We made it! October half-term is here.

The first half-term can often feel the hardest.  Getting back into the routines of school runs and after school clubs, new teachers, new classroom, for some new friends and new school.  The evenings start to get shorter and with that feeling that winter is on its way.  For some of us, a time to take a break, for others time to juggle work with holidays clubs or children at home.

Now, you may have thought that coming to the blog this week would give you some top tips to entertain your children this week… Sorry.  No!

This week we are going to share the benefits of boredom!

We’ve all heard it at some point, perhaps many times a day during the holidays… “I’m bored…”  It’s generally said in our least favourite tone of voice, the well-rehearsed whine, with over exaggerated and drawn-out additional syllables.

You can hear it in your head, can’t you?  It can be a little bit like fingernails on a blackboard.  What do you now, do you list all the games they can play with or the fact that you have only just returned for a morning’s outing and how could they possibly be bored?

Let’s start by reframing boredom – it’s actually a really good thing and great for our mental health too!

Babies look for brain stimulation and we provide them with shapes and colours, music and singing. It’s part of our role with young children to offer stimulation and learning opportunities and the brain recognises this stimulation positively.  But we live in an over-stimulating world – the technological era that we now live in is too stimulating.  Our children are the first generation of instant entertainment technology – it is available 24/7.

There is no need to be bored – they can have it all, right now!

  • New game for the Xbox – download it.
  • New Marvel Movie – DisneyPlus has it.
  • Discover an artist they like – stream every track they’ve ever recorded, instantly!

Despite the instant gratification that is available to them, and even it you haven’t ‘unplugged’ them – you are still likely to hear the words “I’m bored”.

We know there are benefits to this instant world we live in. Technology seems to be wired into their DNA – they can navigate the TV streaming and switch between gaming consoles and tablets so fast that our heads spin.  This stimulating world gives a release of dopamine, the chemical associated with feeling good.  When we stop being stimulated (excited) and we are no longer getting that hit of dopamine, we can feel that lack and interpret it as boredom, or even low mood or depression.  But it is during these times of boredom that we can actually be at our most creative, our subconscious mind gets an opportunity to daydream.

Boredom and Creativity

Researchers agree that children experiencing periods of boredom:

  • Develop their ability to be creative and productive.
  • Provides a nice break from the over-stimulation of the busy, constantly connected technological era we live in.
  • Can lead to thinking out-side the box – it develops resilience and grit and gives an opportunity to try things out without a fear of failure.
  • Being creative also allows opportunity to try new things and boost self-esteem.

When children are bored there is an opportunity for their imagination to spark!

So, how can we encourage creativity and give them those opportunities for their imagination to spark – without stepping in and being the entertainment? 

  • If our children have access to books, colourings pens, blankets and cushions – it won’t be long before you find them reading, drawing or building a den.
  • Encourage outdoors time – a walk, bike ride or some form of play in a more natural setting.
  • Get them to come up with a long list of activities they enjoy doing and get them to write or draw them on different cards that they can randomly select next time they feel the boredom creeping up.  This allows them to take more autonomy but also adds the element of fun and surprise.
  • Get them involved with household chores – sometime the best, most meaningful conversations Youth Fairy Sian has with her kids are when they are folding away the washing together.
  • Encourage their creativity – those amazon delivery boxes could make great spaceships, jewellery boxes or anything else their creative minds can conjuror up.
  • Create a “creative box” filled with pens, paper, crafts, reading books and magazines that you can direct them to when those dreaded words are uttered.
  • We can be a good role model too. If we expect our children to unplug, we must be prepared to set the example – put that phone down and let your mind go for a wander. When was the last time you allowed yourself to be bored?  When did you last sit and colour, read a book, or just allow yourself to daydream?

We hope some of these ideas will help you and your children embrace boredom a little more easily but if you do find yourself at a loose end and in serious need of entertainment then you can always read our previous blog “A Breath of Fresh Air” for ideas too.