Blog,  Health,  Lifestyle,  Toddlers

Why Boredom Is the Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Child

“I’m bored.”

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.

Reclaiming Imagination

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.

 

My Random Musings

 

 

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33 Comments

  • KHF

    Never a truer word spoken in my eyes too. I too am of the opinion that children need to be bored. If we’re constantly entertaining themselves with what we want them to do how are they to understand what THEY want to do. I’m not advocating raising ferrel children, but a little boredom never hurt anyone – if anything – constant stimulation inhibits children! #bloggersbest

    • EmmaMc

      I agree, I didn’t realise until I realised that my eldest was struggling to entertain himself. Time and space to switch off is so important. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • parentstoolbelt

    Love this post, Emma. Absolutely right. It’s so sad to see kids who don’t have the ability to entertain themselves. Instead we feel the need to “amuse” them constantly … and we should think about that word “amuse”. It’s made up of 2 parts: the prefix “a” is a negative (it means “no” or “not”). And “muse” means “to think”. So to “amuse” = no thinking required. We’re robbing them. #fortheloveofBLOG

    • EmmaMc

      Thank you! I always felt like I should amuse my kids… so interesting when you actually think about that word. I love spending time with my kids and hanging out but they also need to learn how to do their own thing.

  • Sarah Howe

    So agree with this! I knew I was fussing my eldest too much so had to leave her to her own devices a little when her sister came along. It worked!! Thanks for linking with #bloggersbest x

    • EmmaMc

      Same – I worried I fussed over my eldest and then I had my second. He still craves attention but is definitely getting better. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • theelephantmum

    I really liked this post and I totally agree there’s a line between being a caring and involved parent and a slave to your kids’ entertainment. Thanks for sharing! I think some mothers would be afraid of being judged as absent or not nurturing. I am totally with you on this!
    #ThursdayTeam

    • EmmaMc

      I know what you mean, I was definitely afraid of being judged! But it’s okay to let kids do their own thing for a while. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  • mummyhereandthere

    I am a massive believer in this and it is amazing how quickly they can entertain themselves. They can get in the habit of relying on us to entertain them. I think boredom is a fabulous way to spark creativity and independence X #thursdayteam

  • nicola

    This is so true. My son rarely had time to be bored as he was always involved in clubs and activities and never really had to find things to do. He developed anxiety when he got to 11 and found himself with nothing to do one weekend. He didn’t know how to fill his time and panicked! It’s taken nearly 3 years to work on this and find coping mechanisms for him. Who knew we were doing him so much damage just by keeping him busy! #fortheloveofBLOG

    • EmmaMc

      It’s so hard because instinct is to help our children and do whatever we can to make sure they are happy. It always come from a good place. I think it’s the pressure to always be there, be an active and engaged parent.

  • Becky, Cuddle Fairy

    This is a wonderful blog post and I totally agree with you! If we are constantly entertaining the kids with activities or allowing them to be on tablets or the tv all day they won’t ever develop an imagination! Thank you for sharing with us at #BloggerClubUK

  • kelly

    I completely agree with you here – I regularly let my daughter get a bit bored. I switch off the telly and let her decide what she wants to do. Today, she was playing pretend, making me dinner (Jacket potato) and told her daddy not to eat the crisp packet that she’d just pretend given to him. So much value in boredom! thanks for sharing on #fortheloveofBLOG x

  • Winnettes

    YES! YES! YES! I love this! This exactly how I feel too. My two girls are very used to being bored and having to entertain themselves and it is so good for them. The imagination they use is far beyond anything I could come up with and to be honest there are times that they do have to entertain themselves. Dinner won’t cook itself. My parents were not responsible for entertaining me and my siblings so why would I be for my children. Obviously I still play with them and when we can we have little trips out but I can’t be doing that 24/7.
    Thank you for linking this to #ThursdayTeam and very well said!

  • modernmum82

    This is a fab post! We are a family of eight so you would expect the kids to never be bored but my prenager sons are forever telling me they are bored. We have two answers
    ‘Only boring people get bored’
    ‘Go outside’
    We are fortunate to live on a farm and we have realised if the kids are outside they are never bored…so thats where they go if they say they are.
    Occasionally my kids, like you said, want to be bored. The house is so loud and busy that we make sure they can have quiet, alone time if they want it.

    • EmmaMc

      I’m totally going to use that line one day – only boring people get bored! I can’t imagine getting bored and living on a farm. – especially with so many siblings to hang out with! There must be so much for children to do and explore. My grandparents lived opposite a farm and we used to love playing in the grounds and riding on the back of tractors! Thank you so much for commenting x

  • Mrs Lighty

    I so agree with you on this! I am like you, and like to pack our days full to ward off the boredom if I can, but actually it’s the moments when he makes up his own games which actually become the most rewarding. Yesterday he discovered a cardboard pirate’s hat, treasure map and ‘treasure’ that came from a CBeeBies Swashbuckle magazine. He spent ages with Mr Lighty hiding the treasure and him going to find it. He’s two and a half, so a similar age to your son. I think I definitely need to leave some time for independent play. Thank you for linking this to #DreamTeam!

  • Lisa Pomerantz

    This is a great post, and has me quite envious for just a tad bit of boredom, myself! Independent play allows for so much creativity, imagination and self-soothing. To name just a few things. Boredom for all! #mondaystumble xoxo

  • One Messy Mama

    Just loved this post! It is so important for our kids to learn how to entertain themselves. We had a no TV weekend and it was so good to see my kids come up with their own entertainment. #globalblogging

    • EmmaMc

      Thank you! I think it’s great for them. My eldest is doing really well and loves a bit of time to himself where he can be imaginative without adults imposing!

  • SweetDreamer

    What a wonderful post, and I’m in complete agreement. I’ve just began to let my kids be bored, one of my fears- and guess what…they’re just fine. I think we feel its inconvenient to let them be bored because then we have to listen to whining, but they grow tired of whining after about a minute and kind of just find something to do. I loved pretending and playing “house” or “teacher”, and writing when I was bored as a child, now looking back I realize how lucky i was!

  • nightwisprav3n

    I agree and I have found myself saying those words to my boys on a number of occasions over the years. When they were small I was in college then working shortly after. I can’t remember if I was ever really bored as a kid because my mind was always occupied in one way or another but not by others. I kept myself busy. It helped with my imagination and I know it helps my youngest with his. #GlobalBlogging

  • Rosie (@greenrosielife)

    I love that parents have the opportunity now to do s much with their children … but I also worry they do too much with them and today’s kids are over stimulated. Your post has confirmed what I have always said, that children need a bit of boredom in their lives to find themselves and their ow creativity. #MMBC

  • Alice Letters to my Daughter

    You’re so right. My daughter makes up the most inventive games and amazing stories when I don’t give her anything to do. I do worry that, because she’s an only child, she’ll be lonely, but then that’s where we as her parents do have to be a bit more involved and be her playmates.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much they added it to the #BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect you ‘I’ve been featured’ blog badge 🙂

    • EmmaMc

      I think it’s about getting a nice balance. I love playing with my son and giving him attention. But definitely seeing a benefit of regular quiet time for him. I’m sure your daughter won’t feel lonely at all, you sound like lovely and attentive parents! Also I know many people who are only children and very happy that way.

      And thank you! That’s really lovely news 😀

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