I’m Bored! Why I Let My Kids Be Bored & Activity Ideas
“I’m bored Mom! Can I have a playdate?” It was Sunday morning and my 9-year-old daughter had recently arrived home from a sleepover after a packed Saturday including two birthday parties, a soccer game, and countless errands. My jaw dropped in disbelief as I yearned for the preschool and kindergarten years when she was a pro at entertaining herself, when a cardboard box provided hours of creative entertainment. When did she get so busy? How could I have forgotten the important skills that kids acquire when they are bored – the real reason why I let my kids be bored?
In a blog post for the Harvard Business Review, David Burkus shares two studies that show the creative benefits of boredom in the workplace. Based on my parenting experience, I would extend the benefits to the playroom. I’ve witnessed how boredom has resulted in cardboard space rockets, handwritten and drawn books, Lego space hospitals, dance routines, homemade holiday gifts, the list goes on and on. Creativity happens in those periods when kids’ minds are left to wander.
Yet as my children become increasingly more busy and interested in electronics, the self-guided creative play opportunities have been few and far between. It sounds so silly but I’m contemplating adding “boredom” times to my family’s calendar. And even though I want their imagination to be the driver, there are ways to help encourage and nourish this skill by providing the “props”. Here are some ideas I’m thinking about.
Open-Ended Activity Ideas for Bored Kids
• Arts and crafts. During our recent playroom remodel, we set-up an art table and organized our arts & crafts supplies so they are easily accessible to the kids. I think I’ll throw a couple of cardboard boxes down there to see what happens.
• Fort supplies. My sister’s boys are masters at fort-building (even her teen gets involved!). Putting out old sheets and blankets and setting up an initial “fort” can help kids imagine the larger opportunity.
• Outdoor supplies. Creative play ideas for outside are endless. My 4-year-old son, Owen, simply needs the hose and he usually comes up with something – pretending to be a fireman, creating a car wash with his toy cars, etc. Other outdoor supplies that encourage creativity: chalk, sidewalk paint, rocks, sticks, pails, shovels, a magnifying glass, etc.
• Lego Bricks. During our playroom re-do, my husband found this great Lego table hack using IKEA storage shelves. We’ve filled it with loose Lego bricks (many from my husband’s collection). We’ve seen some amazing results and cooperative play – my daughter loves building firehouses and police stations for my son.
• Dress-up supplies. Over the years, I’ve saved all kinds of strange items for our dress-up bin – fake jewelry, fashion sunglasses, freebies at conferences, old flip phones, checkbook holders, walkie talkies (from the old days of connecting with friends while skiing), and more. The kids come up with many adventures.
• Writing Activities. My daughter starting writing books in pre-kindergarten encouraged by a teacher who stapled paper together in a book format and inspired her to draw on each page like a book. What started as a fun idea to keep her busy, turned into a great boredom buster over the years. I have stacks and stacks of little books that Olivia wrote – most of it during her at-home “bored” time.
When my daughter made that frustrating “I’m bored!” statement last week, I simply shrugged it off. Next time, I’ll grin and reply, “Well that’s super. I can’t wait to see what you create!”
- E-family news: The Importance of Pretend Play in Child Development
- E-family news: The Importance of Free and Unstructured Outdoor Play for Kids
- Family Room Blog post: Why Playground Play Is So Important