Being bored is something I hear a lot about in my day-to-day interactions with children. I hear “there is nothing to do,” “school is so boring,” and “everything besides my tablet is boring.” I am sure we have all heard this from our children, especially in today’s fast-paced world.
What I remember from when I was kid was if I was bored, my Mom told me to go find something to do. I would then go use my imagination and get creative. I made forts, played school, created a library or grocery store in my basement, or played outside. None of these activities required 1) my parent’s assistance, 2) the internet to tell us how, or 3) an electronic device.
I recently spent an extended period with my three year old nephew and my six year old niece. What I quickly discovered is they did not know how to be bored. I do not believe this is any different of a phenomenon than most families are experiencing these days. The world is right at our fingertips between internet, technology, high quality appliances, online shopping, resources, etc. We do not have to wait for much of anything.
All that being said, think of the school day for our children. They have to sit, remain in their seat, and not get up at their leisure. They have to wait their turn to be called on, wait their turn for the teacher to help them, and wait until the rest of the class completes the work before moving on. If you read this correctly, you read, “They have to wait.” This is hard! Children have spent most of their time with the world at their fingertips and now, they wait. Cue redirection and reminders from teachers, the feeling of frustration, lack of motivation, lack of effort, or lack of attention from our children in the classroom setting.
Children (and adults) have to be comfortable with being bored. When is the last time you sat waiting for an appointment and did not pull out your phone, or sat in silence in the car without checking a text or listening to the radio? More important, when is the last time you sat through all of the commercials of a show and did not fast forward through them, or waited a whole week to watch the next episode of your recent binge on Netflix. As adults, we do not engage in these behaviors, yet we expect our young, still growing and maturing children to do so. This is a skill, and we have to practice it.
Try the following activities to learn to grow more comfortable with being bored:
- Turn off the devices and as a family spend time playing a board game
- If you do watch a television show together, watch one episode and wait until the next week to watch the next
- Be silent, and enjoy the quiet
- Practice mindfulness, be present with what is around you
- Draw a picture without any devices or noises around you
- Write a story about your day
- Do a book club as a family, and talk about it
- Give your children 3 items and tell them to use their imagination to create a game
- When your child ask for something, make them wait for it, even if it is just a few minutes
- Just be, smell what is around you, look at the world through calm eyes, and teach your children to do the same.
Being bored is ok. Being bored means that your mind has time to use its imagination and think of wonderful things. Being bored allows for learning patience and comfort. Being bored means not relying on technology or anything else for that matter to be available instantly. Being bored allows your mind to be open to learn what others have to teach. Being bored allows one’s mind to take a break from our daily routines and just enjoy our surroundings (and that’s not a bad thing).