Parents know how easily children get bored, and constantly need to be stimulated. This is probably one of our biggest parenting challenges, keeping the kids entertained, while simultaneously managing our other commitments.
At this point, how many of us conveniently count on TV or smart devices to keep our kids (and even ourselves) occupied – more often than we like? Is there really no alternative for parents? Or, do we genuinely need to keep our kids engaged, all the time?
Research has shown that downtime for our kids has its benefits for their development. Kids need to use all parts of their brain. If we are keeping them engaged primarily with videos and social media on smart devices, this only activates the “pleasure seeking” part, keeping them at a constantly high-stimulation, in turn making them less engaged and more passive. Other research has shared that excessive TV viewing even reduces our kids’ imaginative capacities.
So, what are some benefits of allowing our kids to wind down?
1. Boredom… the premise of creativity
Research has suggested that boredom can encourage greater creativity, because it allows our minds to wander. Way back in the 80s, a Canadian study even revealed that kids who lived in towns with no TVs scored higher on imagination-related tests, than kids who had TVs. Imagine what effect all the modern smart devices have on our kids’ creativity now, if used excessively?
Related reading: Consequences of Too Much Screen-time
2. Learning problem solving and being self-reliant
By giving our kids some room to deal with their boredom themselves, it helps them think about what to do and how to use their free time, in the course of which, devising constructive ways to resolve it.
3. An opportunity to make new friends
Being bored can motivate kids to get out of their comfort zone and socialise, in turn earning an opportunity to widen their circle and develop critical social skills.
4. Exploring new hobbies
Time for school and socialising aside, allowing kids to have their quiet time can unravel a love for activities they can accomplish on their own, such as drawing, writing or crafts.
Now that parents can feel a little less guilty about allowing our kids to be bored, what can we attempt to do, to help them ease more comfortably into this state of mind?
- Define a pattern when and where our child is likely to complain about being bored. Is there a particular time of day or week, or place, such as during long car rides, or when being left with the child-sitter or secondary carer?
- Improve the identified conditions when our child is more prone to boredom. Is it possible to shorten long car rides (such as avoiding traffic peak hours, if this is the cause)? Can the child learn to play independently or engage in some quiet-time activity, when placed at the sitter?
- Our kids can learn to entertain themselves, with our guidance. Parents need to see boredom as an opportunity, and refrain from zealously providing solutions all the time for our kids. Rather, give them time, space and some resources.
Related reading: Getting Your Kids to Enjoy Playing Independently
- After establishing time for companionship and periods for them to be less active, reward them for quiet time handled independently. A reward can also be making “together time” even more fun. This conditions the kid to be more inclined towards different states of mind and activities, and be less resistant to having “nothing” to do.
Just letting the mind wander from time to time is not as meaningless as it seems, for everybody’s mental wellbeing – kids and adults alike. For a start, parents can stop panicking whenever the kids complain about being bored.