Kid: “Mommy… I’m bored!”
I think this is how I’ll respond to my kids from now on when they complain to me that they’re bored.
No, it probably won’t go over very well with them. But boredom – free, unscheduled, unfettered time – is a GIFT in our culture today. Too much free time can become an issue, of course. But, for many of us, time to think and dream and putter around is often lacking.
I was reminded of this again recently when we had a week off of school. Typically, on our break weeks, I like to have a few fun activities scheduled. But this time, several of our plans fell through and my kids unexpectedly found themselves with a couple of totally empty days.
At first, my kids were grumpy and focused on their lack of plans. But, after a short while (once they realized I wasn’t going to entertain them), they each ended up occupying themselves with all kinds of creative endeavors. In fact, I’d say they probably learned as much or more than they do on one of our regular school days.
My youngest, in kindergarten, stayed busy…
- reading more books in two days than she’s read in the past two weeks
- inventing little cardboard machines
- writing lists (birthday gift ideas, party invitation ideas, to do lists, etc.)
- playing piano and realizing she loves it and wants to take lessons
- playing board games with her brothers
- learning solitaire and playing it for a loooong time
Reading? Writing? Inventing? Music? Logic? Number patterns? Sounds a lot like learning to me!
My boys (7th and 4th graders) took the opportunity to make graphs comparing the weights of all their stuffed animals. Don’t ask me where they got the idea or why they did it. But they learned so much just doing this one project and it occupied them for hours!
They made spreadsheets using Numbers software, took metric measurements, created graphs, estimated weights, and used critical thinking to solve problems (like discovering how to accurately weigh a 2 ft. wide Pillow Pet on a 6 in. wide kitchen scale… not an easy feat).
They also spent twice as long as usual practicing their band instruments and piano. And my 4th grader was inspired to jump on Musescore.com and start composing his own song.
Was all the time spent in intensely creative learning activities? Not by a long shot. We had our fair share of seemingly “wasted” moments. Like the absurdly long time they spent cheering on their stuffed animals in their staring contest…
I think it was a tie.
Anyway, all this to say, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a plan for every minute of your kids’ day. Don’t worry if you can’t think of a way to entertain them all the time.
Next time they come to you complaining “I’m bored,” just tell them “good!” Or, if that’s too rude, offer them a few chores to choose from. I’m guessing they’ll find something productive to do and surprise you with all they’ll learn from it!
Bonus Tip: If you need to boost the chances that they’ll find creative projects to do in their free time, there are some strategies I’ve found helpful. “Strewing” is a clever way to indirectly suggest some new options – more about that here. And keeping a bin of cleaned recyclables, an invention kit with project materials, or other unique supplies can give them the resources to expand their creativity.
As it turns out, kids are learning all the time! Check out these other posts in the Kids Are Always Learning series to see how they learn when they’re sick, on vacation, and even when they’re having a bad day!
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