Mum! I’m bored!” There’s a phrase that’s probably conjured up many a face palm from parents over the years. And because of this, it is no surprise that many of us feel the need to schedule in play dates and activities, in a bid to banish the dreaded ‘boredom’. But, boredom can actually be a good thing. Without it, kids can get caught up in a blur of instant gratification in the form of iPads, on-demand TV and Playstations. But, what happens when we remove those distractions? Once the cries of boredom have settled down, something wonderful happens. Children have the time to just ‘be’. They look inwards to find their own entertainment, testing out solutions to the problem (boredom) and how to overcome it – all by themselves.
With their minds free to explore without distraction, you might be surprised at the kinds of imaginative play they resort to. They might rediscover their art supplies, long abandoned in favour of hours spent on Minecraft. They might dust off that old keyboard, which was forgotten about even before Pokemon Go reared its crazy little yellow head. Boredom also allows them to explore their emotions and questions about the world. With all that white noise, sometimes the most important questions are never asked – not without the help of Google anyway. This quiet time can be a learning curve for us, too. When we are quiet, we can process the thoughts running through our head, and who knows where that might lead? As theologist Tryon Edwards said: “Contemplation is to knowledge what digestion is to food – the way to get life out of it.”
Boredom is also good for the body as it allows us to rest. We all know how much better we sleep when we aren’t fretting about this, that or the other. Taking some time out to relax our mind helps to relax our body too.
Don’t be tempted to schedule something for your child to do. Instead, take a back seat and encourage them to think of something to do for themselves. This can be helped along by giving them ready access to art and craft supplies, or the contents of the recycling bin. You’ll be amazed at what kids can create when they have some time to think about it. If that fails, take them outside. Don’t underestimate the power of nature to ignite something inside your child. Boredom is a chance to rediscover the small things. They might collect some insects, build a fort, make leaf prints, pick up that hula hoop. Sometimes, having nothing to do leads to some of the best things to do.