“Mom, I’m bored.”
Those three little words are enough to make any mother cringe, especially when they’re uttered at 8 a.m. on the second day of March Break.
But wait, there’s no need to start frantically flipping through Pinterest boards in search of ideas just yet. Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a little idle time could actually benefit your bouncing little bundle of joy.
(Can’t resist the pull of Pinterest? It’s ok, we understand. Check out our board on March Break Boredom Busters for fun activities and ideas.)
Children need to experience a healthy amount of unstructured time, better known as boredom, in order to develop their imagination and creativity. It’s during these times of unplanned play that children learn how to engage with themselves and the world around them. When your child is bored, it’s not because they’re lacking things to do – there’s always something to do – it’s because they’re struggling to engage in self-directed play.
What To Do When Your Child is Bored
When the big, bad boredom beast rears its head, resist the urge to immediately offer a solution. Responding to a child’s boredom by providing them with a structured activity can actually be counter-productive. That being said, you shouldn’t ignore your child entirely.
Recharge Your Child’s Battery
According to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Laura Markham, kids will often say they’re bored when they’re actually feeling lonely and in need of some parental attention. If your child is complaining that they have nothing to do, it could be their way of saying that they want to spend some time with you. Take five minutes and focus on your child. Chat with her; have her show you something she’s been working on; give her your full attention (and a few hugs). This is often all your child needs to refuel before carrying on with some new activity or idea.
If your child is still whiny and distracted after a few minutes of parental attention, consider that she may need a little more time with you. Dr. Laura Markham suggests involving your child in what you’re doing, or taking a break and doing something together. Never underestimate your child’s need for connection. As frustrating as it might be to stop what you’re doing, fully addressing your child’s needs now could help prevent an hour-long meltdown.
Plan For the Future
Once your child has settled down and is back bouncing around the room, return to the challenge of finding something to do. Chances are they already have a few ideas in mind, so don’t be afraid to leave them to their own devices. If your child still can’t think of something to do, offer to brainstorm ideas with her. This tiny bit of prompting is likely enough to get her mind going. While brainstorming, write down your ideas and toss them in a shoebox or jar. The next time your child is bored, you can pull out the jar and reconsider some of these suggestions.
Hook Them On a Story
If your child is tired and cranky from playing, it could be time to bring things down a notch. Help your child regroup with some books or interactive story apps. Get them hooked on the plot and characters by sitting with them and sharing the first few pages together. Once they’re focused on the story, hand them the book or tablet and let them take over.After all, there is never ‘nothing’ to do when there’s a good story to be told.
As a parent, it’s easy to feel pressure to entertain your children 24/7, especially during the never-ending afternoons of March Break. However, if you constantly rush to alleviate moments of boredom, your child won’t have the opportunity to learn how to play independently.
How are you keeping your kids busy this March Break? Share your tips and ideas with other parents on the Loud Crow Facebook page.