When your children cry, “I’m bored!” this is a wonderful window of opportunity to help them flex their exploration and creativity muscles. Today’s young children are so overscheduled and overstimulated by the plethora of digital entertainment that a little boredom could be a good thing: When children are unplugged from the bustle and busyness of everyday life, they are left with time and space to engage in some right-brain activity.
Consider what a child’s life was like before iPads, iPhones and video games. Go back in time a little further and think about what children did after school or on weekends before television existed. Children are naturally inclined to play with whatever and whomever they find in front of them.
Leave a child with a large cardboard box, a roll of tape, a ball of yarn and nothing else and watch what happens!
Here are nine ways to encourage your child to banish boredom creatively:
- Encourage a backyard adventure. Equip your child with a magnifying glass and a paper lunch sack and challenge him or her to explore, discover and collect 10 interesting treasures from nature.
- Keep a cabinet filled with arts and crafts supplies within reach. Stock it with simple and inexpensive items such as construction paper, empty paper towel and bathroom tissue rolls, yarn, glue, tape, round-tipped scissors, markers, buttons, air-dry clay, pompoms and feathers. When your child expresses boredom, invite him or her to visit the craft cabinet and make something.
- Challenge your child to build an indoor fort with chairs, bedsheets and pillows. You can join in for snuggling with a favorite storybook and a flashlight once it’s built.
- Give your child some age-appropriate chores to do around the house, such as folding clean towels, helping you empty the dishwasher, making the beds, bringing the laundry to the washer or sweeping the porch.
- Ask your child to help tend the garden. He or she can water the plants, pull weeds, spread mulch or help rake leaves.
- Invite your child to help with meal prep. Give your child a safe, easy task such as stirring batter, cracking eggs or washing produce.
- Encourage your child to take the dog for a walk or play with the cat. Have your child refill the pet’s water bowl or brush the dog.
- Help your child find a book to read based on a movie or TV show he or she likes.
- Bring out the sidewalk chalk and send your child out to the driveway or sidewalk. Let imagination lead the way!
Time unplugged is ideal for your child to engage in exploration and creativity. When a child expresses boredom, this can be a prime time to help him or her develop and uncover untapped abilities and new experiences that require gross and fine motor skills — skills the digital world doesn’t always activate.