“Mom, I’m bored.” As our children’s administrative assistants, we often schedule them – their “play dates” and activities as if they were CEOs...“Mom!”…Wait… Let her feel it. Let her wrestle with it…
Yet despite our intense efforts, our children still claim, what seems, now more than ever, that they are bored. Why?
One reason is that, “Children want to learn”, states Alan M. Hess, President of Smiletime Toys, 36-year veteran of the toy business, and child-development sage.
He qualifies that children want to learn, but you’ve got to make it fun: “Make whatever you’re doing with the child fun and then they’ll learn how to do it.” Hess adds that most children really just need to be challenged.
“Our number one selling item year in and year out is corrugated building blocks”, he shares, “Why? Because kids love to build. It teaches them manual dexterity, hand eye coordination, spatial relationships, and, best of all, they create concepts in their mind and develop imagination and creativity – it teaches something: It’s not just sitting there using their thumbs.”
Are kids today more bored than we were? Yes, Mr. Hess has observed, they are. He points to electronics, which he suggests are a problem contributing to boredom rather than a solution.
“Children are bored most of the time and when you plug them in doing something, they’re bored doing it.” He explains that while a child may learn from playing with a computer, “he is just using his thumbs and forefingers all day, not really developing anything; Whereas, if you give a child a ball, they’ll throw the ball, catch, the ball…”, and, “If you give a child an inanimate object, they’ll interact with it”, because children want to be creative.
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For example, if you give a child a figure, (no longer specifically called action figures or dolls, rather described by Hess as “things out of history and everyday life”), “The child relates to the figure, they become the doctor, they become the knight… they develop their imagination.” Yes, imagination…
…Or, rather, lack of it, is another reason kids get bored. Our intense structuring and scheduling is not allowing our kids to develop their imaginations, because, for a child to develop his imagination, he needs unstructured time.
Kids go from music to soccer, to swim team…all structured activities in which someone is telling them exactly what to do. Imagination, on the other hand, involves making your own choices, thinking creatively, problem-solving, and developing alternatives.
How to stave off ennui? (I got bored with the word boredom): Give your kids some down time and some challenges; provide a learning environment, ironically, so that one thing your kids can learn is what they can do, (on their own), to combat their boredom. Allow them to experience immediate boredom, so that they can develop the imagination and the creativity with which to stave off boredom long term.
The board meeting can wait until they grow up (so stop the scheduling!).
But a meeting with boredom is a welcome and a beneficial thing for our kids now.
And for us, I must admit: The last time my kids were bored, they spent a few minutes complaining, I ignored them and I ended up getting a new, tie-dye shirt out of it – (Imagine what a whole week of boredom rather than a few hours, could bring!) – and the kids got the memory of making great Christmas presents – tie-dye T-shirts, for the entire family, together.
What do you with your family to tackle boredom?
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Anna Katzman is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatry, certified in child and adolescent mental health. She is a regular contributor to GalTime. You can visit her blog for additional information.