It really bothers me when children say they are bored. While fortunately, I do not hear this too often from my children, the times that I do perk up my ears and poke my parental conscience. After a flash of irritation that any member of the Fantastic Four would be proud of, I ask myself what is behind this statement? At the website: Aha! Parenting, Dr. Laura Markham, Clinical Psychologist, discusses this subject. She also discusses why boredom is good for children.
Dr. Markham discusses how parents often shoo the boredom bug away by allowing their children technological distractions or giving them a structured activity to do. She says this is negative on many fronts. She nor I need to point out how many children today are overly attached to their electronic device. She actually uses the word addicted. Children today struggle with the whole concept of unstructured time, as they maybe too plugged into gadgets or too over scheduled in activities. Markham states that children need to encounter and engage with the “raw stuff that life is made of,” and that is unstructured time. This precious time allows children to explore both their inner and outer worlds, which she says is the beginning of creativity. Markham adds that this is how children learn to “engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create.” During unstructured time, children may get their first sense of what stirs their heart. Einstein watched bugs for hours. Imagine what Amelia Earhart or Bill Gates did as children! The sport/music/clubs/saturated child has nary the chance to see what interests her on a most personal and passionate level, if her time is taken by constant commitments and electronics.
Markham also reminds readers that children need unstructured time so they can learn how to deal with periods of free time. Otherwise children become teenagers and adults who struggle with time management.
Later in the article, Markham discusses how when most kids are given unstructured time, they know how to use it. As a child, what is better than self-directed activity? Play is a child’s work and a wonderful way in which they work out feelings and experiences. She states that when children truly do not know what to do with themselves, they may fall under three categories:
- Be a child who is so used to screen activities, that they do not know how to direct their own activities without such a diversion. –Without their fix?
- Be a child whose time is always structured and therefore not use to having time of their own to play in an unstructured way.
- Be a child who needs a love fuel up. When your comes to you complaining, they may simply need some of your time and affection. After this, they are usually good to go and able to find play of their own choosing. When this is not the case, they may need additional time with you. She suggests this is the time for a parent to either put down what they are doing or involve their child in the task at hand, i.e. cooking or cleaning.
If your child still does not know what to do with herself, Markham strongly encourages parents to remind her it’s up to her to come up with activities, but that you will help her brainstorm. She has a great idea for a boredom buster It goes without saying that parents can always point children to books. If they need to get into a book and are readers, get them “hooked” by reading a portion with them. If they are not readers yet, another option is to get a book on a cd or tape. Still another good suggestion is to encourage them to take on a special project. My girls are very into making bracelets with the loom right now. This is one of their special projects. Also, there are always games and music. She has very little use for television as a distraction-very little use. When parents do use it when children use the “b” word, she highly cautions parents to limit it. There are too many wonderful play options.