Boredom Encourages Imagination

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Education didn’t become important to me until I became a parent. As a parent there is a constant worry about whether or not your child is actively engaged in different educational activities. In our day to day lives we don’t always have time to sit down and work one on one with our children. So what ends up happening is we turn to television or video games to keep them distracted. Some may argue that some television shows and video games can be educational but how much is too much? I am guilty of telling my kids to go to their room and watch TV so I can get some homework done. This often leaves me feeling like a bad parent. I recently read an article about how we should let our children be bored. Of course, I was intrigued.

In today’s society, we are experiencing a youth of overscheduled kids. Between school, extracurricular classes and activities, sports and clubs, children are often left with no unstructured time during the day (MacQuarrie, 2014). Edgar (2014) says, that while these activities provide children with a variety of benefits, too many distractions can lead to generations of manic and anxiety-ridden individuals. Unstructured time gives them an opportunity to find creative ways to occupy their time. The most important thing during this unstructured time is to turn the electronics off, this means no TV, video games, phones, or ipads. This allows are children time to daydream. Daydreaming allows children to reflect, observe, and be introspective (MacQuarrie, 2014). In fact according to MacQuarrie (2014), “daydreaming is crucial to our mental health, to our relationships, and to our emotional and moral development. It promotes the skill parents and teachers care so much about which is the capacity to focus on the world outside our heads.”

boredomcultivates

Edgar (2014) believes that downtime gives children space and time which allows them to develop independence, take risks and helps them make sense of what they have learned or experienced. By giving children time to be bored we are providing them important life skills which are learned through the stimulus to be inventive, resourceful and self-reliant. Without these important skills they risk being left behind educationally. However, too much boredom is not a good thing. So parents need to find a good balance between good and bad. And of course you must supervise your kids. The key is to provide your children with a supervised balanced schedule that includes engaging activities as well as unstructured time (MacQuarrie, 2014).

MacQuarrie (2014) suggest four ways to help kids be bored:

1. Unplug.

2.Provide creative materials.

3. Encourage improvisation.

4. Provide time and space for quiet.

After I read about the importance of boredom on development I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. So I decided to do a little experiment with my own children. My children begged me to play video games and instead of giving in I told them to go play on their own. I watched as they ran around the house pretending to be characters from star wars. Then they went outside and collected acorns from our backyard. I’m not sure why but my oldest is obsessed with acorns. The good news is that we now have enough acorns to feed a family of squirrels for the entire winter. And well I’m not sure if this time was beneficially, I didn’t feel the guiltiness from letting them stare at a screen for hours. I also found enjoyment in watching them imagine and explore together.

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This illustration pretty much sums up the results of my experiment!!

References

Edgar, J. (2014). The Telegraph. Retrieved from Give your child time to be bored, pushy parents are urged: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10556523/Give-your-child-time-to-be-bored-pushy-parents-are-urged.html

MacQuarrie, A. (2014). Learning Lift Off. Retrieved from Why Boredom is Good for Kids: http://www.learningliftoff.com/boredom-is-good-for-kids/#.WBTl9jCQKtU

 

2 comments

  1. Alex Joseph Kuzio

    Thank you for this post. I think about this subject a lot, especially when I watch my niece and nephews, who are almost always cognitively stimulated in one way or another. I think back on my own childhood, which mostly unfolded before the internet (and way before smartphones and tablets), and remember all the times my friends and I sat around, bored, and were therefore forced to be creative about how we spent our hours. Interestingly, the concept of boredom is a relatively new one (the word only showed up in dictionaries around 1750), but it played a huge part in peoples’ lives before we began chipping away at it with technology (Belton and Priyadharshini, 2007). In the context of school, there have been many efforts over the years to understand how boredom arises in the classroom and how to prevent it (Belton and Priyadharshini, 2007). You’ll note that the article I just referenced is about 10 years old, and it’s fascinating to me that the focus has in part switched from combating boredom to giving children the space to BE bored sometimes. This is undoubtedly a reflection of the fact that our kids’ cognitive environments have changed so quickly and dramatically. It’s still important that children not be so bored in class that they fail to pay attention, but ensuring that they are always (cheaply, easily) entertained is just a problematic.

    Belton, T., & Priyadharshini, E. (2007). Boredom and schooling: A cross-disciplinary exploration. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37(4), 579-595. doi:10.1080/03057640701706227

  2. This is a very interesting post! I really like it! It makes complete sense that we should give children time to be bored. As you stated, we schedule so much stuff for our children to the point that we aren’t giving them time to just take a second for themselves. In today’s world, I don’t think adults are even left alone with their thoughts. I think giving children time to be creative is a great idea too! It’s important that we let children self reflect on what they enjoy or dislike. This creative time may even help parents better understand what is going on with their children, if they choose to share their thoughts from their quite time. Great post!

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