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A bored girl who doesn't realize the benefits of where her imagination can take her

Boredom Isn't Bad; It's a Game Changer

September 20th 2023

In today’s technologically driven world, kids expect things to happen in seconds. Immediate gratification is pretty much the norm, and if something doesn’t happen right away, you hear the words every parent knows all too well, “Mom, Dad, I’m bored!” But is being bored such a bad thing? 

Should parents jump through hoops to entertain their kids every second of the day? (Often by powering up a screen or two.) Or are they better off letting children experience boredom now and then?

When you embrace boredom, you open the door to many benefits, including increased creativity, critical thinking, and adaptability. You become more self-aware, as well as more receptive and empathetic to the people around you. Boredom builds imagination and compassion, encourages you to learn new things, and can also help bring goals back into focus.

Understandably, you want to help your kids whenever they’re feeling upset. But it’s worth noting that boredom isn’t something you need to always fix. It plays an important part in children’s overall development.

Is Being Bored Good for Your Brain?

It turns out a little boredom is a good thing as long as you embrace it instead of using a screen to squelch it. When you feel bored, your mind has a perfect opportunity to wander or daydream. Daydreaming provides impressive benefits, including increased problem-solving skills, creativity, improved memory, and stress reduction. 

Boredom motivates the brain to work, triggering mental activity that a person uses to find a creative use of their time. You might find that embracing boredom helps you let go of anxious feelings and calm your thoughts. 

When your mind’s calmer, it opens to new solutions for lingering problems. It’s no longer in a frenzy or distracted by a computer game, television show, or phone screen.

Why Boredom Is Good for Your Child

Only boring people get bored
Only boring people get bored

Understandably, it’s frustrating when your kids tell you they’re bored. You start thinking about the room full of toys, or all of the video games, or the bike outside. You find yourself impatiently thinking, “Why don’t they just play?” or “Why do I buy all this stuff if they’re just going to say they’re bored?”

Well, feeling bored often boils down to a desire to do something new, something different. The usual activities simply don’t have the same effect anymore, so kids get bored. Parents’ natural reaction is typically to provide some sort of entertainment to alleviate their children’s boredom (and whining). 

However, the next time your kid comes running up to you saying they’re bored, remind yourself it’s okay. A little boredom here and there leads to more creativity, improved problem-solving skills, and the ability to engage in flexible thinking. 

Children who experience occasional boredom have more opportunities for self-reflection and empathy. When kids get bored, they expand the possibilities of what they can do. All of these benefits contribute to kids becoming more well-rounded individuals.

In each of the following sections, we’ll dig a little deeper into each benefit to show why kids need boredom.

1. Boredom Builds Problem-Solving Skills

Even though boredom has benefits, there’s no denying that it isn’t fun. When you’re bored, you’re bored; it’s the opposite of having a good time. But the reason this has the potential to be so great is that it makes kids face their situation and come up with a solution (or stay bored).

As your mind starts to wander, you begin to open up to new ways of thinking. You start to look at things differently, which leads to solutions you may have never thought of before. 

Boredom helps improve problem-solving and critical thinking skills as kids naturally seek out ways to eliminate their boredom. They invent new games, develop ideas, or dream up innovative activities.

2. Being Bored Opens the Door to Creativity

Being bored leads to creativity and builds imagination. Creativity is an essential part of child development. It’s a skill that leads to innovation, new ideas, higher levels of critical thinking, and self-expression. 

Boredom gives birth to cardboard rocket ships, race cars, pirate ships, and playhouses. Kids come up with engaging, detailed play adventures or paint vibrant masterpieces. When children are bored, it opens the door to all sorts of possibilities of things they can do.

Allowing kids to experience boredom, instead of trying to snuff it out as soon as it appears, is a crucial part of their total development. If every time your child tells you they’re bored you jump to entertain them, you rob them of a vital opportunity to grow and develop important skills. 

3. Dealing with Boredom Encourages Kids to Adapt

If your child typically paints or draws when they get bored, then eventually, the time will come when they won’t want to do that. You see, always doing the same thing isn’t going to continuously counteract your kid’s feelings of boredom. This is because the more they do something, the less novel it becomes.

Therefore, when kids are bored, it encourages them to find new ways to spend their time. When they can’t readily grab a phone or flip on the television, they adapt by seeking new ideas and activities. This ability to adapt to new situations leads to the development of a very valuable life skill.

When kids are more flexible, they’re better equipped to face challenges life throws their way. Adaptability plays an important role in how people approach obstacles, deal with changes, and handle disappointment.

4. Feeling Bored Leads to Increased Empathy

Typically, it’s common for kids these days to zone out in front of a screen when they don’t have anything to do. The problem is, that too much screen time can lower social skills and how kids interact and relate to others. When children fill every second of their time with mindless distractions, they miss developmental opportunities.

Boredom is life’s way of giving children the chance to develop essential life skills. Think about it. If your kid’s bored, and doesn’t have a way to instantly entertain themselves, they have a moment where they just need to be. At this moment, kids daydream, find new ways to spend their time, or simply reflect on what’s happening around them.

They start paying more attention to their surroundings, including other people. They become more in tune with emotions and how others are feeling. Perhaps in that moment of boredom, they decide to call up a friend or family member to chat or invite a friend over to play. 

5. Boredom Promotes Self-Awareness

In life, people inevitably face frustrations. When kids get bored, they experience several negative emotions. 

It’s important to let them work through these feelings and figure out a solution instead of fixing it for them. Kids learn valuable information about themselves and how they handle difficult and unpleasant situations.

If a child can handle boredom when they’re young, they improve how they’ll handle negative feelings and thoughts when they’re older. The idea is that experiencing boredom leads one to develop more self-control and have a higher capacity to self-regulate.

Tips To Help Your Kids Handle Boredom

Now, let’s be real. Kids are kids, and inevitably they’ll sometimes run out of ideas or need a gentle nudge. One suggestion to help guide them without giving them everything they need is to create an idea list ahead of time. Work with your kids to write a list of activities or suggestions, but keep them very broad.

The next time your kids are bored, they know to check the list instead of grabbing their tablet or complaining. The list might include things like a craft project, an outdoor scavenger hunt, or practicing a sport. It’s up to the kids to decide which option they’ll choose and how they’ll carry it out, or if they’ll come up with another idea.

Provide opportunities for kids to get creative and experience the arts, keeping things like paints, clay, and other supplies on hand. Stock up a few recyclables, like cardboard tubes, empty boxes, and plastic water bottles that kids can turn into artistic treasures.

Parents, talk to your schools about including or expanding their arts curriculum to promote creativity. Support your local PTA and other organizations that help provide funding for arts programs. Show your kids that there are many ways to engage in and experience the world.

One fun idea is to encourage them to create a book showcasing their older art projects. This activity is great for inspiring creativity because it lets them reminisce about their past creative achievements. Parents will benefit because it will reduce a large stack of art into a few hardcover photo books. You can easily accomplish this with the assistance of Scribble and your smartphone camera.

She's holding about a banker's box worth of art in her hands
She's holding about a banker's box worth of art in her hands

Don’t Be Afraid to Embrace Boredom

Encourage your kids to embrace their boredom. Even better, invite boredom in every now and then with a digital detox -- put away the screens for a specific amount of time. Letting kids get bored encourages mind wandering, which helps ease stress and provides a mental rest and refresh. 

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