This Summer, Let Them Be Bored


This Summer, Let Them Be BoredHooray! School’s out! If your kids are anything like mine, it took all of five minutes for them to switch from “hooray” to “Mom, I’m bored.” 

Let’s start by giving children of today their due credit. For the past nine months, they’ve spent seven hours a day rushing from one task to the next. Their days were carefully planned out to include lectures, worksheets, group projects, gym…the list goes on and on. Good teachers offer structure and predictability in their classrooms, and understandably, very little free time. To add to this, in many schools, technology is taking an ever-present role in learning. Gameficiation of class material adds novelty and excitement to their day. In their limited time after school, kids bounce from homework and chores to sports and church activities. With the constant flow of activities and stimulation, is it any surprise that boredom jumps at our children the moment they have any down time?

This summer, rather than continually filling their days, I am choosing boredom.

You read that right. Not all day. Not every day. Please don’t misunderstand. We have fun things planned for the summer. However, we also have scheduled in down days, where I have zero intention of leaving our house. We’ll have our regular meal and chore schedule, but the rest of the day is wide open with very limited tv or technology use. Each week consists of three to four scheduled down days.

Down days will not add another task to my already full agenda. I am not the entertainment. There will be zero STEAM activities, sensory bins or crafts. If I’m perfectly honest, I’ll spend most of those days catching up on cleaning that I ignored the other days while we did something fun.

Sounds perfectly boring, right?

At first glance, this may sound like an awful idea. Chances are, your kids are already whining and fighting — without the added pressure of intentionally allowing them to be bored. Like so many other aspects of parenting, first it gets bad. Then is gets better. For us, that only took about a week, and the benefits have quickly been evident. 

First and foremost, boredom has fostered creativity and promoted problem-solving skills.

No one wants to be bored. We naturally have a desire to fill our time with something we deem enjoyable or productive. As my children have been left to occupy their day, in a safe setting, new games have emerged. Toys are being used in new, creative ways. What’s been most surprising to me is noticing the dramatic decrease in fighting between my kids. On days that we stay at home, their only option for friends is each other. So they’re learning to communicate better and resolve disagreements quicker.

Boredom also helps to promote self-esteem.

That may seem like a silly connection, but consider my seven-year-old, who spent the afternoon yesterday designing characters on an old cardboard box. He colored, cut, and glued them into creative shapes. When he had finished, brimming with pride at his accomplishment, he showed them to his brothers. What followed was a series of “wow,” “cool,” and “make one for me.” And so, my normally reserved son felt valued and accomplished in what he had done.

Allowing my kids to be bored half the summer is really an invitation for them to relax, detox from their busy schedules, and unleash their creative genius. They may not thank me for this today, but I believe their future selves will understand its value.


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