Boredom is NOT a 4-Letter Word!

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

- Dorothy Parker

colors 06.25.09 [176]

Life's adventures, both real and imagined, are well served by a box of crayons.

TGSG Note: Sometimes, we write posts that really stick with us. This in one of those posts. Whenever I speak to parents, boredom is often a topic that comes up, and I am always amazed at the anxiety it produces in people. I wanted to take this opportunity to beat the pro-boredom drum one more time. And, it’s not just me…

“Bored? Don’t blame your job, the traffic or your mindless chores. Battling boredom, researchers say, means finding focus, living in the moment and having something to live for” – Scientific American Mind (2007)

Yep. Sounds about right.

I was recently talking to my friend and fellow-blogger, Michele (@OCPlayparks) about boredom, and what my take on the concept was when it came to kids and childhood. The great quote from Dorothy Parker immediately sprang to mind. You see, I am a BIG fan of boredom. I invite it into my world. Roll around with it and ask it to dance. If I were a politician, I would run on the pro-boredom ticket.

Boredom, it seems, has become a 4-letter word in many households with children. Apparently, boredom in children is a fate that many fear more than a bad FICA score or bathing suit season. To remedy this fact, many kids are plugged-in and given activities to do every second of the day. No stone is left unturned in the quest to keep kids entertained and to stop them from uttering the words that strike fear into the hearts of many: “I’m bored!”

To which I say, um,  SERIOUSLY?! Boredom is one of the greatest gifts of childhood — without a doubt. Out of  “boredom” springs creativity and great bouts of imagination. Countless adventures of the mind start with a simple spark necessitated by boredom. If we do not allow kids to arrive at this state, how will they ever learn to entertain themselves, stretch their imaginations, and call on their own inner-reserves to create play and self-directed learning.? If we merely fill their reserves with television, videos, or structured activities, how will they ever realize that they have everything they need right at their disposal? No batteries required. No directions needed.

A box of crayons. A garden or backyard. A park or playground. A pile of sofa cushions or a journal and drawing pencils. Books and blocks. Simple tools and nearby places — all of which stir the imagination if given half the chance. Children will blossom if we step back and let them be — give them the time and space they need to rely on themselves and their beautiful, natural-born creativity, ingenuity, and imagination.

Kids will create worlds within worlds, fly rocket ships to the moon, build forts with traps doors and hidden passage ways. They will surprise us and even themselves with the fun they can create when they are bored. If we stop acting like Cruise Directors determined to fill every moment of their schedules, kids will create fun and play and magic with their friends, siblings, and even on their own. Sometimes, they will even invite us into their worlds and games and let us pay witness to the glorious things they cook-up. When this happens, just dive in and enjoy.

Like anything else, it just takes a little practice. If you swoop in with an activity or “solution” to their boredom every time, of course it is going to be difficult for them to work through things on their own. But they will. The whining will stop and the creativity will flow. Just have a little patience…

Creativity, self-reliance, self-direction, problem-solving — all of these skills are the hallmarks of a successful adult. They are also all things that children can learn through play and finding their way out of boredom. Let’s face it — coping with boredom is a life skill that everyone should have, so why not foster it now?

The theater of the mind is a powerful thing — I would hate to see what my life would be like if I wasn’t able to tap into that.  How about you? So, next time you are tempted to play Cruise Director, stop yourself. Take a step back, and let boredom blossom into whatever comes next.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a box of 64 crayons that is just begging to take me on an adventure. It would be rude of me to refuse.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: timlewisnm

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