How often do you let your kids be bored? If you would have asked me that question a few months ago I would have said “all the time”. When really the answer was – they are bored all the time, and I then find them something to do.
Then one day I had the chance to be bored (aka a moment I couldn’t think of anything pressing to do), and I forgot how nice it was. I think it’s important to be comfortable with just being. Just having some solitary time when nothing much occupies your mind, with little around to distract it. Good things come from that kind of time, you pull from your creative thoughts and start to imagine. Too many people are uncomfortable with idle time and I am left to wonder if it starts at a very young age? I am no expert, but I am a mom, and a mom that perhaps provided a little too much “distraction” for my kids.
I believe kids are born with a powerful imagination, and often the things we introduce into their little lives slowly strip them of that. Television, video games, toys that do all the work. I have been guilty of relying on every single one of these to “fill the gap” when my kids come to me and say “mom, I’m bored” until the time I can keep them busy myself. I started a trend of occupying their idle time for them, rather than letting them be creative and use their imagination to think of something to do.
I decided three months ago to make a conscious effort not to do that anymore. Just to see what happened, it shouldn’t kill them after all. I decided two hours a day for me to work right after lunch would be our “Free Time”. Momma does what she wants, kids do what they want – with the exception of movies, video games or anything electronic. The clincher – they had to come up with it on their own. I wasn’t going to supply them with idea after idea. Here is what I learned:
It’s Tougher Than I Thought
Turns out, it was to keep my sanity and not my kids that I worked so hard to keep them busy! The first few weeks they drove me nuts, and I couldn’t really blame them, I was the one that started the whole mess. There was crying, full on fits, and moments when I nearly gave in – but slowly after every one of their “I’m bored” statements followed with my “Oh that’s great!” response, they figured it out. Mom isn’t going to do anything about it.
It’s Hard For Me To Butt Out
They eventually would make their way outside, just sitting there, looking all sorts of bored; sitting in the grass, pulling it out blade by blade; picking at the paint chipping on our deck. But still, they were content. No one crying, no one throwing a fit, and no one pestering me for something to do. So what did I do? Open the door and say “You guys are doing so good! Why don’t you pretend like your pirates, and this is your ship, and this is your wheel, yada, yada, yada”. Not a good idea friends! They are instantly onto you, and they sniff out your weakness faster than you can blink. It isn’t easy to see them bored, but give them time, they might surprise you.
You Might Have To Make Things Easier For Them
Through this I learned that I kept a lot of stuff out of my kids reach to bring out for them when they were bored. I moved them all to a place where they could reach and pull out on their own accord during free time. Coloring pencils, coloring books, stickers, puzzles, little people, play dough, and certain games are all free game. But I immediately enforced a “you get it out, you clean it up” policy, and have stuck to it from day one.
It’s Okay To Help A Little
After the initial shock of “our mother no longer loves us, and lets us be bored” wore off, they genuinely started to use their imaginations to entertain themselves. One thing they started were puppet shows. Which is funny, because we don’t have any puppets. But they just use what they can find. They ask me to help them set up a stage (sheet over chairs), and I have no problem helping them with stuff like that. One problem, I found myself then trying to tell them how to do it, “Why don’t you use this as a castle, and this as a horse”. I had to remind myself, this is their time. Let them figure it out.
The two hours a day of “Free Time” has been a success, and has spilled over into the entire day. To be honest it has more to do with with what I learned, and breaking my habits, rather than what they learned. I think they always had it in them, they just needed their momma to leave them alone so they could tap into it.
By me allowing them to be bored they learned how to be comfortable with idle time. In that idle time, it gave them a chance to think of something to do – use their imaginations. Once they were in this habit, the need for other sources of entertainment has dwindled.
So What Do I See My Kids Doing In Their Free Time?
I still see a lot of just sitting, which bothered me at first – until I realized they were thinking, their little wheels were turning. Or maybe, they were content with just being. Happy with just having a meditative moment. I don’t think they ever had a chance for that before. I would always “save them” from such times.
But after three months they really have no problem thinking of something to do now. I often find…
them playing puzzles….
reading books to baby dolls…
and occasionally my little girl just decides to take a nap.
But my most favorite was a scene from yesterday. We had just finished lunch outside, and I told them it was free time. I left the blanket there, and went inside. A little while later I went to check on them, and found my 4 year-old boy just laying on the blanket. That might be normal for some 4 year-olds, but not mine.
It was a cool 73° degrees outside with a breeze in the leaves, and he was just laying there enjoying it. Then mom had to come along and take a picture and ruin the moment. When will I learn?!
So, moral of my story? Let them be bored. Their creativity will flourish, their imaginations will expand, and their ability to be comfortable with idle time might just surprise you. That is if you don’t lose your mind in the first few weeks :)
I would love for you to give me your input. My story is exclusive to an almost 3 year-old and 4½ year-old, maybe you can share your experiences with littler and older ones? Maybe you have an only child? I would love to hear!
ps after I wrote this article I jumped over to pinterest to find a good boredom quote, I couldn’t find one, but I found two more great articles on boredom. Definitely worth a read…I just knew I was onto something ;). Gift of Boredom and Scott Adams On The Benefits Of Boredom