Embracing boredom these holidays

I love the idea of boredom! To me boredom means ‘freedom!’ to do whatever I want. It means I have enough time to breathe, to think, to dream, and to create! In the end boredom leads to enjoyment and creation. But try telling your kids that! Kids equate boredom with the end of the world! And if they are at school five days a week, with after school activities and weekend parties and events, no wonder they find boredom hard to cope with. They are used to being busy, entertained, engaged, and rushed!

But boredom is one of the best emotions our kids can feel. I encourage my kids to embrace it!

“Embrace the boredom!,” I say. “That’s where creativity begins!”

I’m enthusiastically greeted with groans. Isn’t boredom painful?! But no matter what the kids say, I stick to my guns. One of my kids is particularly good at wearing me down when it comes to wanting a turn on the iPad. Once I told him that we should celebrate our boredom, as it’s an opportunity for our creativity to grow. He took this as a cue to run up and down the hallway screaming joyously “I’m bored! I’m bored!” at the top of his lungs. I think I promptly handed him an iPad!

My kids say “I’m bored” a lot! Whenever they tell me they’re bored, I say “that’s great! Go and find something to do.” Or “That’s great! What a good opportunity to discover your next creative idea.” And often, “Great! Here’s a job I need you to do.”

This has meant the kids love to read books, they love to draw, they love to climb trees, they teach themselves musical instruments, languages and how to solve Rubix cubes. For some of these things they have used screens to research the answers. They are heaps smarter than me and they love to learn! They also argue a lot. I’ve come to accept that the arguing is part of them growing in their personalities, learning how to work together, prove their point, how to compromise, how to give-in and how to make up! I could just put a screen in front of them, we’d get some peace for a while, but they wouldn’t be so close. So we just embrace the wrestling and the noise that often comes with boredom, or we move far away!

Without giving our kids the freedom to be bored and to come up with ideas for how to entertain themselves they wouldn’t have the opportunities to do the things we got to do as kids, like:

  • street billy-cart races
  • under the table cubby houses
  • designing their own tree-house
  • making a sculpture or master piece that they are proud of making just because they wanted to
  • learning a new skill, like knuckles, skipping, climbing, elastics
  • making obstacle courses and racing each other

If we give our kids room and space to be creative, they will be more creative in their jobs when they grow up, they will have a stronger identity in themselves, knowing what they can do and what they love to do, they will build stronger relationships with each other.

Here are 4 ideas for encouraging creativity through boredom:

  1. Create boundaries. Think about what the ideal amount of screen time you want your child to have is, and stick to your guns. Maybe hold off on screen time ’til the end of the day so that your kids can get used to finding things to do first.
  2. At the beginning of the holidays get your kids to make a list of things they would love to do. Let them include screen-time, but also get them to include three things to do outside, three things to do with friends and siblings, three artistic things, three things to learn… and anything else you can think of.
  3. Send them outside often. Give them a few ideas, but leave them to their own devices a bit. Don’t try to jump in on the arguments, give them a chance to work it out. Let them use tools!
  4. Make a craft box with a few activities in it, for a quick go-to when they can’t think of what to do.
  5. Or if all else fails, read them these fantastic quotes on boredom (below). I always find that reading quotes to the kids sends them running to find something to do!!

So have fun these holidays! Don’t feel bad when your kids say that they’re bored, it’s a sign that you’re doing a good job and encouraging their creativity!

What sort of things do your kids get up to when they’re bored?


Great quotes on boredom:

Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other. Arthur Schopenhauer

Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. Aldous Huxley

There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people. G.K. Chesterton

Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves? – Friedrich Nietzsche

“I’m bored” is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless, it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.” – Louis C.K.

Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. – Susan Ertz

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. – Ellen Parr