This summer is looking a little bit different. This is the summer of COVID and social distancing. If your family is still laying low, you might be wondering how you’ll make it through a camp-less, socially distant summer. Should you schedule lots of online Zoom sessions for them? Develop your own summer school enrichment program? Do you work your way through Pinterest, filling your days with activities and crafts to keep your kids occupied? Maybe.
Or maybe you let them be bored. All. Summer. Long.
Sounds crazy, right? Hear me out. Boredom is good for kids of all ages. I would even go as far to argue that it is essential for growth and development. When kids regularly experience the discomfort of boredom, magic can happen. This may be our children’s only opportunity for a slower summer, where boredom can be the dominant activity. I bet, though, that children who have lots of unstructured free time in their summer days will find that they start the summer off bored but end the summer busy, a bit more centered, and ready to take on the look of school post-COVID. Here are four potential benefits to a summer of boredom.
Boredom allows for thinking
Our kids crave downtime. When they are bored, their minds and bodies are searching and craving stimulating activity. Their minds are awakened. They may be able to think something up to do, or they may use the time to actually think. They can think about the interaction with a peer, a favorite movie, wonder about life’s big questions, or figure out the steps to create something they’ve been wanting to make. If we make time for our kids to have extended unstructured free time, we will invite boredom to become a part of their existence, and they will become better and deeper thinkers!
Boredom leads to problem solving
When children are bored, they feel uncomfortable. If we find something for them to do to relieve that feeling, they miss out on an opportunity to figure it out on their own. If they are left to solve the problem for themselves, no matter how poorly they start out, or how long it takes them, their ability to find a way out will improve and their problem-solving skills will be strengthened. If they constantly receive extended periods of unstructured, non-screen free time, I’m pretty sure that by summer’s end, your little or big kids will have found creative and productive ways to fill their time.
Boredom builds confidence
Once a child’s creative energy is tapped into and their imagination comes to life, amazing things happen. They build elaborate worlds, create art and music, draw beautiful images, and imagine possibilities. As a result, they tap into their potential and become more confident in their abilities.
Boredom sparks creativity
Finally, they will become more creative. They will have time to wonder, which (if they have the time) will lead to discovery. When they choose to lie on the ground and stare at the sky for periods of time they are practicing and strengthening their imagination and thinking skills. Kids get creative when they are given the chance!
Invite boredom into your child’s summer this year. It may be the only summer where there is time to fit it in. The benefits will last a lifetime. All you have to do is provide an extended period of time in the day where the child has unstructured, non-screen time to do as they please.
Start with 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the age, and build from there. Older children can handle up to a few hours, with practice. When they complain about being bored, respond with, “I’m confident you can find something to do.” Even if they wander around aimlessly the first couple of days or even week or two, eventually they will figure it out. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. It’s what we have going on this summer for four of our kiddos, who range in age from 2-7.