Doing nothing and boredom is a good thing for kids

Helen O’Callaghan on the role boredom plays in development.

IF your child complains of being bored this summer, it’s worth considering that boredom as a concept has been attracting a lot of interest recently. The International Interdisciplinary Boredom Conference met in Warsaw in April — for the fifth time. And in May, people gathered at London’s Boring Conference – to talk about such tedium-loaded topics as toast, barcodes, yellow lines and the shipping forecast.

The International Interdisciplinary Boredom Conference met in Warsaw in April — for the fifth time. And in May, people gathered at London’s Boring Conference – to talk about such tedium-loaded topics as toast, barcodes, yellow lines and the shipping forecast.

Boredom, it seems, has merit. And experts say it has for your child too — so don’t be fazed by the ‘I’m bored’ lament.

Also, your worth as a parent isn’t measured by whether your child’s bored. “Parents get concerned about their child’s boredom. We forget children can respond to their own needs if we give them the resources they need,” says parent coach Val Mullally.

Boredom, says Mullally, is a sign of a healthy child with an active mind seeking something to do. “It’s a healthy signal, saying ‘I need change’. Maybe what your child’s doing is too challenging for them or too easy. Or during holidays, it may be they’re feeling ‘I don’t know how to use my time in a way I’d enjoy’.”

Faced with our children’s boredom, we need to know our role as parents. If we see ourselves as chief entertainment officer, we jump in and try to rescue our child. “We rush around taking them to movies, putting the video on, playing games with them. This teaches children to sit back and expect someone else to entertain them,” says Mullally.

Instead, it’s the parent’s job to be the facilitator — to create resources for the child — like plenty of art materials and dress-up clothes. Once resources are available, children themselves need to find what they want to do, recommends Mullally. “Supporting children to find their own play opportunities enables them to see themselves as people who can use their creativity and imagination, their problem-solving skills and their resources.”

She urges parents to see the outdoors as an invaluable play resource. “They need a garden with a sense of fun — shrubs they can hide behind, a sandpit — where they can use imagination and creativity with the beauty of shadow and light, moving plants and different heights.”

She advises letting children hang an old sheet on the washing line so they can play behind it or an old cloth on a table to create a tent. “Children don’t have to be fully in sight of adults all the time — they need to be able to cosy away and play games.”

Top tips

Empathise with child, but give back responsibility for resolving ‘boredom’, asking: ‘So what do you choose to do?’

Tell child you’ll be with them in 10 minutes — by then they’ll most likely have found something to do.

Be confident child will find a solution.

Provide interesting/varied resources for child’s interests/developmental stage.

When your child complains they’re bored, maybe they want to re-connect with you? Take five minutes with them.



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