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The Cure for Your Child’s Boredom?

E. Adler, Repairing The Little Cart

It’s back to school time, which often means it is also back to a frenetic pace of extra-curricular activities. We want our children to be well-rounded and well-educated and so we sign them up for all sorts of things: sports, dance, scouts, library programs, etc. There isn’t anything wrong with any of those things, but I’ve heard of children’s schedules that make me exhausted just listening to them. I know with many families having two working parents, after-school activities are necessary to make sure children are safe and occupied after school. However, our children need down time as much, if not more, than we adults do.

Imagination can only be truly cultivated in childhood. The ability to be creative and come up with new ideas and new solutions to problems (all valued in the workplace) depends on imagination. Developing imagination requires time to simply be and do one’s own thing.

There is a nine year old girl who lives next door to us. An only child who lives with her grandparents, she has spent most of the summer at our house playing with my children and just hanging out. She is a lovely young lady and I have enjoyed her company, but I can’t tell you how many times she told me she was bored this summer. I had never really thought about it much before, but that isn’t something I hear from my children or their other homeschooled friends very often. I started to consider why that might be.

The simple fact is that, in general, homeschooled children are left to their own devices much more than traditionally educated children. Homeschooling doesn’t require as much time on task as a traditional education so these children have more free time in which they need to occupy themselves. They are not told what they need to be doing or should be doing every minute of every day. They are used to amusing themselves. 

Therefore when faced with a bulk of unoccupied time, they have no real problem finding something to do. In fact, their lists of what they would like to accomplish often exceed the free time that they have. When they get together as a group, they often create elaborate imaginary games which entertain them for considerable amounts of time.

So, then, could the cure for your child’s boredom actually be more unstructured  time? I realize not every parent can or should homeschool, but a concerted effort can be made to allow for more free time, at least in the evenings. Perhaps limit extra activities to one per semester so that every night isn’t occupied with something to do and someplace to be.

If your child is not used to it, they may find the unplanned time “boring” at first and will complain, but in time, their ability to use their imagination and fill that time with activities of their own choosing will develop. Soon, you may not hear them complaining about being bored anymore, and instead hear them complaining of not enough time to do all that they want to do!


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Comments (4)

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  1. Loretta Pioch says:

    I agree! Let them be bored! Soon enough, you won’t hear from them again. I’m amazed at the time my 7, 10, and 12 year old can devote to their own projects and passions. That’s why summer’s end is such a bummer…because they will have less time to do their own reading, Legos, Hot Wheels, crafts, or just plain PLAY.
    We have 1 that is willing to join up to do anything, another that you have to force out of the house to do any extra-curricular, and the 3rd is somewhere in between. We keep to pretty much no more than 1 thing, and that’s busy enough. Anything more, and I would not be able to fathom how to keep dinners together as a family.

    LET THEM GET BORED!

  2. Claire Boeck says:

    I totally agree with this. Unstructured time is so important. I understand the temptation to sign kids up for all kinds of activities, and I have to constantly keep myself in check to avoid doing this.

  3. Mary Kochan says:

    Ha, ha, just go ahead and tell me you are bored. My kids learned pretty quick that boredom would be dealt with by work assignments — there’s always weeding, dusting, vacuuming etc. enough for the bored.

  4. Loretta Pioch says:

    Mary, I thought this,too, until I began appreciating the beauty, value, and the opportunity to sanctify the work of the home.
    I no longer assign housework as “punishment” for the “bored”…I do not want them to associate work with punishment. I want them to associate it with the participation in family life and with the means to sanctify ourselves and others.

    I only have 1 now that is “tempted” to be “bored.” The other two are never at a loss as to how to entertain themselves. When I see this, I usually notice I have not spent much time with her. So I let her know when and for how long I will spend time with her in the day (i.e..Honey, at 2:00 I can play or read books with you for half an hour. Then you have to find other things to do.) This pretty much resolves it.

    In decent weather, booting them outside helps, too.

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