What to do when Kids are Bored? Let them be!
And how many times have your tried to find them something to do to occupy them? Lots? Well we have simple answer for you when your kids are bored – let them get bored, in fact, you’ll actually be doing them a favour.
Young children’s attention spans don’t last for long – you can expect approximately three to five minutes for every year of a child’s age. So most 5 year old’s will be able to focus on an activity for about 15 minutes.
Children need to get bored occasionally in order to understand their own thinking, the world around them and their experiences and this self-reflection is needed from a young age. Children often have very busy social lives with school, extra curricular activities and spending time with friends and family. Although these are great in promoting social development, there are some children that lead such a hectic and structured life that they are never given the chance to get bored – they are always being occupied. When they eventually become bored, the novelty is enormous and they may not be able to find alternative activities- this is when they announce “I AM BORED!”. Therefore, it is important to give children some free and unstructured time, where they can get ‘bored’ and find other activities to occupy themselves, promoting independence.
Some children seem to be relentless in seeking parental attention, which if provided constantly can hamper the development of key skills including decision-making, creativity and initiative. As Dr Teresa Belton, expert on the impact of emotions on behaviours and learning, announced this year: Western society has developed an expectation that children should be constantly occupied and stimulated, but having a highly structured routine can obstruct the development of a child’s imagination as they are prevented from using it.
Dr Belton believes that boredom is an “uncomfortable feeling”.
Surprisingly boredom actually encourages children to be creative by developing their innate imagination and this also develops a sense of identity, as the children have to find something to do. A sense of achievement is accomplished when they have been successful in their discovery. Boredom encourages children to find alternative ways of occupying themselves, allowing them to develop their internal stimulus.
Excessive amounts of highly structured, extra curricular activities can be damaging to your child as they will never be allowed to be bored. Constant stimulation can hinder a child’s imagination and prevent them from having any time to chill out and think. Therefore, having unstructured time allows a child to plan, invent, imagine and create.
“A child who can play by him/herself can draw upon this skill whenever his/her mother is on the phone.”Druckerman 2012
Restfulness + frustration + Reflection = CREATIVITY
So what can parents do?
- Try and provide some ‘down time’ to enable thoughts to be reflected upon and to be relaxed after a day at school. If your children claim they are bored, do not relieve this boredom and but encourage them to be imaginative in finding an alternative activity.
- If ‘I’m bored’ is a familiar refrain try sitting down with your child and make a list of all the activities he/she could do if they ever get bored and put it somewhere visible so they’re not constantly . This will allow children to be creative and give their input on what types of activities they like and prevent boredom. Also independence will be demonstrated, as they will be able to choose an activity and will be able to occupy themselves.
- Reward initiative and encourage children to make decisions for themselves. Start with limited choices for toddlers (e.g. do you want to wear the red or green t shirt?) and increase the options as children get older.
- Next time they tell you they’re bored, give them jobs to do to help around the house if they can’t find anything better to do – you can always turn that into a game and help them realise that boredom is a choice they make.
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This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer