Let Them Be Bored

by Amanda K.

Today, parents are doing everything in their power to ensure their children are preoccupied at all times. Children are being introduced to technology such as television and electronic devices at a young age in effort to keep them busy. As a result, children are never bored and they experience negative consequences because of it. I read an article that discussed the difference between children who are constantly being entertained versus children who experience boredom. It was concluded that children who are given free time and experience boredom, had more imagination skills and were better at problem solving. Occupying every ounce of children’s free time creates little robots and reduces their imagination capacities. This is concerning because imagination has a large impact on the development of personality and problem solving abilities. I am not implying that parents should allow their children to sit in boredom all day, but simply encouraging parents to allow their children to use their imagination instead of technology.

To me, I have never seen being bored as a negative thing, but I have friends who hate the idea of not having anything to do. Growing up, I would spend the entire day alone in my room playing “house” with my Barbies or stuffed animals. I didn’t need anyone to accompany me because I had ability to imagine my stuffed animals coming to life. I believe this is why I have developed into an introvert. I have always had the ability to entertain myself with the simplest objects even if they were fabricated in my own mind. Without sounding like I was some freak on the playground who imagined things, I had a creative talent that allowed me to come up with imaginative ideas and solutions to problems. As I got older, unfortunately, I became too old to play house alone in my room. Instead, when me and my friends were bored, we would make up games in my backyard or pool. I remember playing “lifeguard” in the pool with my brother. One of us would be the lifeguard while the other was “drowning” and needed to be saved. We could spend hours in the pool playing out different situations like this.

Parents should never feel guilty when they see their children being bored. They should instead promote this behavior and simply provide their children with tools to deal with it. Parents need to provide children with the space and the proper materials that challenge them to amuse themselves. In some instances, this could simply mean giving children a cardboard box. It is amazing what a child can do with a cardboard box and imagination. They could be happily occupied for hours. If children run out of ideas, parents can give children a challenge that prompts more “creative role play”. For example, helping them cut holes in the box or giving them markers to decorate it to create something entirely new.

Not only is this a good lesson for children, but also for adults. We occupy a lot of our free time using technology and rarely enjoy being bored. Who says we’re too old to actively use our imagination for good? Who says were too old to play lifeguard in the pool?

Resources:

Being bored is good for children – and adults. This is why. Teresa Belton, World Economic Forum. (2016, September 26).

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13 Responses to Let Them Be Bored

  1. moxford1 says:

    I think that boredom is one of the most important and essential aspects to development. Amanda’s blog posts strongly relates to the value of play. The value of play allows for the development of imagination and cognitive abilities. It’s important for youth to engage in play and be bored, like Amanda has said, because they are able to learn different things about themselves naturally. From this youth, are able to discover skills and interest that they can further pursue through sport or leisure activities, which will help foster more development.

    Like Amanda mentioned, today parents are very focused on structured activities because they think they are what is best for their children. We have established the importance for both unstructured and structured activities in this class. Letting you child be bored is an easy and inexpensive way to allow for unstructured activities. Amanda gave a lot of great examples of play and “boredom” which I think has helped her develop positively!!

  2. johareid says:

    I would have to agree with this blog post, Amanda! As a kid, I grew up playing outside with my brother and sister. We were constantly thinking of games we could play in the yard and the fields beside our house, especially when there were hay bales to jump on. As a child who got to be creative and spent some time being bored, I feel as though I learned a lot about problem solving. I was made to resolve conflict between my siblings and friends on my own.

    I believe it’s important for parents to allow their children to be bored and come up with games to entertain themselves. This will encourage the youth to have fun without being told to do so. Or without looking at a screen. Boredom can stem into some exciting and thrilling games for youth to participate in for the rest of their youth. These games could even turn into games they could teach youth when they become adults. I agree that boredom can develop youth into great adults!

  3. colinougler says:

    From my early days in middle school, I would do everything I could in order to not be bored. Once I reached high school, I ended up doing drama club, which was a commitment of 1.5 hours a day for 4 days a week, JDRF, the Children’s Wish Foundation, student council, dance classes 4+ days a week, and any other possible committee I could be involved in. On top of this, I was also working part-time. I was always busy and didn’t perceive any of these activities as negative stress – the reason why being I was the one who had signed myself up for these activities because I wanted to be that busy. These days, I have learned that downtime is equally as important as being busy. I have learned to truly appreciate it as a rewarding experience.

    I mention this as a component of free will because I have seen multiple dancers burn out because they do so much so soon. Does it have to do with early specialization? In some ways, yes, it does. However, I provided the individuals I am thinking of as I write this, I do not believe it is that because the passion for dance is there. What lacks, or truly does not lack, for these dancers is work ethic. Eventually, because of the pressure to be the best you can be while working physically for no fewer than 15 hours each week, those who are fully invested will either burn out well before they should or they decide dance is not what they are going to do for their career and they do not work as hard.

    This does not just apply to youth – it seems every second person is suffering anxiety or depression and is on medication for it. Why not recognize that free time does not mean time that could be used more wisely? It is equally important to refresh yourself as it is to be productive to be the best you can be. If you can’t find comfort within yourself having free (leisure) time, how can you be expected to be able to benefit others?

  4. darrionlyne says:

    Great point Amanda! I believe that boredom is a large influential factor when it comes to a child’s developing imagination. I was an only child until I was nine years old, and I to would often play alone in my room making up imaginary worlds with Barbie’s or stuffed animals. I would consider myself an extrovert, however, I value my alone time and never fail to amuse myself. Although my parents put me into afterschool programs I regularly had free time to play and be imaginative; my play time outside with friends or by myself would almost always consist of games of make believe. This unstructured play allowed my friends and I to get creative with simple outdoor or indoor toys; furthermore, unstructured play has been found to have many benefits such as promoting problem solving and critical thinking.
    With the rise in available technology for all, I think increased time in front of a screen takes away from the time that would have been spent in boredom. Therefore, today’s youth are under constant simulation when they have a phone or tablet available anytime they must wait for a parent to tell them what to do next. Personally, I find that times where I am most available to thinking creativity would be right before bed; however, I must turn off my phone and laptop a half an hour before sleeping to allow myself time to think. Sitting in a dark room with nothing to distract me allows for my thinking process to be less stressful. Phone notifications and emails from laptops are a constant distracting variable in my everyday life; if children do not allow themselves to have time away from their devices than will they be able to focus on their inner selves and find imagination?

    Darrion S.

  5. robbiepark95 says:

    Great blog post Amanda!

    I agree with you that kids are almost just thrown technology as a way of getting them out of their peers heads. It’s an easy fix for the adult to just give their child an iPhone or an iPad to keep themselves occupied if they are constantly annoying (lets not lie, we get annoyed by persistent kids, especially after a long day of work). I also agree that because of the constant rise in technological demands, kids are somewhat losing their imagination, or are finding it hard to occupy themselves and their friends without having a screen in front of them.
    My younger brother was in a stint like this for a while, where he didn’t really know what to do with his friends, other than look at a TV screen, use an xbox controller and talk through a microphone, and vice versa. I must say he is a lot better now, it’s hard for me to give him ideas because I’m not in the same country, but any given opportunity, I’ll put ideas in his head of things we did as kids – playing soccer, manhunt, British bulldogs etc.. He doesn’t really listen to my parents (who are young parents) because he thinks their ancient!
    My parents actually encourage him to go out more now and limit his time on technology vs how many hours he has been outside and interacting with his mates. If I am fortunate enough to have a family, I will do my best to encourage the kids to think for themselves and use their wonderful creative minds to play different games, with or without their friends.

    Great Job!
    Robbie P.

  6. Alex Watts says:

    Wow. Really simple means of stressing how important it is for youth to have “active play”. I remember during my recess breaks in elementary school that we sometimes had some structured activities through the week, but more often then not we were set free for an entire hour to basically do whatever we wanted. I remember looking forward to those days, even when I was entering into my days of middle school. It’s important for kids of all aged to get this opportunity to use their minds and imagination, as it helps to assist in problem solving in the future. I was always signed up in different sports and events when I was younger, but since i’ve been living away from home I have learned to appreciate and enjoy alone time, or bored time. It’s become something that I now associate with completing schoolwork; as soon as I have that ‘i’m bored’ feeling I ask myself if I have any schoolwork to complete, which the answer always is yes.

    Great Post!
    A. Watts

  7. jwaye1 says:

    Great post Amanda! I completely agree with everything that you say in this post. Just like you growing up I used to spend hours playing with Barbie’s in my room by myself. Also, as I got older I used to spend a lot of my free time playing games outside with friends, it almost seems that the new generation of technology is bringing kids inside. When you drive down the street where I grew up and still in fact live it is very rare that you see kids playing outside whereas that was literally my childhood. My friends and I would sometimes spend from the moment we were finished dinner to when the streetlights turned on playing manhunt, hide and go seek or tag outside.

    From my experience working at a summer camp program I noticed that a lot of the kids had absolutely no free time. Every single week in their summer was going from camp to camp since their parents worked. I’ve also noticed that a lot of children aren’t even sure what to do when their given free time, without technology it seems as if youth doesn’t know how to entertain themselves. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to work the past few summers with youth encouraging them to come up with their own ideas and experience free time because like you said Amanda these kids need unstructured play and need to experience boredom to increase their imagination.

    Jessica W.

  8. kepo00157 says:

    This post really spoke to me, Amanda! Growing up in a cul-de-sac, there were always an abundance of kids to play with. We would all spend hours outside or in each other’s houses playing games we had made up. We would play Cops and Robbers or make Harry Potter costumes and pretend to play a game of quidditch. We would find loose materials in our garages and decide to make forts in each others back yards. We would spend snow days outside having snow ball fights or digging holes to hide in. A classic game me and my childhood best friend would play is ‘Sisters’. As sisters we would go on adventures, trips around the world, pretend we were married to twin brothers with children the same age or even be professional basketball players. Our parents would see us at meal times and have to call us in at the end of the day. However, today, the younger kids in my neighbourhood are never seen doing these things. I know the majority of these kids are inside playing videogames or watching TV, as I have babysat them before on different occasions and this is all they like to do. My younger cousins are also like this. There is one memory that sticks out in my mind that took place a few summers ago. I was at their house visiting and finally convinced them to put down their play station controllers and come outside with me. Once outside, they were so confused as to what we were going to do. I went into the garage and pulled out a bike, skate board and jump rope. They looked at me like I was crazy when I tied the skipping rope to the bike and told one of them to hop on the skate board so I could drag them on it behind the bike. I had asked them if they had ever done this before, and they told me they never even bother to use their bikes alone. Making crazy creations was something so normal to me growing up and now people their age never explore the possibilities of what they can create! I was flabbergasted!

    Kelsie P.

  9. aduches1 says:

    I really agree with your blog post Amanda, boredom is an important part of development for youth and getting a chance to use their imagination, I can also see how it help influence decision making. When I was teaching summer camps we gave the youth free time, and some of the kids loved it they ran around and created games to play. Yet we had other kids who didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves, they would look to me or the other kids to try and figure out what they should be doing. These kids were not trying to find their own way to do thing, they had to be told or lead to doing something, and its was sad to watch. It was great to see though that by the end of the week long camps many of the kids were thinking for themselves more and creating their own games and challenges. They enjoyed building obstacle courses in the arena and going through them, and I was seeing the kids who at the start had been looking towards others for directions coming up with their own solutions (like painting rocks when they ran out of paper).

    Andrea

  10. Bestey31 says:

    I really enjoyed this post and the points you covered! When I remember being bored as a kid it always reminds me using creativity and finding things to do to occupy myself. The best part was going for a walk in the woods, climbing trees, or simply having a game of catch. It is a much different story for youth today as they face several barriers as you mentioned that fail to promote imagination and creative thinking like technology. Current youth are having a harder time deciding which game they want to play rather than what they could do to pass time outside of this screen. Another point you mentioned about giving the children the tools they need to be creative reminded me of an after school babysitter I had that let us use very limited about of screen time. She did however have more chests full of clothes, different props, dolls, and anything else a kid could easily play with for hours. Other activities like painting rocks, building sand castles and others alike have mostly by apps or games that kids have fun with. I believe that even if the games are labeled as educational, they do not promote creative thinking. This shows how the values have changed in society today and I agree that it is negatively impacting the development of youth.

  11. dpelkey1 says:

    Great post Amanda! I totally agree with everything you said. Something I’ve noticed since being in university is that i have a hard time allowing myself to be bored. I think that if my parents would have not worried so much about trying to have something for me to do all the time i would not have this issue now. With that being said, i think that it is extremely important for parents to let their children be bored once in a while. When they are out in the real world at university for instance, allowing yourself to be bored and use your imagination is definitely something that would be easier to do.

    Dexter P.

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