Why boredom is good for your kids!

Now that the summer holiday season is here and most kids have been off school for a couple of weeks or more, parents and carers everywhere are hearing the dreaded phrase, ‘I’m bored!’.

It can be frustrating when kids have been looking forward to time off for weeks, only to claim they’re bored within the first few days (or even hours!) of the holidays.

But how should we respond to our children when they tell us they’re bored? Should we feel guilty that we haven’t provided enough to entertain them, or should we see it as an opportunity for them to learn to entertain themselves?

Many parents try to fend off boredom by scheduling lots of activities for their children during the holidays. However, research suggests that too much organised activity and not enough time that is unplanned can leave children floundering when it comes to making their own fun.

Benefits of boredom

So what do the experts say about the benefits of unstructured time for our kids?

Boredom helps to develop creativity. Dr Teresa Belton of the University of East Anglia questioned artists, writers and academics about their childhood habits. She identified a common thread of boredom leading people to develop a passion for writing, drawing, creation and discovery.

Dealing with boredom can also help children develop resilience and the ability to solve problems. Whether the project is a Lego model, a cake or a den in the garden, it is highly rewarding to come up with an idea and persevere with it through to the finished product. This can really boost kids’ confidence and self-esteem.

Finally, psychologist Vanessa Lapointe points out that unstructured time offers children the opportunity to develop their sense of self and find out what makes them tick. She suggests that this is important to ensure our kids develop into happy, confident adults.

How to deal with boredom

  • Don’t panic – bored is good! If your kids tell you they’re bored, acknowledge their feelings and encourage them to think about how they could solve the problem for themselves – they might surprise you!
  • Help them to be prepared! A box of craft supplies, some new books from the library, or a stash of baking essentials for older children and teens can provide the inspiration they need to see off boredom for themselves.
  • Make sure your child can access resources independently so they can let their creativity run riot – for younger children this might mean labelling boxes with pictures or using transparent storage boxes so they can see at a glance what’s inside.

Finally, as the author James Baldwin observed, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

Kids learn from our example so why not finish that book, try out a new recipe or make something – and let your kids see you doing it.