Summer Goal: Let the Kids Be Bored

bored child

Movie nights at the pool. Backyard campouts. S’mores. Sandals. Sunhats. The smell of sunscreen. I love everything about summer.

Except for one thing. The dreaded “I’m booooored” phrase.

I know it’s coming. This summer I’m going to embrace it.

Here’s why.

Always on the Run

Like every other kiddo I know, mine are overscheduled and always on the run during the school year.

A typical school night for my 7-year-old looks like this:

She rushes home from her full day of school to study her spelling list. (Since when are words like “wristwatch” on a first-grade spelling list?!)

She gets it done in time to locate a missing ballet slipper, and off we go to dance class.

She has a snack and juice box in the car, which inevitably ends up all over her dance clothes. She scrambles out of dance class to get changed into shin guards and cleats for soccer practice.

We arrive to soccer five minutes late.

She struggles through soccer practice because she’s tired and it’s 7 in the evening and she hasn’t had dinner.

She hurries home to eat leftover mac ‘n cheese. 

She heads up to shower as I shout, “do a quick one because it’s already past bedtime!”

We squeeze in a bedtime story. Her eyes are shut before we finish the book.

“I see the moon and the moon sees me. God Bless the moon and God Bless me.”

Embrace Boredom

I’m tired just thinking about it. And so are the kiddos.

No matter how much they love what they’re doing, kids need a break from their busy schedules. Summer is the perfect time to slow down and let the kids be bored.

Experts believe that kids learn things like self-motivation, self-expression, independence and creativity from boredom.

“If you can let them sit with it long enough … this is often where the creative magic occurs in childhood,” said Texas licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain in this recent article. “No electronics, no suggestions from parents, just kids left to their own imaginations. How often does that really happen in life these days?”

Take it Slow

Here are some of our favorite ways to help kids slow down this summer.

Grab a Book

Reading is the perfect way to help kids slow down and use their minds simultaneously.

Studies show that reading for pleasure can increase empathy, better relationships with others, reduce symptoms of depression and improve well-being throughout life.

Ditch electronics

Set a period of time (a couple days, a week, whatever works for your family) and try to go electronics-free.

We tried this for a period last summer and were amazed at the things the kids found to do (they built a Rube-Goldberg machine across the house and made a cross-bow out of sticks in the yard).

We also noticed that before the creativity happened, there was a sort of withdrawal period (which makes sense since studies show that tech has effects on the brain similar to any other addiction) where the kids got cranky.

You have to give it enough time.

Plant Something

When kids garden, it can improve their mind body and spirit. It promotes life skills, teaches patience and gets them outside.

So, whether your little ones help in the family garden or have their own container that they tend to, gardening is a great way to connect with nature and slow down.

Build Something

Build a replica football stadium out of Legos.

Make a Barbie outfit out of old clothes.

Construct a fort out of pillows and blankets.

Design an indoor mini-golf course.

Benefits of building for kids include: fine motor skills, math skills like geometry and sorting by size and shape, creative thinking, science study (cause and effect, gravity) and social and dramatic play.

Listen to Music

Music has been known to restore harmony between mind and body.

Recent studies have found that music can improve mood and reduce burnout; reduce stress in hospital patients; and bring order and security to special-needs and distressed children.

We often have music in the background while we’re doing something else. But when trying to slow down this summer, let music be the focus.

Overstressed, overscheduled children can benefit from music’s meditative qualities.

Let young kids experiment with instruments. (My daughter is jazzed about a new ukulele that she won in a raffle at the library.) Let older kids download some songs and just slow down and listen for a period of time each day.

It’s OK to be Bored

Every parent dreads the “I’m bored” statements from their kids.

But experts support the idea that boredom is often the seed for creativity, and that letting the mind wander can be beneficial to mental health.

One study found that engaging in a non-demanding activity while letting the mind wander, enhanced creative problem-solving.

So, let your kids be bored. They’ll thank you later.

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