As the holidays come to a close I am sure this is not an altogether unfamiliar phrase to be heard from the mouths of our modern youth.
What do you do in that situation? Do you run around trying to organise play dates, visits to the movies, purchase a new Wii game ? All great fun things to be sure, but rather than fill in every conceivable minute with activities, maybe it is time we let out kids embrace ‘the art of being bored’.
No, not really an art, but nonetheless a skill at least that our children are often not given the chance to perfect. So why is it important, this idea of being bored, this need to unwind and to simply chill out?
The school term brings with it a life that is structured, full of extra curricula activities, after-school sports, training sessions and around the clock appointments that leave little time for anything but the essentials. Even our toddlers and pre-schoolers are kept entertained with playgroups, kindergyms, art and music classes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these commitments, in fact they can be great for skills development and emotional and social growth and awareness. But like most things, we need to ensure that our children have a balance of this structure with down time, time to relax and time to unwind. They also need to be able to entertain themselves when the structure of term finishes and they are faced with a few extra hours of “free time”. To help our children fill the void themselves, be happy with their own company and relish in the ‘downtime’, we need to start early in their childhood and ensure that we don’t always need to be the ones to entertain and provide the activities.
So to help our children “embrace the boredom”, they must know from an early age that it is not always the role of the parent to fill every millisecond with the offer of a myriad of choices to entertain, placate or stop the nagging.
Some ways to help ensure this, are to:
– Give them plenty of time and opportunity for free play from an early age so that it becomes part of their process for filling in time.Encourage exercise without rules, or rules they make up themselves. Let them make up games and decide for themselves how it will play out. As they get older their games will become more sophisticated but they will tend to rely on themselves more for entertainment rather than you as the parent.
– Allow your kids to “get into the zone” of something they are passionate about. Encourage those hobbies and interests they enjoy so that they have the ability to ‘get lost in the pursuit of them’. If they have these interests from an early age it is far more likely they will continue them through their teen years.
– Role model interests yourself. Let them see that there are times when you are able to engage in activities that you enjoy, such as gardening, painting, writing or exercising. Not everything you do needs to be structured or run to a schedule and nor does it have to contribute to the running of the household. Sometimes we need to show that we are doing something for ourselves, for our own relaxation and fulfilment.
– Get involved in your child’s interests for you as well as them, as this can help you as a parent learn to unwind as well. A quick game of cricket in the backyard is a much more productive way for my husband to unwind after work than plonking himself in front of the TV (time for that when the kids are in bed). This ‘down time’ between parents and their kids has also proven to be a time when family members ‘loosen up’ and ‘connect’.
– Try and encourage play without relying on electronic equipment. I am not saying that we can’t use the TV, video games or ipods to help our children “chill out”, but it is far more advantageous for them to have many alternative ways to fill in their time. So be sure to have periods of time when no ‘devices’ are allowed.
We want our kids to be busy, active, motivated and energised and certainly this is helped by way of the activities we organise and the structure and routine that we initiate. We also however need this to be balanced with unscheduled, unplanned activity, whereby the child is forced to create their own fun and entertain themselves.
How do you respond to the cries of “boredom” and what sorts of things do you do to encourage free play?