I’m sure I’m not the only parent who hears this on a daily basis.
I fear it so much that I pack out the days to ensure that I don’t fail my son by allowing him to become bored or disengaged.
If we aren’t at home getting stuck into games, baking, stacking, sticking or painting then we are at a Tumble Tots, Rhyme Time or seeing friends at soft play.
If we are at home then I ensure we have stimulating, creative and educational activities to fill the time. If all else fails, then I call on an electronic distraction such as CBeebies – or better yet, the iPad.
As a stay-at-home mum who runs a freelance business and blogs in the evenings, there is very little time for ironing or cleaning, let alone any breathing space from the bombardment of activities.
To be honest, it’s pretty exhausting and I wonder whether it’s overwhelming for my son too.
One afternoon when I’d heard “I’m bored” for the tenth time and I was behind on a deadline, I started to wonder how my mum managed to earn her degree without my sister and I climbing the walls.
It dawned on me that while my parents were always present, they weren’t responsible for entertaining us every waking moment. If we said we were bored, they’d tell us to go and find something to do.
Childhood boredom is slowly fading away with modern day parenting equated to being involved in every aspect of our children’s lives.
Rules and parenting techniques are under scrutiny from “specialists”, “professionals”, friends and relatives. It comes as little surprise that we feel under pressure to be constantly engaged with our children and that if we don’t, it is paramount to neglect.
With this fear of neglect, have we abandoned the idea of teaching our children the importance of being bored? Perhaps by always providing the activity for my toddler to engage in, I am stifling his freedom and time to discover his own likes, dislikes and passions.
What comes out of boredom?
Dr Vanessa Lapointe said: “Children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom in order to arrive at an understanding of who they are. And just as important, children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom to awaken the own internal drive to be.”
For me, boredom nurtured my love of writing.
My parents were often busy working, studying and keeping the house running. Weekends were spent as a family going on walks, making use of the family National Trust membership or being carted around to our various clubs and classes. The times when we were at home, my sister and I would play together, write plays or soap operas, stories, magazines and songs or pretend to be teachers like our mum was training to do.
I cherished the quieter moments and valued time spent alone. Perhaps that is a product of my personality trait, but it may also be because I enjoyed engaging with my thoughts and exploring my interests. I loved to spend the time writing – even as a toddler scribbling away, my mum would ask me what I was doing and I’d reply “I write”. In the attic, I have a few boxes of stories I wrote during my childhood.
Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancaster who ran studies into the effect of boredom on creativity says that a bored mind moves into a ‘daydreaming’ state. Children who have ‘nothing’ to do will often find creative ways of filling the time.
Psychologists worry that instead of embracing the quieter moments, we are trying to fill them.
“We try to extinguish every moment of boredom in our lives with mobile devices,” Mann says.
This is what shuts down the deeper thinking caused by having nothing to do.
Boredom can be pretty interesting. I love playing with my kids and the bond that it builds. But, I also love to watch my eldest come up with games and use his imagination through independent play.
I’ve started incorporating pockets of ‘boredom’ into my son’s day. He is only three-years-old, so still needs some guidance and company which I am obviously, happy to give. However, I have noticed that since he has been exploring ways to fill the time, he has become more self-dependent and artistic.
He draws pictures, paints or rediscovers old toys such as the harmonica he got for Christmas last year and never touched.
Yesterday, he decided on his own, that he’d watched enough TV and wanted to sit on the sofa and listen to music instead while looking through a book.
Boredom is a breath of fresh air for the soul and ignites dreamer within you. I had long forgotten the joy of silence, only listening to the moment’s tick by, opening up room for my mind to wander the way it did when I was younger.
Doing nothing was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me and it’s time I bestowed it upon my children.