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Busting Boredom Beliefs

Today I was talking to my six-year old by phone. She is currently across the country with her dad and sister visiting friends and family and has been there for the last week. Excited to hear how her adventure has been going I asked her to share how things were. Her first response was “fine,” followed very quickly by “I’m bored.”

Upon further query of what she had been doing lately, I found out that she had been bowling, skating, to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the King Tut exhibit, to her grandparents for a number of days and just yesterday to a family friend’s house where they had treats that she never has gotten at home in addition to watching fun movies together.

However, for this little six-year-old, “I’m bored” is more of an in-the-moment issue, and whatever fun she had either yesterday or earlier on that morning was not the point. NOW is the issue.

“I’m bored” is her favorite line, I think. She uses it as frequently as “I’m hungry.”

I have spent years trying to “fix” the problem of boredom with my kids. It took me a long time to realize that boredom is not something that can be fixed from externally. It is an inside job. You have to be ready for it.

It was only when I read an article in Growing Without Schooling ( a homeschooling magazine started by John Holt, and ran for many years. It stopped being printed in the 1990s) that I started to understand more about boredom.

Boredom is part of growth. Sounds unlikely, that it can be so, but hear me out before you discount that statement outright. Going from being in a place of not knowing what to do next, and being given the freedom and space to explore being bored, creative solutions start to come up. It may take ten minutes, an hour or an afternoon. I have even seen it take a day or so.

So, I stopped trying to fix and let the solution present itself. I let the child who was so “afflicted” with boredom discover how to find out for themselves what they truly desired to do.

“We are not here to solve problems. We are here to exploit opportunities.”

At first, it can be a tough go of it. Especially if you have spent much time and energy in the past trying to solve the problem of what to do for your child by offering lots of suggestions. They will have expectations that you will continue in the same dance that you both have participated in the past. The expectation that you will offer an idea, they will say, “Naaahh … that’s not it,” and “I’m too bored to do that.” They will continue to refuse every offer you make.

I sometimes thought that my kids refused all offers just to see how creative I could be in coming up with ideas! When I finally threw my hands up in exasperation, they would, magically, figure out what it was that tickled their fancy, just a few moments later.

And so will your kids. I promise. Sooner or later, they will come up with something on their own that they enjoy. It may be they will read a book, or color, or build a tower out of toilet paper tubes, or fall asleep and have a nap, fully refreshing themselves to come up with new ideas when they get up. This last idea is highly doubtful for most parents, but I thought I would throw that in there for you dreamers out there!

  • Have a stash of material that you and your kids can use as a ‘starter’ or incubator for ideas. Here are just a few ideas to get you started: crayons, markers, stickers , etc.
  • Toilet paper tubes. These are free and plentiful.
  • Deck of cards. For building houses, doing magic tricks or playing games.
  • Ingredients in the kitchen for making healthy snacks.
  • Have a list of websites that have creative activities bookmarked that the kids can check out to gain inspiration.

Here are some sites that we have come across that have fun things to do:

Games2Girls: This site has lots of games. Some my daughters find very fun, like the dress up games which is like a giant paper dolls collection, only has more choices and the clothes never tear ! Be warned though, that the clothes are often a bit on the ‘teenager fashion’ side. Maybe even clubwear side. This opens the door for lots of discussion. Some of the games are more appropriate for older girls.

Nick Jr.:  This is a commercial site, and has ads on it. But it also has some fun activities for the four- to six-year-old crowd. With crafts, activities and stories for their ages.

Nasa site for kids: There are lots of activities here for kids of all ages that relate to science. Science rules! (We are a big fans of Bill Nye the Science Guy )

Our public library has resources that are so incredible! They have a link on their site to stories called Tumbleweed that plays stories to kids, and links to audio books you can download for free. Check out your library to see what they have.

Smithsonian Museum site for kids: It has all kinds of links you can check out . They have art, science, history, and idea labs to keep you interested.

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