Many parents think of dealing with a bored child as an exercise in coming up with the most creative ideas possible to occupy a young mind. Whether you’re considering juggling bowling pins or taking them to the zoo, you want to keep your child entertained and content. And if you don’t fill that job, you might feel like you’ve failed to meet expectations — whether theirs, yours or someone else’s. However, letting your child navigate boredom on their own is beneficial to their growth in more ways than you might expect.
Is boredom good for children? And what can you do the next time your kiddo says they feel this way? Keep reading to find out why this emotion isn’t always a bad thing and what you can do to help your child manage it.
Why Kids Say They Are Bored
Do you wonder what kids mean when they say they are bored? If your child is feeling restless and is at a loss for things to do, it could be due to a few different reasons. Maybe they’ve become accustomed to having screentime and don’t know what to do with their time without it. Or, perhaps they’ve always followed a structured schedule, and now that they have boundless hours, they’re unsure how to approach this newfound freedom.
Video games and tablets are easy answers for boredom, but they’re also passive. Not all apps, YouTube videos or digital games encourage critical thinking, fine-tuning of motor skills or the many other things kids need as they mature. Though they are momentarily fun, they can leave a child wondering what to do once the Wi-Fi cuts off. Instead of switching to independent play, your child may come to you for answers.
If any of these situations is the case, your child may feel like there’s nothing in the world that’s fascinating or fun to do. Kids have a limited worldview, and they get bored easily when they run out of activities. If their usual playful pastimes don’t hold the same appeal, it may be time to come up with new alternatives to occupy their minds.
How Can Parents Respond?
What do you say when your child says, “I’m bored”? Giving them some screentime or a structured activity may be your first response, but you don’t always have to go this route. Having unstructured time can open your child up to a world of possibilities. Boredom is beneficial for kids depending on how you approach it, which we will expand more on below.
Encourage your child to unleash their creativity rather than refilling their schedule with to-dos. Allowing them to exercise their independence in this way can sharpen their decision-making skills, which they will need to use throughout their entire life. Depending on how old your child is, they may be at the stage where it’s time to learn small ways to practice independence at home and school.
Alternatively, your presence alone can be enough to make your child feel better when they’re bored. Sometimes a case of boredom results from the simple need to be close to you, which results in them seeking your attention. Spend a few minutes talking with your child and listening to their needs.
Instead of immediately jumping to supply them with boredom-busting activities, consider what might be causing their boredom and listen to their concerns. Feelings of isolation can facilitate boredom, and those emotions can spiral into sadness if left unaddressed.
There’s no single remedy concerning the best way to respond when kids complain they’re bored. Your plan of action will depend on you and your child — maybe they’re more receptive to having a solo brainstorming session than sitting down and sharing a heart-to-heart. Trying different methods will help you uncover the strategy that works best for your household and put it to good use.
Why It’s Actually Beneficial for Your Kids to Experience Boredom
Can you let your child be bored? The answer is yes, your kid can benefit from boredom, and no, it doesn’t have to result in a trip to the timeout corner. Boredom is good for kids for many reasons — it teaches them new ways to view the world, themselves and other people.
Here are a few of the benefits of boredom for kids.
1. Boredom Encourages Creativity
Once the old tricks lose their flair, it’s time to formulate new ones. When you were in school, you probably received a lot of boring assignments that made you want to fall asleep instead of put your pencil to the paper. However, there was also likely one student in class who went the extra mile. Maybe they turned a dull research paper into a narrative adventure — or a tedious posterboard project into an eye-catching masterpiece.
Boredom leaves room for creativity, which can inspire someone to achieve things they haven’t done before. Creativity leads to other much-needed life skills such as problem-solving, collaboration and metacognition, which is the state of being aware of and understanding one’s own thought processes.
2. Children Learn to Find Comfort in Solitude
Many people would agree that our society is always onto the next big thing, moving at a pace that makes it difficult to stop and rest for a moment. Numerous parents mimic this in the way they structure their child’s schedule, hoping to avoid any gaps that allow for boredom to seep in. However, you don’t need to do a bunch of activities each day to feel satisfied, nor is it necessary to socialize every minute of the day.
Boredom is one of the best things for kids because it lets them become accustomed to their own company. Instead of feeling lost during times of stillness, they can learn to enjoy alone time, which leaves their minds wide-open for exploration and introspection. Your child will learn to value their own thoughts, ideas and opinions without the need for external validation.
3. Boredom Builds Resilience
Teaching your kids about resilience is essential to helping them grow and deal with life’s obstacles. If they give up at the first sign of challenge, it will be harder for them to adapt to stressful situations as they age. Similarly, allowing them to be bored once in a while teaches them that they must learn how to face life’s unpleasant parts rather than avoid them.
The concept of delayed gratification will teach your child that they won’t always receive satisfaction right when they want it — and this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes it’s beneficial to wait for a more substantial reward than take the first available prize.
4. Kids Can Strengthen Their Relationships
On the flipside of solitude, your child can learn to nourish existing relationships within their free time. Those connections may be with you, your partner, their siblings or friends from school. A group of bored children will quickly come up with a solution for their restlessness through collaborative brainstorming. Relationships are a vital part of anyone’s life, but they’re especially crucial to child development. These associations teach children how to manage stress, interact with others, regulate emotions and much more.
5. Boredom Gives You Time to Regroup
While your child is off finding something to do or indulging in a new activity, you can take some time to yourself to do a hobby, interact with your partner or simply relax for a little while. The most apparent benefit of boredom is that it forces you to slow down and pause.
You aren’t trying to juggle 20 different tasks at once or re-invent the wheel — you just get to exist within the moment. You might discover a renewed value in the art of being still and practicing mindfulness. It’s normal to feel the urge to keep your child happy and preoccupied during the first few attempts at letting them be bored. However, you’ll soon learn the mutual benefits of taking some time to yourselves.
Activities That Encourage Kids to Find Their Own Sources of Fun
If you need a few ways to jumpstart your child’s creativity, here’s a list of things to do when your kids are bored. These suggestions can inspire them to create their own story, do a self-guided activity, strengthen their friendships with others and much more. When your child can create fun on their own, they’ll be less likely to stress over times when there’s nothing to do.
Need a clever way to deal with a kid who is always bored? A boredom jar can serve as a simple solution. Select an empty jar and create a bunch of paper slips with different activities written on them. Whenever your child feels that familiar sluggishness, they can pick a few papers from the jar and choose things to do to beat the blues. Some actions you might help them come up with include:
- Catching fireflies
- Planting flowers
- Having a water balloon or pillow fight
- Playing classic games like tag or hide-and-seek
- Learning a new card game
- Building sculptures with Play-Doh, sand or other materials
- Creating a science experiment with household items
Picking up a good book and immersing yourself in another world for a few hours is the perfect way to alleviate boredom — especially for kids who love reading. It also sharpens their literacy skills and expands their imagination, which are excellent traits for fostering creativity. As your child improves their communication skills, they’ll discover new ways to interact with the world around them and adapt to new perspectives.
Additionally, reading with your child strengthens your bond with them and facilitates learning. This practice can be a great way to prepare them for the higher grades in school where they’ll have to do independent reading.
Give your child a journal and let them express themselves to their heart’s content. The importance of boredom for kids lies in the potential it creates. What kinds of stories or ideas will your child come up with when they have nothing else to occupy their time? Even if they don’t create the next literary classic, they still reap tons of value from putting their thoughts to paper. This exercise can teach them how to communicate their emotions more effectively and empathize with others.
Your child can play a game of make-believe with sock puppets, costumes or any other props you have available. If they’re ambitious, they can even put on a play with help from friends. Playing make-believe supports a child’s social development as well as their cognitive skills. Just like with reading or journaling, pretend-play helps children build empathy by putting them in someone else’s shoes for a while. They learn that everyone’s differences are what makes each person unique and valuable.
Arts and Crafts
There is a world of crafty projects your child can do by themselves or with your help. Many include household items, so you don’t have to run to the store for supplies in the middle of a project. Break out the paint set for an artistic session, or create necklaces with beads and string. Arts and crafts exercises serve as a great way to respond to kids’ boredom while giving them the freedom to choose what they want to do.
What’s better than making a delicious homecooked meal with your kid? Try occupying your bored kiddo by letting them adopt some kitchen duties the next time you cook a meal. They’ll learn about the chemistry of cooking, and they may be inspired to make their own kid-friendly creations. If your kids are old enough to make recipes on their own, there are plenty of options they can try to enhance their culinary skills.
Try to Avoid Electronics as a Solution
You may be tempted to set your child in front of the TV or tablet as a quick boredom-buster, but avoid this solution when you can. Hands-on activities are much more conducive to their learning. One recent study uncovered a relationship between poor performance on developmental tests and increased screen time in children. Higher levels of electronics usage with kids aged 24 and 36 months yielded decreased performance rates on an assessment that measured their development at 36 and 60 months.
Letting your child have screen time isn’t inherently harmful, but it doesn’t provide the best method for how to respond to kids’ boredom. Experiment with screen time alternatives based on tactile learning strategies whenever possible. And if you let your kids play with electronics, set them on a schedule to ensure they don’t go overboard.
Discover More Ways to Nurture Your Kids’ Growth With Haymarket Children’s Academy
At Haymarket Children’s Academy, we understand why boredom is beneficial for kids — and we also know what kinds of activities can best bring out a child’s inner creativity and skill. Play-based learning is the core of our curriculum, and this strategy helps us cultivate secure, engaged and curious children. Instilling essential values such as diversity, safety and happiness within our learners prepares them for exploring the big, wide world as they mature.
We provide a safe, nurturing environment for children from birth to seven years old. As the premier facility for child care and education in Gainesville, Virginia, we ensure every child receives an experience that prioritizes their learning and natural curiosity. If you’re interested in enrolling your child in one of our programs, contact us today or schedule a tour.