bored child

This post was last updated on January 4th, 2022 at 10:51 pm

Photo by greg westfall.
Photo by greg westfall.

I’m bored, I’m so bored, I am bored. It doesn’t really matter which way my kids say it. When I hear those words come out of their precious, little mouths I just want to scream SO FUCKING WHAT! That’s the conversation I have in my head. Because what really comes out is, go play with your toys, go read, go draw, go play with your sister or brother or the dog. And, no you may not have a screen, which is usually how this conversation begins.

I am by no means a “free range parent” just check out my Halloween costume from last year. Helicopter mom of the year.

bored child

What is Unstructured Playtime?

However, I do believe in unstructured play time. By definition – at least to me – that means my bored child or children have to figure out how to entertain themselves without a screen in the safety of the whatever environment we happen to be in (home, grandparents house, etc.)

This does not mean I plan their unstructured playtime activities. It cracks me up when I see posts with titles like 6 ways to create unstructured playtime or 13 unstructured playtime ideas. Isn’t the idea here to not structure your kids – i.e. back off?

Parenting Resolutions for 2017

Author Braden Bell inspired me to write this post after reading his article in the Washington Post. As a dad, he wrote about his parenting resolutions for 2017. I really liked what he had to say. Among his resolutions:

  • Allow his kids to struggle and fail
  • Spend more time coaching his kids and helping them to develop their own ideas and solutions
  • Do chores
  • Allow his children unstructured time even to be bored

They’re all challenges we face as parents. But, I believe it’s also our responsibility to instill these values in our children which include hard work, contributing to the family unit and engaging in thoughtful conversation and problem solving.

Bored Child – Why You Should Do Nothing

My oldest child can entertain herself. Maybe it’s because she was an only child for the first 5 1/2 years of her life and we were pretty hung ho on no tv or devices (we didn’t own any devices so that was easy). I didn’t even have the ability to text message until 2010.  My youngest, he likes to be entertained. He grew up with an iPad and was pretty competent with it by age 2. He’s the one most likely to yell “I’m bored.”

Allowing your child to be bored is tough. It’s right up there with allowing them to fail. But, sometimes you just got to do it.There are many benefits of boredom like creativity, curiosity, problem solving and risk taking. Cindy Foley is the Executive Deputy Director for Learning and Experience at the Columbus Museum of Art. She did a whole TEDx talk about the benefits of boredom. It is definitely worth watching.

Wrapping it Up

My kids made out pretty well at Christmas and Hanukkah, since we celebrate both. But it never fails,  even though they got most of the items on the their wish list, they probably had the most fun with the big box that one of the items came in. Go figure.

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  1. My daughter told me she was bored today. She had already used up her screen time so I told her to go play outside or in her room with the million toys she got for Christmas… I agree they need times to be bored and entertain themselves.

    1. It’s an every day struggle with my youngest. If he’s not on a screen or being entertained by his sister, he starts the “I’m Bored” rant.

  2. I am totally behind you 100%!!! I feel like with the growing technology, children have lost touch with their inner imagination (something we all had and cherished as children in our generations). I don’t want my child to forget how to imagine, how to create, and how to develop skills that will last them a lifetime!

    1. Thanks Marie. My husband was allowed to roam anywhere he wanted on his bike, but he had to be home by a certain time for dinner or else. I don’t think I can the random roaming physically or mentally, but we have a huge yard for the kids to explore when we push them outside.

  3. I agree! It’s good for kids to figure out what to do on their own so they can develop creativity and independence!

  4. I’m on that same boat. When Claire tells me “she’s bored” in her own way –she doesn’t know the word bored yet– she usually asks for an iPad or TV. I just tell her to find something to do instead. She moans and groans but after a few minutes she finds something or asks for help to get a toy or something and then she’ll keep herself busy for a little while. Good stuff, makes them more creative and resourceful IMO.

    1. That’s awesome Oscar. I wonder how much of these are first child traits. The real question will be if Oliver can entertain himself when he gets a little older of if he’ll rely on Claire.

  5. My 13 yr old tells me he is bored to and I tell him to go find a book, magazine or something. He does like screentime but can say that he typically turns to Animal Planet or goes to find something historical to learn online. When he was younger I’d tell him to pull out his cars or something. He entertained himself with his imagination.

    1. My older one is the same way. Not my younger one. He’s been spoiled by the attention of the older one.

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