Is it good for kids to be bored? How bored do you let your children get?

(71 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 25-Mar-13 20:35:34

Today, an education expert has said children should be allowed to get bored "so they can develop their innate ability to be creative".

Dr Teresa Belton says society has "developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated... but children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes".

Do you agree? And if so, how do you deal with the inevitable whines of "What shall we do now?"

Or do you think it's better to keep your children busy and encourage them children to try lots of different activities?

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Tue 26-Mar-13 05:11:23

As soon as my dd started to walk, both dc dumped me as a playmate

Now this is music to my ears. I have DS (2.5) and DD (8mo). DD is currently not much fun for DS, although he seems to like her. She's looking like being an early walker, so maybe i'll be redundant in a few months- yay!

Lavenderhoney Tue 26-Mar-13 05:31:22

Rich man, I felt quite left out! I remember going into ds room whe they were dressed as pirates and sitting on the bed. Cue screams from ds of " mummy, that's our pirate ship! Get off, you'll sink it! " cheers kidssmile I asked if I could join in and they looked at each other and said not really...

Plus driving whilst they chat and mess in the back. It's clear I am driver status only. Unless I have snackssmile

purpleroses Tue 26-Mar-13 08:19:07

It's not exactly about making them get bored. It's about preventing the "easy fill" things - computer games and TV mainly - from being used to occupy them the second that they find they don't have anything in particular to do. If those things are always on tap then they never get bored, but they also never get the chance to think of something to do.

Have been trying to convince DP of the need to force kids off screens for extended periods of time (ie a few hours) since we moved in together. Have had great success with his younger two, who now play long imaginative games with my DD, but at 14 his elder son seems a lost cause sad Just sits on the couch for hours on end moaning that he's bored and how cruel we are to limit his computer hours. Think you need to let them learn to play and amuse themselves before teenage years set in.

Beechview Tue 26-Mar-13 08:29:30

I agree with the earlier comments about access to resources.

My sons (7yrs and 5yrs) have never said they are bored.

There is no tv at all during the week. They can go on the laptop to use Education City for 15mins each a couple of times a week.
We go out a lot and I'll do some baking with them from time to time.

They have access to lots of paper, pens and crayons etc, how to draw book, lego, dinosaurs, lots of vehicles and tracks, other toys and each other.

They're often left to get on with it and always find something to do.

ThreeTomatoes Tue 26-Mar-13 08:31:02

I agree to a certain extent, and especially for younger children. I remember the relief I felt when I came across this blog (dd would have been 3 at the time), as I struggled with guilt at leaving dd to it as much as I did. It's been really good for dd so far (she's 9) to be bored sometimes - I was a lone parent, SAHM, so when she was little, she was bored by necessity, i'd have gone nuts if I had to entertain her 100% of the time, it meant i could get what I needed done and that she learnt (she's an only child) to find her own entertainment, and it's paid dividends. (Although, ok, the TV does take over at times! I'm surprised at how much time she doesn't spend in front of the TV, voluntarily, though)

However, I think for teenagers boredom becomes more destructive. I was far too bored as a teenager, and I wish now that my parents had made the effort to make sure I was involved in out-of-school stuff. Narrowly avoided getting involved with the 'wrong crowd' in the streets etc (thankfully due to strict parents who kept me in once they realised - but there you see, I was bored shitless indoors and bored with school, I don't understand why they didn't find something else for me to get involved in. And actually, we grew up without a TV and now I think about it, it might have helped if we had one!!! wink).

I know a few 'kids' who are entering their 20s now who have done really well, and who have on the whole been happy well-adjusted confident and trouble-free teenagers (complete opposite to myself) and I'm looking to their parents for guidance on what to do with dd when she enters her teens - the key seems to be "keep them busy", e.g. one set were heavily involved with the Woodcraft Folk, which I'm hoping to get dd involved in from Sept.

Beechview Tue 26-Mar-13 08:35:56

And to add to my post - my sons know they are allowed to play on the xbox on Saturdays and start talking about it and badgering me about it from when they get up. I'm sure if they knew that was an option on weekdays, they'd be whining about it til I gave in.

I think an adviser (on childhood ?) to the PM said similar things a few weeks ago - the "children need time to be bored" thing. I just wish they'd put it a bit differently really .... I think children need time away from structured adult led activities, such as after-school clubs and school, to play and explore their interests more freely. But I'd so much rather see the word "play" than "bored" to describe this. A great educator once said "play is a child's work" And Tina Bruce says "children need stimulating first-hand experiences which they can make their own through free-flow play" We don't appreciate or understand play as a society I think, much to the detriment of our provision to the early years and to young children.
It just shows how bad this has got when experts revert to the concept of "boredom" to express their ideas of the importance of unstructured time, rather than the much richer concept of children having time to play smile

Kendodd Tue 26-Mar-13 09:34:12

I started a thread about this ages ago, saying that a bit of boredom is good for them, forcing them to use their imaginations and entertain themselves.

As for what do we do when they complain about being bored, my friend had the best comment- "what do I look like a, red coat, go and find something to do"

clicketyclick66 Tue 26-Mar-13 10:37:55

We weren't allowed to be bored as kids, if we dared to say it Mum would give us a list of household chores or Dad would give us sandpaper and order us to sand the rusty gates on the farm!

anklebitersmum Tue 26-Mar-13 10:43:22

Mine don't get bored too often..they all play together. usually the problem is not boredom it's sounding like they're about to come through the ceiling.

When they do get bored I am a mean Mummy and make like sleepywombat's Mum.

You'd be amazed how fast my lot stop whinging and find something interesting to do when you threaten tidying up wink

daytoday Tue 26-Mar-13 11:11:43

I think the word 'bored' is a bit a misleading. I think children need to find stimulation from within, their own ideas - rather than having other peoples ideas fed into them via TV, computers, parents. I also think quiet and stillness are important to experience.

I'm a great believer in giving kids space and letting them see what they fill it with themselves.

But of course, sometimes they aren't in the mood and thats when boredom becomes negative.

boxershorts Tue 26-Mar-13 11:27:22

Bored |I thought most on the boys were doing games on tv

Chandon Tue 26-Mar-13 11:36:56

I let them get bored a fair bit, but have one stuctured activity most days during holidays ( swimming, a walk or film or activity).

You have to allow them free reign with shoe boxes, sellotape and paint though.

Oldest DS coes up with fab plans when he is bored, he becomes very creative and entertains himself. Youngest gets bored, has no clue, and just reads for 2 hours then whines to wtach TV or go on the computer.

I am not sure that being bored brings out creativity in a non-creative person, whereas if a person is naturally creative you have indeed to allow them time and space to get bored so ideas can flourish, and also, then let them get on with it.

Thumbwitch Tue 26-Mar-13 12:11:51

I have cultivated this on long journeys. I refuse point blank to buy into the idea that children need to be entertained by DVD players or other hand-held gadgets on long journeys. DS1 has never had much in the way of entertainment in the car, other than talking/singing with us, or playing with a couple of toys, and even that is stopped sometimes after the nth time of "mummy I dropped x on the floor and can't reeeeaccch it..."

DS1 is very good at amusing himself. DS2 will have to learn to do the same, or he and DS1 can amuse each other. smile

ThreeTomatoes Tue 26-Mar-13 12:33:27

Thumbwitch on the other hand on trains , buses etc I can't understand those parents who sit there getting annoyed with their bored screaming kiddies but without ANY form of entertainment for them. I always think, what do you expect? wink

Agree Juggling re 'play' - dd really enjoys after school club (as in wrap around care) precisely i think because although there's all sorts of opportunities given to them - art, games etc - they are free to do what they hell they like really, from what I can tell dd and her little group of friends there tend to just 'play'.

Mine are very close in age and I started studying when the youngest was 8 months so they've never really had me as in house entertainer/playmate.

They're upstairs now playing some sort of convoluted shop game, I imagine they'll come begging for snacks soon but other than that they're expected to fend for themselves for the most part.

I have to agree with those upthread who've said you have to accept a trade off in the level of mess created though. Dp tends to chuck the tv on for them in an attempt to curtail the destruction whereas I'll boot them upstairs to play and accept the rooms will be demolished as a result... But then tidying them up again is also a good boredom cure wink

ladydepp Tue 26-Mar-13 14:04:14

Chandon - I really agree with your comment about creative and non-creative types. I am a non-creative type and was incredibly bored through much of my childhood. My mother (single mum) was too busy/bored to play with me at all and my siblings were much older and moved out by the time I was 7 or 8. I spent huge amounts of time on my own or playing with neighbouring kids who I didin't really like. I don't look back on it with much happiness.

This may be why I tend to veer towards more structure for my 3 dc's, although I do try to keep a few hours free each day in the holidays for them to do their own thing.

I think assuming that bored children will magically turn into more intelligent and creative children is not necessarily true. Some children, like adults, benefit from more structure.

I don't do much organising of activities for my DS, but I am very busy and very reative and always like to be doing something, as does DP, and I tihnk that has basically just rubbed off on DS because he spends most of his time choosing what to do himself and then getting on with things, he rarely says he is bored. Car journeys are the only time he says he is bored.

We are a very active family and weekends are mostly spent outdoors and DS just comes along with us and gets on with it. He is an only child and is very good at entertaining himself.

I make sure his room is well stocked with stuff he might need to be creative (newspapers, cellulose paste, cardboard, duck tape, masking take, paints, wood, tools etc etc.

DS " mum I'm bored"

me "wwll you could always clean the windows/hang the washing up/hoover/do some maths revision"

DS "oh I just remembered I'm going to build a fort in the garden/read a book/build a lego starwars base..."

mindosa Tue 26-Mar-13 14:56:40

Its important to allow your children the opportunity to learn and experience new things so imo swimming lessons, dancing, tennis etc - all good.
That is different to feeling that you have to sit with them doing craft, that to me is too much.

pollypandemonium Tue 26-Mar-13 15:07:23

I was in hospital with my daughter recently and all the beds had TVs. The hospital classroom was empty because the children all prefered TV - except mine of course. The nurses insisted that children were allowed to have the TVs on even at night because it gave them comfort made their jobs easier.

We need more research on this subject, definitive research. We need an army of specialists with FACTS and GUIDELINES that we can wave at our children and say "if you have any more than xx hours of screen time a day your health will be harmed".

These well-meaning reports by the great and good are nice, but won't change anything without decent data. How hard can it be to find some numbers?

forevergreek Tue 26-Mar-13 15:13:59

Exactly, we might spend an hour painting together or building a model in the morning, later in the day when Im doing something else they might use their own initiative to get the watercolours or crayons out and do something themselves.

pollypandemonium Tue 26-Mar-13 15:22:29

My daughters are both teenagers and when the plugs are pulled they both have found something they like doing and usually do that. But I really have to pull the plugs out, including the router in order for them to be creative.

The researchers also need to stop and think about computer programmes that are very creative and actually mimic real life toys - such as minecraft / lego, sims / dolls houses. There is a lot of creative play on offer on computers too and there is 'downtime' within those games where nothing happens. When they play online there is collaboration as well. But of course the research on this hasn't been done yet...

Thingymajigs Tue 26-Mar-13 15:33:24

I have a list ready to hand out to my kids whenever they mention boredom. In fact, its called the "OMG, I'm so bored!" list. Its full of ideas from arts and crafts to basic household chores. The idea was that when they began moaning they would pick an activity and do it but actually all I have to do is reach for the list and they stop complaining. So, it doesn't make them anymore productive but they're quieter about their annoyance.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 26-Mar-13 18:50:42

I totally agree that dc need to think for themselves, have down time and occupy themselves. I would not call this boredom though, its just occupying yourself. Boredom is surely the opposite, not being able to find something to do, or to think for yourself.

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