Spring Break is over, which means that summer is on the brain. This time last year I had a newborn and was overwhelmed at the thought of long, unstructured days with all the kids at home. I signed my boys up for moms-day-out and camps, organized “theme weeks” (which never really happened, despite all my best intentions), scheduled outings, and ordered workbooks to keep them busy.
But I’m doing it all different this year.
In fact, I have a new motto: My kids will be bored this summer.
And I think that is exactly what they need.
Although we will still plan fun activities and get out of the house fairly regularly, I’m resisting the temptation to over-schedule and entertain my kids every moment of the day.
After all, our kids need to be bored. It is the lost art of childhood.
When our kids have their entire days scheduled for them or are constantly being entertained, we deny them the opportunity to use their own creativity and ingenuity to play and explore.
The thing is…I think our kids crave downtime whether they know it or not. I think we (the parents) are the ones who are hindering them by our own need and desire to stay busy and get out of the house. I recently asked my friends on Facebook whether they would rather spend the day at home with their kids or get out of the house with the kids. The resounding answer was to get out of the house.
Being at home (inside or outside) usually equals boredom at our house, unless one of our boys is lost in LEGO creating or I have something structured planned. This “boredom” also tends to lead to more fighting, bigger messes, and days that seem to drag on forever. But is boredom really all that bad?
Many experts tout the benefits of boredom. One author renames boredom “fruitful monotony”, where children are encouraged to be inventive and imaginative in their play. Madeline Levine, the author of Teach Your Children Well says of boredom,
“Kids who have no down time never get to know themselves. They know only who others tell them they are. Learning who you are takes place not in the act of doing but in the quiet spaces between things. The more of these quiet spaces you can provide your kids, the better.”
Being home (whether inside or outside) and being bored is probably hardest on the parent. Normally when we are at home and the boys aren’t engaged in a structured activity, there is more fighting and arguing…and it drives me absolutely crazy.
…But the fighting and arguing is actually teaching them how to compromise and get along with someone else.
There are waaaaaay more messes when my children are bored…which also drives me absolutely crazy.
…But these messes offer the chance for our kids to take responsibility and learn how to clean up after themselves.
The day seems to drag on forever when we are home and my kids are bored.
…But isn’t an “endless summer” the dream of every child?
It might be easier on us to just get the kids out of the house and find things to entertain them. But doing so all the time deprives them of the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves, problem solve, and compromise (among many other things). Instead of insisting on structured play and entertainment, let’s give our kids a gift that they are secretly craving…a good dose of boredom!