Monday, June 13, 2011

Boredom Busters?

If you are a parent you are guaranteed to have heard the whine: 'Mom, I'm booooored.'
What should we do? Many parents pack their children's days full with activities even during summer. Kids go to all sorts of camps and activities in the hope of staving off the summer doldrums. I on the other hand, will try to have a healthy balance between activities and carefully cultivated boredom.


Here is what usually happens:

'Mom, I am bored.'


'What shall I do?'

'How about playing with your cars, or coloring?'

'I don't feel like it.'

'Ok, how about....'

..............Well, you probably know how this goes on. I keep coming up with other ideas and they all are summarily rejected.


'Can I watch some TVeeeeeeee?'


'Can I go on the computer?'


'Can I play with the DS?'


'But I am so booooored....'

'Too bad.'

The victim of my callousness slinks off to brood on the unfairness of it all.  As he ascends the stairs to his room I may hear some stomping. Sort of his way of telling me that he isn't impressed with me at all.

I could say I sigh but I normally just grin.

And eventually my son, my youngest, does come up with something to entertain himself.

Unless, ....

                      .....he gets hold of his dad, in which case the conversation usually lasts only 2 minutes (at the utmost) and ends with the beeping sounds of the TV being turned on.




And here comes the 'when I grew up' yarn.


I had to haul water from an icy river after chopping wood for an hour and then I walked many miles to school. Upon coming home I had to milk the cows, swap the deck....
Seriously, even Tom Sawyer didn't have to do that. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

But in all honesty,  I think I had a better childhood than my kids. We didn't have countless TV shows clamoring for our attention. There were no videogames. And personal PCs didn't exist either.

Uh-uh. I think I just dated myself.

We played outside all day long. And read books. And then acted out the stories. We rode our bikes everywhere (without helmets) and swam in the local  pond. Of course I grew up in a small village in Germany and these things were not only perfectly safe but also normal.  Would I let my daughter ride her bike alone to her friend who lives a few blocks away? Heck no!  Sad. Isn't it. 

Let's bring this conversation back to the word.


Boredom forces the mind to stop spinning. It forces a child's mind to relax for a little while and step back. Boredom comes in stages.

Stage one: The realization that the current activity has become less than satisfying.

Stage two: You keep doing the activity because you are hoping it'll become fun again.

Stage three: You give up the activity and maybe try something else with similar results.

Stage four: You realize that you are bored.

Stage five: You sit in your room and drool on yourself. After a while you attempt to fill that mental space with something else. If you are a teenager you may fall asleep. Or you pick up the phone to find someone to talk to. Eventually you'll start doing things which may or may not be stupid or dangerous and realize you are not bored anymore.  If the bored child is not a teen he or she will go on the prowl to find something to fill that mental space.

Hello, it echoes in here, someone fill me up.


Let them fill it up themselves. Just provide the raw materials.

When nothing comes to fill up the space the child will eventually come up with something creative to fill the space. 

Boredom encourages thinking. It encourages creativity. But only if we allow the child to fill the space herself.  To fill the space without our input of activities and especially without the use of electronic baby sitters. Give them options. At their disposal have Legos, crafts, art, books, discovery in the backyard, train the pet stupid tricks. Etc. It can't be spoon-fed entertainment as that defeats the purpose, the children have to use their brains to come up with something. 

Allow your child to experience and deal with boredom. He or she will become a much safer teen. Teenagers who never learned to manage boredom will be far more likely to engage in risky behaviour just to stop feeling that way.  Teach them from young on to be creative. Yes, it may be that your young child will come into the kitchen and say he wants to cook or bake or borrow pots and pans to make a percussion set up for 'music'. And when they do, don't you dare say 'No', if you can at all help it. Be creative with them and hand them a spoon.