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.