My great aunt (who is now 93) banned the word bored from our house very early on. If we said bored, she gave us an equally unattractive job to do. I think she must have been on the same wavelength as I am, that is it OK to let your kids be bored (young kids that is between about 3 and 12).
While it is sometimes unbearable to let a child get to the point when they are bored out of their mind, it is amazing what transpires. Unplanned time at home during the school holidays is actually good. Kids need time to play to develop their imagination and creativity. Play with friends, siblings, their toys.
When I say ‘play’, I don’t mean with a device. That is anything electronic – x-box, iPad, iPod – whatever it is that will give you peace for 30 minutes.
This topic came up on Channel 9’s today show this week with author, social psychologist and educator Dr Helen Street launching her new book, Better than OK: Helping Young People to Flourish at School and in Life. She says that kid’s boredom leads to unstructured play, allowing them to thrive.
I have seen it from both sides of the fence. As a mother, I love nothing more than when my 3 kids make up some imaginary game where they are a character and play accordingly. Sometimes it can last for hours. It generally starts when they have asked me a hundred times if they can play their iPads or computers and I have said no. They are bordering on harassment and suddenly they start these spontaneous games. I no longer have to be the bad mum. I just watch in delight. Or sometimes I turn around and they are playing snap or reading a book. Amazing.
As a teacher, I can generally see who these kids are. The kids who have been let to use their imagination – outside of a device. These are the kids who can write a creative story on their own and make it shine. These are the kids who don’t use Star Wars, Slender man, Skylanders or Batman as characters or build imaginary worlds (aka Minecraft) and it’s refreshing. They can write from the perspective of a teddy bear who comes alive and take it on a journey. By letting them be bored, you are actually facilitating play based, imaginary learning in action for your children. How good is that!
I am not going to lie. It is much easier if I say yes to their badgering to play on a device. Or easier if I have booked them into school holiday activities for the day. But I am always surprised when my children can play the games together and use their imagination to have fun.
I agree that at some point of the day, when the fights start or cabin fever sets in, it is time for the trip to the park or a bike ride or a play with the neighbours, but until then – it is OK to be bored.