In Praise of Boredom

By: | Date: 2/08/2016

The summer holidays are getting close (contrary to what the weather might suggest). Time for your children to forget about tests, homework and all that serious school business and to get out and play!

But with the six weeks of freedom comes another challenge – how you are going to fill those forty-four days so your children don’t get bored?

Well, the good news for parents is that you don’t need to worry! Psychologists in both the UK and the USA say that our children need to be bored, in fact, they benefit from it.

There are a few reasons for this. Dr Teresa Belton of the University of East Anglia says that boredom is “crucial for developing ‘internal stimulus’ which then allows true creativity”. Moreover, if we, the parents and carers, pack children’s days full of formal activities, sports sessions, technological entertainment, it may actually prevent them from discovering what really interests them. Other experts also throw their weight behind the argument adding that boredom can improve the development of problem-solving skills, as boredom (or rather, overcoming it) offers children a challenge and therefore an opportunity to develop.

So how do we put this into practice as parents? After all, we need to plan our time too! Well it’s simple really: plan to have no plan. Set aside unstructured time. Give your children time to think, fiddle, doodle, make something, in whatever way they are motivated to do so. Be prepared for approximately 87 cries of “I’m bored, I don’t know what to dooooo”, but hang in there and something magical may happen.

Developing these creative skills might turn your child into a budding writer or artist, and they obviously help scientists, engineers, business entrepreneurs too. Leaving your children to their own devices isn’t lazy parenting – developing the ability to think creatively will have a positive impact on your child’s life, whatever they end up doing. It provides them with the skills to come up with new and better ways to do things, whether at home or at work. Therefore, and rather ironically, embracing the power of boredom can ultimately help make life more fun and exciting.

Of course, you can still look for planned family activities too. And remember that Wednesday 3rd August is National Playday, an annual celebration of children’s right to play, and a day when places like Eureka! The National Children’s Museum put on lots of activities and shout about the importance of play in children’s lives.

So don’t despair when, just three days into the holidays you hear “I’m bored” for the tenth time that day – sit back, and see what unfolds.

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Eureka! The National Children’s Museum
Discovery Road, Halifax HX1 2NE. Map