These days during the COVID-9 lock-down times, the most common question I’m getting from moms is “What should I do to prevent my kid from getting bored?”.
Moms are feeling an enormous sense of pressure to fill up their children’s time at home with one engaging activity after another. It can be really overwhelming. To prevent acting out or just to get a moment’s peace many moms are reverting to overuse of screen time. I cast absolutely no judgment here, this is survival time. The thing is, even after this high engagement activities and screen time, the kids are still looking towards Mom for more. “What’s next?” or “I’m bored now” are quick to follow.
Before we were all contained at home, most of our kids had incredibly busy schedules. Actually, I’m reflecting that our personal schedule was a bit too busy. Almost every moment of their day was occupied with a task, daycare/school, activity, playdate, sports, afterschool, the list continues.
It’s like we as parents are afraid to expose our kids to get bored. I get that! While kids are bored it can be incredibly difficult to deal with the initial whining, nagging, Oohs, and Aaahs of boredom.
I don’t say this lightly. I know it’s tough. I’m a mom of a five and a two-year-old. As I write this my kids are talking about their own boredom.
The keyword here is initial boredom. Which means it passes. That initial feeling of boredom is like a wave. It goes up, the feelings get intense and then slowly calm starts to follow. It can take as little as 15 minutes or even up to an hour or two but it does pass. Most importantly the wait is worth it and here’s why.
1. When we schedule our kids’ every moment with a fun and engaging activity, that builds a sense of dependency and need for outside entertainment. First of all, that’s not sustainable for you or the rest of the family. Second, kids become used to being on the passive receiving end of being entertained or engaged. When we allow for some boredom, kids start thinking for themselves. They start taking initiative. They become more independent in finding activities for themselves. They also develop an ability to do things on their own if others aren’t available. All important traits that are positive in the development of a little human.
2. Another accidental result when we plan everything for our kids is that we pick for them. Some boredom gives your child more freedom and space to explore and find out more about what he likes. You might discover new things about your child now that he has more time to explore and play around with different things. I just discovered my son loves Lego Ninjago Audiobooks!
3. Imagination is one of the best rewards there is to being bored. We have robbed our kids of experiencing the same imaginative play we had as children. When we built forts from bed sheets and hid from imaginary monsters. The constant engagement by screen time and activities has made children passive receivers of others’ imaginative stories. What about their own? Once your child gives his imagination a push, he’ll experience a level of play that is extremely worth holding out through that initial boredom phase.
4. When we back away from offering our kids ready-made solutions to their boredom, we stop giving them the easy way out of the problem. Giving them the encouragement and space so they can find their own entertainment also teaches kids perseverance. We help them learn not to be deterred if something doesn’t work out the first time. To try again. An essential lifelong skill and an important ingredient for raising resilient and confident kids.
Finally, this doesn’t mean you can’t have any structured or planned activities for your child. I always say balance is key for both of you. Divide your day into family activities, independent activities that you plan for your child and free play time where your child can experience some boredom, persevere and choose what he does for himself.
Remember at the beginning of this article I mentioned that my own kids were bored because I’d told them to entertain themselves? After some initial Ooohing and Aaaahing, my five-year-old is listening to an audiobook and playing with his cars and my two-year-old was singing happy birthday with play pizza to an imaginary friend. Was it easy? Not really. Did the boredom pass? Yes, it took about an hour. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Give it a try and let me know more about your experience. Just write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.” becomes a habit.”