I'm Bored! (And Why That's Okay.)

I was perusing Pinterest this past weekend and came across a pin titled, "Never Hear 'I'm Bored!' Again!" and it was a link to all kinds Pinterest boards to follow that contain all kinds of activities for kids.  Never be bored in summertime again!

Here's the problem: making sure my kids are never bored by filling their summer days with activities is a lot of work.  Someone (me) has to be the one to make the slime, assemble the craft supplies, find the cardboard box and make the straight lines for the roads, and monitor the water activities.  That's tiring!  Does mom get to relax in the summer?  (Not to mention the fact that mom already has a buttload of things to take care of around the house, like laundry and cleaning and organizing all the clutter.)  While it may be fun for Jimmy and Susie to make sculptures out of marshmallows, what happens when they realize they're not supposed to eat the marshmallows but play with them instead?  Or eat them instead of build with them?  And really, how many pretzel stick-marshmallow people/towers/cars can you make?  And then they want to keep their sculptures forever.  Sticky food sculptures.  Just because you don't want them to be bored this summer.

Here's a secret: it's not bad to be bored.  Really.

When I was little I remember being bored all the time.  All. The. Time.  I'm an only child, which means only if a friend or a cousin invited me over to play, or if I ventured out to find neighborhood kids, did I have someone to help occupy my time.  In the off-time, I was able to read or play with my toys, draw, play cards, or come up with some other kind of activity on my own, because have you ever tried to get your mom to play Monopoly with you at 2pm?  Not happening.

Ultimately though, a child being bored is not a bad thing.  It sparks creative thinking and creative play.  Because I don't stop and drop everything the instant they have nothing to do, my kids have to figure out ways to entertain themselves and each other when there isn't someone else around with lots of excess time on their hands.  Frankly, when we do those types of structured crafts, they're interested for about 10-20 minutes at the most and then they're done (and there's a mess to clean up).  Send them outside to the sandbox or upstairs to a giant train track where they can make up their own stories with their own characters and they're busy for a lot longer.

Another bigger issue is that kids whose time is always filled for them come to expect their time to be filled for them.  Sports, arts, music lessons, playdates, summer camps.  While these are great resources to have for an occasional activity, to be so super-scheduled is too much and then when there is downtime, they don't know what to do with themselves and that's when they become more pesky.  I want my children to be able to disappear into their room with a book, to pick up a coloring book or a notepad and draw without needing suggestions, or to pretend play in their kitchen (the running commentary of which is hilarious and sounds a lot like me).  I want them to know that feeling of milling around, not knowing what to do, and then curing that feeling with something that's interesting to them.  Because I was bored, I read a lot of books.  I learned how to make friendship bracelets.  I taught myself how to cross stitch.  I learned how to cook.  I tried my hand at knitting.  I got better on my sewing machine.  Clearly, I was into creative pursuits.

It's summer.  Let the kids run outside in the sprinkler.  Let them make a fort with the table and a blanket.  Let them have some downtime from school and structure and so many activities.  Relish in the words, "I'm bored" and answer back with, "Then go play!"

*edited to add: We don't believe in the kids being "plugged in" all the time either.  They wait patiently for food in restaurants without video games, and they make it all the way to Florida in the car without watching movies.  While screens can be helpful to occupy them, it's not a great way to spend the bulk of your time.


  1. Paige @ Little NostalgiaJuly 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    So much yes. I was actually talking about the phenomenon of over-scheduled kids with my MIL recently and how it doesn't teach them how to entertain themselves, like you said, but how it's also a huge drain on the parents. We know people who have kids on traveling sports teams, and they go to tournaments every. single. weekend. so after a full week of work and school for everybody, they're running around on all of their days off! It's madness. I literally have to wonder when these kids play. Probably never.

  2. YES! We were just talking about this over the weekend. My cousin has three girls and they entertained themselves the entire weekend with the most simple activities that they created. Having constant chaos in terms of what activity will have to take place next makes everyone unhappy. My mom was remembering that after my sister and I were too old for naps, we always had "quiet time" after lunch. This usually involved reading books from the library, drawing or coloring, and that sort of thing. We kept ourselves busy by being independent and figuring it out for ourselves, and meanwhile my mom could get what she needed to do done or have down time for herself.

  3. This coincides with the other article you posted about Parents doing everything and anything for their kids. While some of these activities are fun I don't think that parents should make it a priority every single day. I grew up with siblings and my cousins so I don't ever recall getting bored and I was also in day camp during the summer. I really think its important for parents to work on a balance especially if they are a stay at home parent. While I think some activities might be fun and interesting to do with your kids, its also a good idea to let them roam a bit and figure things out for themselves. I also agree with not being plugged in all the time. There is really no need for them to be attached to a device while waiting for anything, I feel this helps teach patience and respect.

  4. I read something recently about how kids today are so much more entities because their patents are always finding stuff for them to do, instead of letting them be bored and figure it out for themselves. Essley is too young still for me to be worrying about this quite yet, but I think it (along with what you said!) is a really good point. I remember being bored a lot as a kid too, and I think it ended up motivating me to be creative. Which ultimately was a good thing!

  5. Yes! And it is a balance. Obviously it's okay to do some things- we're doing swimming lessons right now, and Gus is going to try out soccer in the fall- but otherwise, he's on his own and he and his sister spend a lot of their time together. We still run errands together, read books, cook, and things like that, but we all get alone time too.

  6. *entitled. Not entities. Stupid autocorrect!

  7. I'm not an only child, but my brother is eight years older than me, so he often didn't want to "play" when I did. Though my best friend lived next door, there were still afternoons where we kept to ourselves. I wasn't bored that often, mostly because I found something to do. I read, I played with my Beanie Babies (which I still have, packed up in a box and stored in a closet), or rode my bike. I made cards. I made a city for my Beanie Babies out of cardboard boxes. These days, I'm surprised at some kids' dependencies on technology. My boyfriend has younger siblings who are much younger than him--they are seven and three, and I see them plunked down in front of the TV more often than not, and they seem to be far more interested in playing on their tablets and LeapPads than they are in creating something. If you take away their means of entertainment, they are easily bored and antsy, and it can be frustrating.

  8. I have a serious problem with all the technology, especially if I see something like a toddler in a stroller in a mall with an ipad. I mean, the kid can't even just look around the mall while you're walking. I really love the library. They have tons of books and toys to play with and the kids love to go there. Much better than an ipad.