Why You Should Let Your Kids Be Bored

“Mom, Dad, I’m bored!” How often have you heard this phrase from the mouths of your children?

It is tempting to offer solutions to your kids, give them chores to do, offer up screen time… the list can go on.

For kids, being “bored” is as bad as a four-letter word.

I remember many summer afternoons as a kid in the 90’s, wandering around the house, looking for things to play with or keep me occupied. Sometimes my boredom would bring me outside to make mud pies to bake in the hot summer sun, and other times, I’d pack up a backpack, make a fort, and go “camping” in my living room.

As a kid, the afternoons seemed to stretch on forever! It took forever for a minute to pass. And now as an adult, part of me wishes I could have those afternoons of boredom back in my life!

What does “bored” mean?

To be “bored” is defined in the dictionary as, “Uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence.”

It is no secret that adults and kids alike can easily fall into the trap of being busy, stimulated, or indulged.

We can see this sprout up in many areas of our lives. Instead of looking out the window on road trips or in the car, kids are given DVD players, tablets, or other electronic gadgets to keep them busy and quiet.

Kids seen in restaurants or in shopping carts in grocery stores are seen with their parents’ phones to keep them entertained.

Believe me, as the mom of a toddler, I know how tempting it can be to use a video for a moment of uninterrupted time, a moment of silence!

But what I see in this generation is a generation that has grown up having access to tablets and screens from a very early age. This is the first generation to have this accessibility. Can we really say it’s working for us?

Benefits to Boredom

Kids experiencing boredom is NOT a bad thing! In fact, there are so many benefits to boredom.

  1. Boredom cultivates ingenuity. Boredom helps foster creativity and imagination. Unstructured time to do anything may seem daunting at first, so parents can be a beneficial resource in getting the ball rolling with some ideas to start. This doesn’t mean giving in to whining, however. But it does mean that we are often the first barrier to our kids experiencing boredom. We don’t want to hear the whines, tantrums, or cries that can often accompany the unpleasant experience. Sometimes we just need to get work or chores done! What we can do, however, is trust their creativity and ability to get themselves out of the stuck situation they feel that they are in.
    It might be time to break out some craft supplies, sports equipment, old electronics for tinkering with, or a few good book options.
    The opportunities are truly endless, and the best part is, your child could walk away with an invention or a newfound passion. When kids have nothing to do, it is amazing what they will come up with. Here come the mud pies, living-room forts, and baked goods!
  2. Boredom helps develop problem-solving skills. Not only will boredom help in being creative and using imagination skills, but it will also help to develop problem-solving skills. Kids will have to be creative in finding something to do. They will be able to identify the problem (I’m bored and don’t want to be) and proactively find a solution to their problem (go outside, ride my bike, read a book, etc.).
    If siblings are joining in on the unstructured free time, there will be many chances for problem-solving from all ages! Kids may fight over the same activity or fight over wanting to do separate activities. As parents, we may want to jump in and try to solve these dilemmas, but it can be helpful to take a back seat, listen, monitor as needed, and be there to support each child.  
    Kids are more capable than we often give them credit for! Having conflicts is natural, normal, and a part of growing together as a family. Trust that you’ve given them the tools needed for them to figure it out on their own. You can still be there as a back-up when it’s needed.
  3. Boredom can help kids grow in self-esteem. Allowing your kids to be bored can encourage them to find new interests and hobbies they may have never discovered if they were on screens or just “busy.” Parents can play a powerful role in redirecting their kids and putting the power of choice back into their hands.  
    If your child comes up to you saying, “I’m bored!” a powerful statement back is, “I wonder what you’ll find to do!” It gives the child the responsibility and freedom to decide how they will spend their time. The world is their oyster, and they can find the right activity to get involved in.  
    For younger kids, finding something to do can be challenging, so offering two choices to them may be helpful.
    For older kids, try to avoid offering solutions. Let them decide and watch them get involved in something interesting.
    You could also try offering a “boring” task like helping around the house. Worse case, you’ll get some housework done!

A Blessing in Disguise

All in all, the idea of “boredom” can actually be such a blessing! Avoiding the temptation to offer a solution to your child’s boredom is the key to letting them find ways to occupy their unstructured time. Letting your child be bored can encourage creativity and use of imagination, develop problem-solving skills, and boost self-esteem. Not to mention, it’s setting them up well for the next time they find themselves in a similar situation!

The next time you find your family in the car, at a restaurant, out at a supermarket or are just around at home in the summer or during a vacation from school, put down the screens and give children the opportunity to be completely unplugged and bored! Trust me, when they’re older, they will thank you!