Why is boredom beneficial to children, and how can you help your child turn boredom into something enjoyable and creative?
Children frequently complain about being bored. However, boredom can be a positive thing, helping children develop skills, creativity, and self-esteem.
Stephanie Lee, director of the Child Mind Institute’s ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center, says boredom helps children develop valuable skills. For starters, it teaches children to be tolerant of less-than-ideal experiences.
“When things don’t go our way in life, we have to learn to manage our frustrations and emotions, and boredom is a great way to teach that skill,” says Lee.
“Boredom also helps children develop planning strategies, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and organisational skills, which children with highly structured lives may lack. It’s not boredom in and of itself that helps children learn these skills; it’s what they do with their boredom. The key is to teach kids how to manage their boredom.”
Face boredom head on
When a child says, “I’m bored”, it could mean various things. They could be hungry, looking for attention, interested in what you’re doing, or looking for something to do with their time. While it’s important to consider what they’re really complaining about (and to feed them if they’re hungry! ), you should be cautious about your initial reaction.
If you drop everything because they want your attention, they will never learn to entertain themselves. If you spend time planning activities every time they ask, they won’t have time to come up with their own. Rather than being reactive, be proactive with your children about their options.
For children aged 4 to 6: Create an activity chart
Set aside time with your child to create a list of activities they enjoy and some fun challenges or longer-term projects to beat boredom.
Create an activity chart (with pictures for younger children) that your child can refer to instead of coming to you when they are bored.
An activity chart for children could include:
- Breakfast with teddy bears or a picnic
- Nature or bug hunt
- Making and playing in a fort
- Legos or other construction toys
- Craft or colouring project
- Reading a book
- Playing in the garden
For children aged six to 12: Encourage inventiveness
Thinking creatively is essential for overcoming boredom, but the inability to plan and follow through can get in the way. While a cardboard box can inspire creativity at any age, some children may not even know where to begin. If this is the case, you’ll need to teach them how to plan each step and assist them in developing problem-solving abilities.
Inquire about what they intend to do first, what materials they will require, and the steps they intend to take. Give older children open-ended tasks (projects that can be completed in multiple ways and have multiple possible outcomes) to help them develop problem-solving skills.
Top tip: A “Boredom Buster Jar” full of fun activity ideas is one way to get ahead of the boredom game for kids. Create a list of activities that your child enjoys. Put each activity on a separate slip of paper and place all of the papers in the jar. When you have bored children, tell them to choose a slip from the “Boredom Buster Jar” and let them do whatever activity they’ve chosen.
For children aged 12 and older: Get crafty
Tweens and teens are more self-reliant by nature. But that doesn’t mean they don’t get bored. It can be beneficial to help them understand that boredom may represent a need for some type of activity.
This could include learning a new language through an app, writing a short story, going for a walk outside, or honing a new skill such as photography, beading, painting, knitting, or crafting.