As good parents and educators to our children, we often strive to keep them occupied and engaged in educational activities, play dates, sports, and entertainment through television and digital devices. However, studies show that a dose of boredom can do your child a world of good in exploring their imagination and pursuing their own creative abilities to occupy time constructively. Often boredom or “quiet time” leads to cultivating life skills, interests and experiences for your child that they will enjoy well into the future.
Researchers have found that watching too much television or playing with digital devices such as phones, ipads, and video games can inhibit a child’s imagination. Children, as well as adults, need idle time to let their minds wander freely and think independently of external stimuli to help boost creativity and self-reliance.
What do you do when your child says, “I’m bored.”
The best thing to do is give your child the opportunity to explore his or her imagination with reading, drawing, painting, listening to music, or using building blocks or other simple toys and materials to create something useful or entertaining using their imagination. As children, my brothers and I spent many hours building forts out of cardboard boxes. We learned how to rely on ourselves—and our imaginations—to create fantastic fortresses.
Winston Churchill, one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, spent many hours alone as a child reading, writing, and playing with miniature toy soldiers. As a small child, he amassed more than 1500 tiny tin soldiers, devising imaginary military maneuvers with his figurines. In his autobiography, My Early Life, Churchill claimed that this activity spurred his interest in being a soldier, politician and later a great statesman, which led him to being a critical leader in ending World War II. Later in his life, Churchill enjoyed writing and painting to occupy his quiet time.
Developing self-reliance and resourcefulness
Helping your child learn how to alleviate boredom creatively also helps develop inner resources that foster self-reliance, independence, and confidence. The freedom to find fun, productive ways to amuse themselves taps into your child’s natural curiosity, playfulness, and inventiveness. You will also be honing their observation and concentration skills as they pursue creative endeavors. In this process, your child will also learn the power of perseverance and the benefits of persistence when they try to accomplish a task on their own. You and your child will find this especially meaningful when they proudly say to you, “Look what I made.”
Children need time to themselves, too.
My niece and nephew are very active children, engaged in school, sports and music lessons, Monday through Saturday. It’s great when I call on Sunday mornings to check in and they say, “We’re just relaxing.” The children need that “off” time to recharge just as we all do.
Parents need timeout as well.
Often when we let ourselves daydream and take enjoyment from simple “puttering” we find imaginative ways to pursue interests or help spark solutions to problems we may be pondering. When we’re bored, doing simple tasks such as yard work, cleaning, cooking, or organizing cabinets and closets can help free your mind. These simple, but important tasks, give us the opportunity and freedom to think more clearly, unencumbered by other everyday demands.
To help us all think more creatively, taking a couple of hours of relaxation and idle time can benefit you and your child immensely.
So, let’s turn off the TV and put away the computers and phones and just disconnect for the pure pleasure of relaxing, imagining, and creating.