The gift of boredom
Boredom. The dreaded state of our children having nothing to do and looking to us to fill their empty little cups full to the brim with exciting activities to delight their little minds.
Sound familiar? I don’t know about you, but I am totally guilty of buying into the cultural belief that we have to have all the newest toys, entertainment, crafts, shows, playdates, or activities, etc. in order to see our kids really have the opportunity to use their imagination during play. After all, we are really led to believe that all of these things will be educational and helpful! However, I have learned so much during this season of quarantine that boredom is one of the best gifts we can give our children. Yes, even for our toddlers!
I have begun to send my children outside after breakfast to play every day that it’s not pouring rain. My one year old is just going with the flow at this point in life but often I get some pretty big objections from my three year old - especially if it’s a little gray outside. “But I would rather watch a show now!” being the biggest.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for her because she gets plenty of screen time. But I did have a hard time not listening to the inner mom-guilt voice in my head in the beginning when she complained that our backyard has none of the fun stuff to do like “at the park.” I immediately started to do research online looking up costs of swingsets and play structures that we couldn't afford….then I caught myself.
I know some of MY most creative moments as an adult come when my mind has the space to wander. When I’m “bored.”
I bet my children would survive without a jungle gym. And perhaps they would even get a chance to exercise their little imaginations even more this spring!
I stuck to my guns, making them go outside every day to play without any fancy toys or play structures, and something amazing happened, indeed.
My toddler started wanting to spend longer and longer outside, playing for hours in the garden with not much more than a few sticks and dirt for digging. Dirt and sticks, folks!
I see her now using so many natural items from outside turned into magical play pretend items; dandelion tea parties, rock pets, suitcases filled with pinecones and other treasures for her next journey around the world….er, backyard. It has truly helped me to become freed from feeling the need as a mom to stop buying so many toys to help my kids “play.”
This has really been a revelation for me and a freeing one at that. Not to mention, it’s nice to know spending more money on toys doesn’t equal more or better playtime for my kids. They just need a little space to let their creative juices flow.
Here is one tip I’ve discovered to be particularly helpful for transitioning my kids out of the boredom phase and into the imaginative play stage (especially little ones!)
If the feeling of becoming “bored” is new, it might take a little getting used to. So, I recommend starting with some special one on one time and giving your child lots of positive attention before asking them to go play outside (or wherever you are sending them!) Then, clearly communicate the expectation and send them on their way.
This way your kiddo knows they are not being IGNORED by you as their tank has just been filled, and it’s easier for them to understand that they are really just being asked to entertain themselves for a while.
I hope you are encouraged not to stress the dreaded words “I’m bored” quite as much anymore. Let’s rally together and see what happens when our kids have the space for their imagination to run wild.
This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Jenny.
Jenny lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their two energetic little girls. She shares tips and tricks for new moms at www.welcometothecircus.com.
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