02 May 2006

In praise of boredom

From the time they were toddlers, I've involved my kids in the best, most challenging, mind-expanding extracurricular activity around (and it's free!): boredom. Our family needs a lot of unplanned, unscheduled time to maintain our balance, so at the moment there are no sports, no music or language classes, and only the occasional playdate. Instead: lots of time outside climbing the tree or playing "hot lava monster" with the neighborhood kids (now that it's finally sunny) or inside drawing, playing board games, reading, and an hour of Gameboy or TV.

As much as I know our family needs a slack schedule, my kids don't always appreciate it. There's a fair amount of whining, "What can I do now?" If I can restrain my impulse to get irritated, I remember that's the signal their imaginations are about to kick in.

Over at Parentingideas.org, Crissy sent in a bunch of articles on the value of downtime. I enjoyed the Family Circle article -- well-written and reasonable. Another one of the articles had a great retort for "I'm bored!" (unspoken rest of sentence: "and I want you to fix it!"): "Congratulations! Now you have some time to find out what a special person you are."

In January I wrote about Blessing of a Skinned Knee: a kind, wise book that extolls the virtues of boredom and other discomforts.

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Pray tell, what is the "hot lava monster"?

Heh heh! I was waiting for someone to ask! It's a neighborhood game that involves our lawn and the walkway that bisects it. The "hot lava monster" hangs out on the walkway and tries to tag the kids jumping "over the lava" from one side of the lawn to the other.

yeah, our 7-year-old usually starts looking to be entertained on the first down day after we've had a few days of family fun (park, zoo, etc). it usually goes like this:

kid: i'm bored!
dad: ok.
kid: there's nothing to do! what can i do?!
dad: go find out.
kid: [grumble, whine, moan, stomp off...]

then, about 5 minutes later, she starts reading or an imaginative play session starts in her room; either way it lasts for at least an hour.

thank you, boredom!

We learned never to whine about being bored because my parents would come up with chores for us to do.

When we decided to try tv-free week this year, we sat down with our daughter and made a list of lots of things she could do: paper dolls, write a letter to Grandma, read to her brothers, paint, etc. We posted this list on the wall, and it's still there - she rarely uses the "B" word anymore!

Great post. This advice is also valid for adults!

Check out my post on how boredeom can work for adults, here:
http://thoughtsintime.co.za/2008/04/16/how-to-let-boredom-and-loneliness-work-for-you/

Thanks again!

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