Children sitting alone, looking sullen

“I’m Bored” … Why it’s important for children to experience boredom.


In my local paper recently there was an article about children being bored in the school holidays, and it listed all the things parents could do for their children to alleviate their boredom… adventure parks, movies, sport based holiday programs, shows, art classes, and places like zoos and museums. Whilst all those places do indeed provide much fun and learning, I’m concerned about the notion that parents must be the ones to solve their children’s boredom, and that entertainment is the key.

If I have a problem, it’s up to me to solve it.

Isn’t that what we want to teach our children?

When children say they are bored, they are saying that it’s up to you to ‘fix’ this problem they have. It’s a bit like when they say: ‘I’m hungry’…. don’t we usually suggest that they eat something. We don’t do it for them! A child from c 5 years old is able to get themselves a piece of fruit or maybe a simple sandwich, depending on how much you’ve encouraged them in this area. The key here, is that they are able to solve their problem of hunger.

When they say they are bored, they are also able to solve their problem.

When I was a first time Mum, I remember saying to friends that I felt like Anna’s 24hr entertainment centre! It took me a while to realise that her boredom wasn’t my responsibility, and that by providing the ‘entertainment’ all the time, I was denying her capacity to work it our for herself….. I soon learnt to say: ‘Oh, what will you do?’ Now it didn’t always get a favourable response, because she really did want me to give her the answer. But previous experience had taught me that even when I rattled off 10 things she could do, none of them were to her satisfaction. By placing the onus back on her, the message I was giving was that I believed she could work it out.

We need to stop solving all our children’s problems, and let their brains try to come up with a solution. This in turn helps them to develop a neural pathway (a brain cell), which they can access when they are bored next time. It’s the same process you go through if you’ve never cooked Anzac biscuits…. once you’ve done it a few times, then you know how to do it more easily. Once children have ‘solved’ boredom they are more able to do so next time it happens.

By all means plan some holiday time outings for the family – these are important for building the positive memory banks for you and the children.

And, also leave time for them to have ‘free-time’. Sometimes they will be keen to continue building on their lego construction or continue reading that great book they are in to, and other times they will be bored. Often from boredom comes creativity…. they might find their coloured pencils and start drawing, they might decide to cook something, to wash their bike, decide to construct something in the back yard from the wood pile, or even tidy their room – don’t hold your breath for that one! Maybe they might even make a list… of ‘My Top 10 Things to Do When I’m Bored’ and keep it for future reference.

Happy Boring Week!

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