Boredom is not a bad word – it’s an opportunity

As the summer school break approaches at speed, parents are beginning to question how fast the first dreaded “I’m bored!” will be uttered by their sons.

Play dates, movies, park adventures and Christmas celebrations are all at the ready, yet there is still plenty of time for young boys (and older ones) to complain about a lack of “stuff to do” – and it seems that’s ok.

Researchers and psychologists see a child’s ability to deal with boredom as a challenge which can affect their coping skills as adults. Key skills in managing those “boring” moments need to be developed in childhood to help in adulthood when boredom needs to be dealt with without complaint or tantrum.

Nature Play WA suggests giving bored kids “imaginative trampolines – little things that can get kids bouncing…don’t give them the whole game but feed in some resources to get them going.”

Building cardboard cubbies, camping in the backyard and inventing a new, never-before-seen sport (complete with equipment to play it) are just some of the list of examples the organisation offers to parents to alleviate a child’s boredom.

Making children feel comfortable with boredom, by allowing their minds to wander and imagination to take hold is key to helping them learn to deal with those “not so exciting” moments in life.

Penn State University Professor Linda Caldwell told Time magazine boredom should be seen as an opportunity for children.

“Boredom is motivational… it’s a sign that you need to change what you are doing and do something else!”

She offered simple tips to dealing with the dreaded “I’m bored” moan of children of any age;

Primary School 

Give children of this age group opportunity to try new and different things to gauge which activities pique their interests and encourage them to review their experiences. Primary school aged children need help to springboard their ideas/imaginative play into reality, so parents are encouraged to assist by offering objects to play or create with and opportunities to explore.

Middle School

Children of this age group are looking for adventure and thrills. Too much time on their hands can lead to risky behaviour to alleviate boredom. However, brain developmental processes in this age group enable children to learn to control impulses and hone skills – parents can encourage children to participate in activities they enjoy and find worthwhile, and most importantly support them to continue with an activity that interests them even when it becomes challenging for them.

High School

The age of freedom and control. Teenagers in this age bracket need to feel they can make decisions for themselves, have a say in situations they are faced with and have an opportunity to experiment with new activities/experiences. Parents are also urged to encourage these teens to understand the importance of rest and letting the mind wander – taking time out from busy, formalised schedules.

Developing skills to deal with boredom can be extremely tough for some children but is vital to their overall development into adolescence and adulthood. Children who can actively engage their minds to deal with what they view as a boring situation by initiating other activities or patiently waiting are building lifelong skills in perseverance, curiosity, concentration, playfulness, confidence and so much more – so let the boredom begin!