Expert / 21 July, 2021 / My Baba
Are your kids bored already? Have you ever stopped to think about the benefits of being bored? Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer is on hand to reveal all for bored kids everywhere!
The summer holidays are a time when many of us will be feeling the pressure to devise activities that will keep our families amused. Working out how to keep the troops happy to avoid that dreaded refrain of “I’m bored!”.
The strain could be lifted, as child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer reveals that boredom can actually be of benefit to a child’s imagination.
The cultural expectation that children should be constantly active and busy means that modern parents can feel a real pressure to keep children amused at all times. As a result, we occupy their weekends, after-school afternoons and school holidays with endless activities and outings. It’s almost as if some of us have become scared of letting them have any ‘nothing to do’ time at all.
For parents, being told that their kids are in fact ‘bored’ can conjure up all sorts of feelings of discontent, and, as a result, we worry that we are not doing a good enough job of stimulating little ones.
Boredom may be an intrinsic part of life for practically everyone, but it needn’t be destructive for children. In fact, boredom can be a force for good, fostering an active imagination and the ability to fall back on one’s own resources. Both of which are life skills best developed when young as we call upon time and time again on the journey to adulthood.
We often respond to kids’ boredom by providing games, entertainment or structured activities but this can actually be counterproductive as children need to encounter and engage with the raw stuff that life is made of – unstructured time.
Thinking back to our own school holidays, that slightly aimless feeling of having a whole day to fill was less met with a feeling of dread, more possibility as we made the most of what we had available by using our own imaginations, from creating obstacle courses or simply daydreaming, lost in thought, planning futures and re-running the day’s events.
Imaginative play and unstructured time are essential elements of childhood that should be encouraged. A cardboard box can become a spaceship; a collection of stuffed animals can play out a story. In the world of make-believe, a child is allowed to try on different roles and learn to solve problems on their own – making them more resilient and able to think flexibly.
Unstructured time gives children the opportunity to explore their inner and outer worlds themselves, drawing on their innate ability to be inventive and harness the power of their own imagination, which is the beginning of creativity. This is how they learn to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create. Kids bored? Think again.
Unstructured time also challenges children to explore their own passions and equip them with skills that they can use in everyday situations. If we keep them busy with constant stimulus and entertainment, there is a risk that they may never learn to respond to their own interests, for example, imagining what it might be like to go into space or dive deep under the sea.
Boredom is one way of challenging a child’s imagination. Children who are sometimes allowed to get bored are forced to use their innate imagination in order to find their own entertainment.
This develops logical thinking, allowing children to analyse, evaluate and create for themselves. This can be achieved by providing children with opportunities to use and develop their imagination in play. Children who use their imagination effectively will be able to role play better and at a young age, will use their imagination as a way to escape from, as well as making sense of their reality.
Article by Dr. Amanda Gummer, Child Psychologist and Founder of The Good Play Guide.