Two words to drive you crazy
“I’m bored”. These two little words drive parents crazy. “How could you be bored – look at all the stuff you’ve got! You can’t move for toys! When I was your age, I didn’t have half the amount of stuff you’ve got.”
Parents often despair that their children could possibly admit to being bored when they have an abundance of toys and gadgets which they never had as a child. Those two words get a big reaction from parents and yet they can be said for a number of reasons.
I’m bored often means
- I have loved the company and attention of my friends or parents and I am struggling to initiate some play on my own. I just need some help starting something up and then I will be on my way.
- I have so much stuff to choose from that I don’t know where to begin. There are too many choices, too much to rummage through and I am stuck.
- I have been watching a screen for too long and it has totally entertained and absorbed me. I’m ‘wired’ and I can no longer think what to do instead of using technology.
- I really mean I am lonely, needing company and nurture and I can’t meet that need all by myself.
- I have heard this word used by others and it seems to get a parent’s attention. It might be worth trying these two words out!
- I don’t exercise my imagination enough.
- I have limited opportunities to be resourceful and creative.
For some children, it can also mean that they have not developed enough of the ability to look around and initiate something themselves. Perhaps a ‘hovering’ parent has been too quick to rescue their child from boredom and has always been on hand to suggest what to do, or play with, and has done some of the thinking that is important for children to do themselves.
What to do to help children out of boredom
1. Have a ‘fridge list’
This is a list posted on the fridge that has at least 10 good ideas for your children to do when they don’t know what to do. Things like Lego, modelling clay, chalk murals, card games, trampoline, construction work, puzzles, drawing, craft or baking.
When children use this word – use this acronym and ask them to do each letter of their’ bored’ list and then report back to you.
- Been creative?
- Outside play?
- Read a book?
- Exercised for 10 minutes?
- Done something helpful?
3. Listen before you solve
Instead of interpreting “I’m bored” literally, parents can just agree with children and listen patiently to their feelings. Being bored is okay, it won’t damage children and a cuddle and a listening ear is often all that is needed. Parents need to resist the temptation to growl, advise, remind or lecture. Just listen and nod.
4. The boredom jar
When your children aren’t feeling tired, or grumpy or bored, get them to write on a piece of paper the kinds of things they like to do – have a treasure hunt outside, make cupcakes, script and film a short movie – all the ideas go in a jar, then when the dreaded ‘I’m bored’ words come up, they pick something out of the jar. They can’t say the ideas are boring, because they came up with them.
5. Develop children’s imagination and resourcefulness
Fewer and less sophisticated toys develop greater creativity in children. For instance, when a child doesn’t have a shop-bought item like a pretend oven, use a cardboard box, some milk bottle tops and make your own. The valuable lesson you impart to a child is that you can create your own fun and you don’t always need to buy the ‘right’ equipment. Limit how many toys are out at once as children play better with less clutter. Invent stories, as well as reading books. Children develop a great imagination when they are required to create their own pictures in their mind. It all helps towards solving the boredom issue.
- Use the simple things
- Some children need help starting an activity. Pull out gently once they are engaged.
- Some children need prompts and questions to get them engaged. “So you need something to do? What do you have available?”
- Allow some mess and interruptions – it will pay dividends in having more engaged learners and some space for yourself.
- Try not to let TV or the computer be the default ‘cybersitter’. It can shut out the enthusiasm for creative learning moments.