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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Letting our kids be bored: Embracing the Gift of Downtime

Top Reasons to Let Our Kids Be Bored


"Mom, I'm bored!" Every parent has heard this statement, usually delivered in a petulant tone during stretches when not much seems to be happening in the moment. It can be tempting to rush in to 'solve the problem', but is boredom really such a bad thing? In today’s fast-paced, always-connected world, the idea of letting kids be bored might seem counterintuitive. We often feel the urge to fill every moment of their day with structured activities, screens, or educational content. However, allowing our children to experience boredom can be incredibly beneficial for their development. Here’s why we should embrace those moments of “nothing to do” and how we can help our kids make the most of them.


Fosters Creativity and Imagination

When kids are bored, they are more likely to use their imagination to entertain themselves. Without a screen or a structured activity to rely on, their minds can wander, leading to creative play and imaginative thinking. This is where they can invent new games, create stories, or engage in arts and crafts.

Tip: Provide open-ended materials like art supplies, building blocks, or dress-up clothes. These items encourage children to create and imagine without specific instructions.


Encourages Problem-Solving Skills

Boredom challenges kids to find solutions to their own "problems" of having nothing to do. This promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as they figure out how to occupy their time meaningfully.


Tip: Resist the urge to immediately solve their boredom. Instead, ask questions like, “What do you think you could do?” or “What sounds fun to you right now?”


Promotes Independence and Self-Reliance

Allowing children to navigate boredom helps them become more independent. They learn to rely on themselves for entertainment and can discover personal interests and hobbies without constant adult direction.

Tip: Create a “boredom jar” filled with ideas your child can choose from when they’re feeling bored. This can include activities like reading a book, going for a nature walk, or building a fort.


4. Enhances Emotional Regulation

Experiencing boredom teaches kids how to manage their emotions. They learn that it's okay to feel bored and that this feeling can be a natural part of life. Managing these feelings without immediate distraction can improve their emotional resilience.

Tip: Model boredom-tolerance by occasionally expressing your own boredom in a healthy way and demonstrating activities you choose to combat it, like reading a book or gardening.


5. Reduces Screen Time

In an age where screens dominate our lives, boredom can be a great way to naturally reduce the amount of time kids spend on electronic devices. This allows more time for physical activities, face-to-face interactions, and hands-on learning.

Tip: Set specific screen-free times during the day, such as during meals or an hour before bedtime. Encourage outdoor play, family board games, or other non-screen-related activities.


Practical Strategies to Embrace Boredom:

  • Create a Balanced Routine: Structure the day to include free time without planned activities. Balance structured activities with periods where your child can decide what to do.

  • Provide Diverse Materials: Keep a variety of materials available that can spur creativity, such as art supplies, books, building toys, and outdoor equipment.

  • Encourage Outdoor Play: Nature is a fantastic boredom buster. Encourage your child to explore the backyard, take walks, or create games outside.

  • Limit Over-Scheduling: Avoid filling every minute of your child’s day with activities. Give them the freedom to have unscheduled time to explore their interests.

  • Model Boredom as Positive: Show your child that being bored isn’t negative. Share stories of how you used to deal with boredom and what fun or interesting things you discovered as a result.

  • Promote Mindfulness Activities: Introduce activities that promote mindfulness, such as drawing, journaling, or quiet time with a book. These can be calming and help kids learn to enjoy their own company.



Boredom isn’t something to fear; it’s a valuable opportunity for growth. By allowing our kids to be bored, we give them the chance to develop creativity, problem-solving skills, independence, and emotional resilience. So next time your child says, “I’m bored,” embrace it as a positive moment. Equip them with the tools and mindset to turn boredom into a springboard for discovery and development.


Let’s celebrate the beauty of boredom and watch our children flourish in unexpected ways.


Be well,

Paula



Dr  Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. She is also a certified children's mindfulness teacher and Positive Discipline Parenting

coach. You can find out more at www.paulathedoctormom.com.

Our AI wellness assistant has contributed to the writing of this article.

 

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