this terribly bad habit of whining about being bored. But I promise that bored children will eventually find ways to occupy their time. Left to their own devices they will build forts, invent games, or pass the time staring at clouds. And that staring at clouds time is good for them. It gives them time to be creative, to reflect, to just BE.

My oldest daughter is almost 5 and she goes to preschool every day but at 2:30 her day is done. There are no afterschool dance classes or soccer games. She has a school science club she does once a month but otherwise, her afternoons are spent on the playground or inside our house painting, playing games, looking at books. On a regular basis she declares “I’m bored.” Yes, it can get annoying sometimes and I often have to redirect her to find an activity but I don’t let it bother me because I remember what that was like and I know how wonderful the gift of boredom can be.

Growing up (back in the olden days) my sisters and I would spend every day after school playing outside until dinner. I’m sure we did our fair share of grumbling and whining and I KNOW we fought, but we also had a blast. We devised waterbeds for our kittens out of Ziploc bags, we created our own parades with dolls, animals, bikes, and wagons. As I grew older, I spent less time “playing” and more time just enjoying long walks around our farm with time to think. What I wouldn’t give for that kind of “me” time now!

Our culture has become one where every minute of a child’s life is often scheduled. School, sports, classes and such all have their place but there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your child experience boredom every once in a while. Will they whine at first? Yes. Will they live? Absolutely and one day, they might even treat their own child to the same gift. Which is really the best compliment any parent could ever ask for.

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So carve out a little time for your children to be bored. Commit to an entire day of doing absolutely nothing. If you’re truly brave maybe it will be an entire week. Imagine what wonderful adventures they’ll have!

What to Do for Your Bored Child

  • Turn Off the Screen – Yes, if they are glued to the tube or the iPad or Xbox they won’t get underfoot or make a mess but you won’t be doing them any favors and they won’t get to use all those pent-up creative juices we know they’ve got in there.
  • Keep Them Safe – Obviously this is your most important role as a parent. Just because you’re not acting like a camp director doesn’t mean you are abdicating responsibility. Peek in on them every once in a while, know what they’re up to and make sure you’ve set some basic guidelines of safety.
  • Provide Materials – Paint, playdough, string, scissors, paper, bubbles. Keep it simple. They’ll figure it out.

Photo Credit: © Daniel Dunca



View Comments (2)
  • YES! I love this post. We schedule (ironic I know) “unscheduled playtimes” at our house. We put our kid in the play room and set the timer (we do this because he asks “How long?” but most of the time once he’s engaged with an activity we quietly turn it off and let him play longer). He’s allowed to play with anything in the play room. He may NOT watch TV, play video games, or really talk to us (if he does, we gently redirect him back to playtime). This is his time to play and imagine and create. He was in the middle of playtime yesterday when he came to show me some of the things he created out of playdough. It was truly awesome to see. And even awesomer to know that he picked that activity and made those things all by himself, without any prodding or guidance from anyone. Great post!

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