Resources for the Intentional Parent

The Case for Boredom

Hi parent,

I see you there, on the cusp of the kids’ summer vacation. Is that fear in your eyes?

Just so you know, you are not a party clown, a children’s entertainer, or your kids’ personal assistant. You are their parent. When they come to you, whining, “I’m bored,” don’t let it get you down. Don’t default into a Netflix binge fest or PlayStation marathon. Boredom can be a good thing. Boredom can be the very best thing for your summer vacation.

In an era when society pushes even the youngest to do more and be more, can we embrace boredom? Do you remember the dog days of summer? At some point during our childhood years, the morning cartoons ended and daytime TV for grown-ups reigned until the nightly news. We were forced to find something else to do--and look at us now, all grown up and highly functioning members of society.

According to the Alliance for Childhood, the loss of free playtime is increasing our children’s risk of obesity, anxiety, and other physical and mental health issues. They report “Ninety-five percent of mothers surveyed in the U.S. express deep concern that their children are growing up too quickly and missing out on the joys and experiential learning opportunities of free play and natural exploration.“

Parents, boredom can be a gateway to awesome.

  • It encourages imaginative play. Just a few days ago, after being shot down when they asked for tech time, my kids decided to play together. They built a blanket fort. They traveled back to the Mesozoic era and crept through our home in an effort to not be trampled by the giant dinosaurs all around. If given enough space to use it, the imagination creates a wonderful world to be a part of.

  • It encourages an interest in creating art. One of our favorite alternatives to tech is art. It’s messy. It’s tactile and it’s beautiful. Pipe cleaners and felt can make tents for army men. Scrap fabric and string make pillows and beds for sleepy plush toys. Brown paper bags and paint make masks, costumes, and the next great masterpiece. Even a printed coloring page and a pack of crayons can make a relaxing, quiet time together in the midst of a hot summer day.

  • It encourages outdoor exploration. The Alliance for Childhood also says “the decline in children’s play is well documented. Compared to the 1970s, children now spend 50% less time in unstructured outdoor activities. Children ages 10 to 16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.” For me, summer in the Northwest is perfection. Almost any outdoor adventure can be had, but adventure is often what you make of it. But wherever you live, urban or rural, grab a magnifying glass and look at the grass, bugs, rocks, cement, or bark. Go for a walk and count how many different colors or cars you can find in the neighborhood. Collect rocks or leaves and make a nature collage on your sidewalk. Grab a camera and take pictures of what interests you.

  • It encourages you to find a good book. I remember escaping the hot Arizona sun, on my floor, in front of the fan, in a new book. Marcel Proust said “There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” We would do well to encourage our children to have those days. Help them find an author that will make their minds swirl with hope, excitement, friendship, and joy. Encourage a lifelong love of reading, starting this summer.

  • It encourages family adventures. There will be days. The dog days of summer, when everyone is tapped out. Get out of the house. Drive to the park, the library, an outdoor concert, or the neighboring town. Go eat something fun like ice cream or scones. Take a hike, go to a museum or the farmer's’ market, or visit the animal shelter. While the days are long, the years are short;make memories together.

Boredom is not the end of the world, for you or for your children. Embrace the chance to find restorative rest apart from a screen. You may be surprised by the imaginative, ingenious, and fun ideas that your kids will come up with when they are on the verge of perishing from boredom.

By Jesica Swanson, Kudoso Kontributor