Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bring on the Boredom — CMB Post

This was originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.

The other day, I heard someone discussing the benefits that being bored can bring to children: time to think, room to imagine, space to exercise creativity, and reasons to practice patience and interpersonal skills with peers. In other words, some time in a child's day that isn't dictated, structured and supervised by grownups can be a good thing. The line that has really stuck with me was "Give your child the gift of boredom." Turns out there's quite a bit of support for this in the fields of psychology and education.

When I was a kid (about 3 million years ago, according to my own children), not every single second of my day was booked with lessons, play dates, activities, school, and screens. And there were times when I was plenty bored, believe me. I learned not to express those feelings to my mother, however, because she would always solve my boredom by giving me chores to do. Have I mentioned that my mom is one smart chick? To avoid doing those chores, I quickly learned to entertain myself by doing crafts or making a puzzle or sometimes even playing with my brother. Usually, I would crack open a book and get lost in another, less boring world.

Kids today don't have that luxury. I've tried hard to avoid overbooking my children, but it's hard to turn down interesting opportunities. On the few occasions when my kids have told me that they were bored, I've tried my mother's line on them, but it doesn't seem to have the same impact that it had on me all those years ago. Maybe I'll call and ask her for a refresher course.

Spring break provided some much needed down time for our family, and the kids and I took yet another road trip to visit my parents in Florida. It's too expensive to fly, so we drive down, and 1,200 miles each way provides plenty of time for boredom to set in. But, we have that part down to a science: audio books, car-friendly activities in individual backpacks, and just enough junk food to keep everyone happy, but not enough to make anyone sick. Plus, we always listen to the deluxe anniversary edition of the original broadway cast of Fiddler on the Roof, complete with additional tunes and commentary by Sheldon Harnick. What can I say? It's a tradition.

The real boredom set in once we got down to Florida and my parent's 55+ community. Horror of horrors, there was only one computer available for the seven people in the house that week and March madness basketball occupied my father's TV. I could feel the tension rising as my usually bickering boys were forced to spend too much time together with not enough scheduled activities or screens to keep them occupied.

But guess what? They didn't bicker. They played games. They did crossword puzzles. They went down to the shuffle board courts. They become deep sea divers discovering new worlds in the pool every day. They learned how to play poker and Euchre. They played with girl cousins. They played with each other. They SHARED computer time. I think they may even have cracked open a book or two. They had fun.

And can I say it again — they didn't bicker.

I guess a little boredom never hurt anybody. Maybe we'll try it again soon. And if that doesn't work, there are always chores to do.

This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post. When Susan Bearman isn't busy figuring out how to make her children's lives miserable and telling them boring stories about the good old days, she can be found writing at Two Kinds of People and on her freelance Website,


Unknown said...

Some of the best times of creativity for kids can come from those bored moments. As a mother of sons who OFTEN said that I know!

Susan Bearman said...

Ciss B — There's more and more research being done in this area. Common sense proves it to me.

Susan Bearman said...

Comment from the original Chicago Moms Blog post:

Shari Schmidt said...

I'm scheduling our girls' summer activities now. I'm purposefully leaving empty time in the schedule so they can just play out in the yard. There's nothing better than watching them stare at the bugs or go on a treasure hunt.

April 18, 2010 at 01:17 PM