What to Do When Your Kid Says, “I’m Bored”. (Step One: Don’t panic.)
Recently Apollo had a bad day.
A terrible day.
Something horrible happened.
He was bored.
Yes, my friends, six-year-old Apollo was bored.
This may come as a surprise to you, but this isn’t my first rodeo. I have been parenting for 21 years now so I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
When Apollo was bored recently I used one of my best tricks.
I looked him in the eye and said, “It’s not my job to entertain you. You can read a book, draw a picture or play outside.”
For some reason, he didn’t like this response.
And he was still bored.
Truth be told, a few tears were shed (his, not mine).
He wandered around a bit. He lay on the couch for a few minutes.
Then he settled down by our hearth, picked up a couple pieces of kindling, and started carving them (with another piece of kindling).
Apollo occupied himself this way for over half an hour. By the time he was done, he was happy, refreshed, and ready to play. He was proud of his creation and set it aside “to work on later”.
Best of all? He was no longer bored.
I firmly believe that as parents we need to quit viewing boredom as a bad thing.
Kids get bored and that’s okay. I’m a mom, not a cruise director and that’s okay.
Creativity is often born out of boredom.
Do you have memories of lying on the grass in the summer sun and staring up at the clouds? Imagining animals and adventures in that fluffy, white nebulosity? I do.
I remember long summer days filled with fun, adventure, and boredom.
Boredom is often the predecessor to innovation.
See this amazing collection of rocks? These rocks are Apollo’s prized possessions right now. He has given most of them names. Snowflake, Snowflake Junior, and Iron Man to name a few.
He lines them up. He makes them into families. They have battles and go on adventures.
He absolutely loves them.
He also loves this book all about Charlotte and her pet rock.
When Iris was two-year-old she filled her days playing “Mary and Baby Jesus”. She was Mary (with a receiving blanket on her head) and Baby Jesus was a plastic spoon wrapped in a baby wipe. This was her favorite game every single day.
We live in a fast-paced world where many kids are hardly given a chance to get bored, much less figure out a way to resolve that boredom. This starts in infancy with gadgets and apps geared toward babies and continues into schedules packed full of lessons, sports, and enrichment activities.
I highly recommend that you invest 15 minutes in watching this Ted Talk about how TV affects the brains of children. There is so much more to be gleaned from this than just TV or screen limits.
Remember, mamas, it’s okay for your kids to be bored. No one has ever died of boredom.
Leave enough time in your child’s schedule for them to become bored. You might just be surprised at how much creativity it sparks.
You may also want to check out the following:
21 Activities to Engage Your Preschooler
Best Tech-Free Entertainment for Kids
This is a wonderful post, Renee. Words that need to be said more often.
Your story about Adalia-which is adorable-reminds me of an incident this weekend. We were planting trees, as in hundreds of trees, and our toddlers were bored. Our 3yo daughter rolled a ball of mud, laid it in the middle of a greenish rag we had in our utility cart, tied the ball in with grass, and called it her Zita the Spacegirl doll. She still has it and I think it is very cute and imaginative. She also picked clods of clay out of the dirt and fashioned them into “babies” for her little sister to play with. I pointed out to my husband that we are raising imaginative and resourceful children, without a tv but with lots of dirt and outside time!
When we were bored, we were told to “go clean your room.” Needless to say, we learned to never complain about boredom.
At my house, “Mom, I’m bored” is a plea for extra chores ;D
But I’ve said the same thing as you to my kids… I’m not a cruise director and it is not my job to entertain you. And thus was born “Dino-opolis”, and alternate universe in our back yard, populated by plastic soldiers and plastic dinosaurs. It went on for years!
I tell my kids I’m a genie. They get three (good, fun) suggestions when they say they’re bored. Then they get the option to leave me alone and go find something on their own. If they exhaust all those options, they get work. On the one hand, I can’t be on hand to suggest 5,000 different things to each child all day. On the other hand, I feel that boredom is an emotion, and just like anger, confusion, or disappointment, it’s part of my responsibility to help them learn how to deal with that emotion constructively, and simply shutting them down by automatically giving chores is not constructive.
I’ve found that younger kids don’t respond well to broad suggestions like, “go outside,” or “read a book.” They respond better to specific suggestions like, “why don’t you go out and look for snakes in the wood pile?” (we have no venomous ones) or “why don’t you check out that book you got at the library yesterday?”