“I’m Bored” – sound familiar? With Christmas holidays approaching, you are probably about to hear it a whole lot more. But reacting to the whiney phrase with a fun-filled solution or worse yet, a screen is counterproductive. Here’s why. Generally, the reason children are bored, is because they are so attuned to stimulation and a jam-packed schedule, that they have forgotten how to use their imaginations, create games and play without adult intervention. So, contrary to what your five- year-old may believe, being bored is a good thing!
Firstly, being bored promotes creativity, with research suggesting daydreaming leads to creative thought. Kids have always been knocked for daydreaming in class but research shows that this down time allows the brain to think creatively. Some of the world’s greatest geniuses, Albert Einstein and Sir Issac Newton, to name a few, have been said to be daydreamers.
Another key point to note, is that having down time without structure or stimulation, reduces stress in children and adults alike. With the stress of the year almost behind us (except for those hosting Christmas) there is nothing better than unwinding with some down time and being bored is the perfect segway. In fact, being bored sounds like a dream come true to many parents, we just need to convince the kids that being bored is awesome!
And this brings me to my last point. Boredom, or down time, is linked to better quality sleep for children (and adults). Too much stimulation is not good for sleep and having time to be creative, think freely and wind down, leads to a more relaxed and settled child who is ready to sleep. That being said, being bored and having down time, is not to be confused with being sedentary. Exercise and physical activity is equally as important for good cognitive function, creative thought and sleep. Many children complain of being bored when at the park, if it’s one they are overly familiar with, this provides the perfect opportunity to turn boredom into creative outdoor play. Climbing a tree, playing hide and seek or other creative outdoor activities all provide children with the opportunity to think outside of the square.
Teaching your kids to embrace boredom may take some time, especially if they are not familiar with the feeling. They have to learn to trust that being bored is okay and this feeling can lead to positive outcomes that build their independence, promotes creativity and mindful play.