Kids often act like boredom is the worst thing that can happen to them.
As parents, we learn to dread the cries of “But I’m sooooo bored!” when kids are home for extended periods of time. Trust me, it’s good to be bored!
As adults, we look around and see all kinds of things to do, but even in the midst of a playroom full of toys and games, kids can somehow feel like there’s nothing to do. A few things to keep in mind:
When kids say they are “bored” often what they mean is something else
- They may not know how to choose something for themselves to do when they aren’t directed to do something specific.
- They may feel overwhelmed by all the options and don’t know how to choose.
- They may not want to put forth the effort to think about what they could do.
- They might want access to something that they’ve been told they can’t have (generally electronics) and believe that if they complain about being bored they will get access to what they want.
- They may be looking for some interaction and connection with a parent or another person.
Try these tips the next time your kids complain that they are bored:
- Do not get distressed or feel that it is your job to resolve their boredom! You can guide them to think through how they want to handle their feelings of boredom, but it is not something you need to take responsibility for, fix, or drop everything to manage.
- Provide them with some ideas or options of things they can do. I like to have a list or menu of appropriate activity options available to direct kids to as needed. This helps when the issue is overwhelming from having too many things available or when they are struggling to figure out what the options are.
- Stick to the rules and expectations you’ve set, and don’t give in because of boredom complaints. This typically comes up around electronics, and it’s really important to stick to the limits you’ve set despite their complaints. If you start allowing more device use every time they complain of being bored you can expect them to use that strategy each time they want something you’ve told them they can’t have or do.
- Ask your child if they’d like to do something together. If you can’t or don’t want to stop what you are doing, then simply let them know when you will be available to do something with them. If you’re doing an activity you can involve your child in then go ahead and do that. Kids can help with lots of things you are getting done during the day like household chores and activities.
- Remind them that it’s okay to be bored. In fact, it’s good to be bored it’s actually good for their brain development. When we are truly bored it gives our minds room to think and wonder. This can lead to new ideas, creative endeavors, and exploration. It also can lead us to just be with ourselves and do nothing, which is beneficial as well.
- If you’ve directed them to appropriate activity options, stuck to your rules, and offered to do something with them and they opt to continue with their boredom complaints then it’s time to move on with your day and allow them to wallow in their boredom. Let them know that they are welcome to continue feeling bored, and you hope they find a way to manage it for themselves. You do not have to intervene or fix it for them, and should set a boundary for yourself by walking away, putting in earbuds to avoid hearing the whining or have them complain by themselves in their room so you don’t have to hear it. At some point, they will find something for themselves to do, or at least stop complaining about it. Again I say to you, it’s good to be bored.
Is “boredom” an issue in your home? What have you found helpful to address it?
Here’s another blog post on boredom that I think you might like The Benefits of Boredom. And this is a fun list of outdoor toys, surely some boredom busters in here 28 Best Outdoor Toys for Kids, According to Experts.