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Letting kids be bored can be a good thing. From developing self-sufficiency to boosting creativity – the positive benefits far outweigh the pain of boredom.
When kids feel bored, it’s actually a good thing. Sure, boredom might be uncomfortable, but experiencing it from time to time will give them useful skills for the future. The next time they complain about having nothing to do, rest easy knowing deep down they’re sparking creativity, becoming self-sufficient and engaging in necessary downtime.
When you’re bored, your brain is free to wander, explore and daydream. In this way, it actually sparks creativity and bored kids pretty soon become creative kids. When you leave your little ones to feel occasional boredom, instead of jumping in with toys, games and activity solutions, they get motivated to find fun for themselves. A state of boredom begets a creative imagination and good problem-solving abilities. These are essential life skills. In fact, according to British education expert Dr Teresa Belton, kids who are constantly engaged in organised activity may end up suffering from a lack of imagination in the future.
When we leave kids to their own devices and allow them to occasionally experience boredom, they find their own strategies for coping. Being able to self-regulate and solve problems is the best gift you can give your child. Child psychologist Lyn Fry suggests it’s our prime role as parents to prepare our kids for their place in society. As adults, they will need to manage their own time and find what makes them feel happy and fulfilled – they won’t have a mum or dad around to do all the scheduling and soothing whenever they get bored.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is tricky, no matter your age or experience. The silver lining of feeling bored is that, sometimes, it’s the inspiration kids (and adults) need to seek out and engage in new activities. Researchers Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood from Penn State University in the United States found that boredom “encourages people to explore because it signals that your current situation is lacking, so it’s kind of a push to seek out something new.”
Periods of downtime give us the space we need to quietly turn inward and conduct a system check of our own thoughts and feelings. It’s like turning the volume down on the overstimulating outside world, while turning the volume up on our internal world and discovering what makes us tick. And once we uncover what we really enjoy doing, being bored gives us opportunities to pursue these tasks more fully. Enforced solitude allows kids the time to work on and perfect a particular skill, such as writing, drawing or playing music.
All kids require periods of quiet alone time, especially after being bombarded by the outside world. We all suffer from sensory overload these days, but short bursts of unscheduled time are a valuable respite and allow our brains time to relax and recharge. Not only does boredom give us a break from the noise and busy-ness of the real world, it can switch on daydreaming, which can be a beneficial escape from daily life.
There are benefits to being bored and these can be seen most clearly in a child’s brain. When kids are “doing nothing” they’re actually accomplishing a range of critical cognitive functions like developing observation skills, problem-solving, processing information and consolidating memories. Have you ever found that brilliant ideas will pop into your mind at the strangest times? While taking a shower, walking the dog or even snuggling down to sleep at night? When your mind is free to wander, creativity is at its peak and the brain can work at optimal speed without distractions or delays.