I am not the kind of mom that plans a bunch of things to keep my girls busy and occupied. While I do set-up play and art invitations from time to time, for the most part my girls are masters of their own playtime. They have ample time for unstructured play, which they may spend playing with toys, drawing, reading, or running around outside.
Of course, with all that free time, I do get my fair share of the “I’m bored….” complaints. I’m sure you are familiar with those words, too!
But, I’m am not opposed to boredom. The beauty and importance of boredom is that with opportunity and practice, your child learns to engage with unstructured time. She learns to be with her thoughts, to ask questions, to wonder, to try something new.
Sometimes, a dull moment of boredom is followed by a burst of creativity. My girls have invented card games, built cardboard robot dogs, and tried making constellations on our Lite-Brite, all as a result of having nothing to do.
I also think it’s important to remember that boredom is a real feeling.Even as an adult, I have times where I can’t seem to engage with any one activity. I flit from thing to thing, feeling restless and uninspired.
I’m pretty sure my girls aren’t going to tell me they are feeling unengaged, uninspired, or can’t find their flow. No, their phrase for all of these feelings is, of course, “I’m bored!” When I remember this, it helps me respond with kindness, rather than with a snarky remark like, “Only boring people get bored.”
So, boredom is real and boredom is good! The goal is not to eliminate boredom from our kids’ lives. But, it is nice to have a few ideas for helping them deal with those feelings of boredom.
Here’s what I do when one of my girls follows me around the house saying, “I’m bored…”,or any of its cousins, like “I can’t find anything to do…”:
First, check in – does your child need to connect? Try filling his tank with eye contact, snuggles, and a little conversation, then see if he is ready to go play.
Prepare in advance for moments of boredom. Brainstorm ideas of things to do and make a list. Or put all your ideas on cards in a bucket or jar. (You can check out our idea card bucket for inspiration.) When boredom strikes, remind your child about these resources.
Go outside. Fresh air, rocks to collect, puddles to jump in, space for running – nature is a perfect boredom-buster.
Join in. Again, maybe your child needs some connecting time. Sit down and play, read, or visit for a few minutes. Or, invite your child to join in with what you are doing. Helping with a chore might be just the purposeful activity she is looking for.
Or, try to join in, get things rolling, then step away.I did this all the time when my girls were little. We would pull out a floor puzzle, I’d help them get going, then walk away saying something like, “I can’t wait to see how far you are next time I walk by!” This works with setting up a pretend play scenario, starting an art project, or pulling out a bin of forgotten toys.
Make your home full of opportunities for unstructured playtime, where your child takes the lead in choosing materials and activities:
- Limit screen time
- Offer open-ended toys (not too many), and keep them organized
- Keep some basic art & writing supplies and a junk box in your child’s reach
- Have a few art project or science experiment books on hand for browsing and inspiration
Bottom line for dealing with your child’s boredom: respond with kindness, offer a few gentle suggestions, and provide lots of opportunities for unstructured, child-led play.
Do your kids get bored frequently or rarely? What’s your go-to boredom buster?