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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?

weevilswobble Mon 25-Mar-13 20:40:11

Everything in moderation. Boredom can lead to antisocial behaviour if children don't have resources available to them. They need to know they are allowed to make a mess and have permission to get a hammer and nails and a bit of wood. I was, and did, I was always busy keeping busy. But only because I was allowed. Iyswim

Bookwolf32 Mon 25-Mar-13 20:48:07

Children should definitely be allowed to get bored, and not allowed to default to the tv when they are bored. I look after some children and the youngest finds it almost impossible to entertain herself unless she has a screen. I find it so depressing. When I was a kid I would read, make junk models, draw, but then I grew up when kids tv was only on for a couple of hours a day!

forevergreek Mon 25-Mar-13 20:56:01

Yes I agree. It's fine having structure/ plans to a day, but I think some element of 'free play' needs to be included. Many seem to get dragged from class to class without some time out

I think we do 50/50 of planned things, adult helping etc v leaving them to decide or come up with something

Gales Mon 25-Mar-13 21:01:01

I find they don't stay bored for long.

I often get complaints of boredom but if ignored they soon find something to do. I agree with weevils though that this "something" often involves making a mess and/or a noise. I understand fully why some parents keep their DC occupied all the time or in front of a screen.

ByTheWay1 Mon 25-Mar-13 21:05:33

Yep - mine get sooooooo bored they offer to take the dog for a walk, or clean the guinea pigs out - win/win for me!

They are 10 and 12 now - so it is easy to find them something to do if they whinge - (though even when they were younger they could clean a skirting board wink ) - hence they don't whinge.... another win/win for me...

It is also a win for them as if they offer to do things freely because they are bored they have found they tend to get treated more than if they whinge about being bored.

Curtsey Mon 25-Mar-13 21:07:13

Obviously a bit of structure, planning and input is essential.

But it seems to me that there's an element of holding your nerve when it comes to a bored child. The constant whining of 'what can we dooooo' is a great way to needle an adult into snapping and organising something...but if you can hold off and let them reach the absolute threshold of boredom, they usually end up turning to either books or sport/fresh air. And if it happens often enough, the books/sport become a habit and they don't get bored at all in the first place. Perfect result, if you ask me!

Zatopek Mon 25-Mar-13 21:07:26

I don't enjoy having bored children and find it very stressful.

I find whinging, whining, lounging around, rolling around, excessive "humping", demands for screen time difficult to tolerate so I am always trying to suggest things they might like to do. I appreciate this stops them for thinking for themselves.

I am always offering to get down on the floor and play. But since my DD started school she no longer wants to/is too tired to play and seems to have lost all interest in her toys.

Going out is usually the answer but not always practical or enjoyable in the long cold winter.

BangOffTrend Mon 25-Mar-13 21:22:53

Our DC have never complained of boredom but then they are still young, 6, 4 and 3. Between school and the usual activities; swimming, beavers, homework...they are pretty much left to entertain themselves with games, drawing, make believe, etc, for as long as possible. Call it "benign neglect"!

That there are three of them so close in age means little time for boredom and that is a bit of a shame as I believe being content with your own company and being able to keep yourself occupied is vital to a happy life. TV is minimal, a treat, and we are keen not depend on it.

No doubt before long they will be moaning about boredom and I'll be trotting out platitudes about only boring people being bored. I can only hope they love reading and thus will never be bored!

Bitzer Mon 25-Mar-13 21:30:30

Mine are left to get bored quite a lot. We don't have much of a garden so it's mostly indoor bored. Not because I'm consciously fostering their creative spirits but because I take on too much and then always have a million things to do when I'm with them so end up leaving them to their own devices, probably for a bit too long. I err between thinking it's good for them (when I eavesdrop on some crazy game they've made up) and feeling a bit guilty and neglectful (because they end up fighting when unmediated for long periods and there are lots of tears).

There are some activities that I really enjoy doing with them e.g. jigsaws, reading, drawing - so mostly sedentary stuff but we sometimes we put on music and do some daft dancing – and therefore do a lot of. But I'm not great at playing 'mummy and baby' and such-like for extended periods. Anyway, the result is that the activities I do with them are quite limited and they would probably benefit from me suggesting/choreographing a few more varied games.

I guess, like everything, boredom is probably good in moderation. But the DC do have friends who own every conceivable toy/electronic source of entertainment on the market and are allowed limitless TV etc, and I think on balance I prefer more boredom.

AllDirections Mon 25-Mar-13 21:37:07

My DC are benignly neglected very creative

At last I seem to have got something right <polishes halo>

NorksAreMessy Mon 25-Mar-13 22:13:21

This is trotted out all the time as a solution to all the ills in the world 'allow children to be bored, so they become creative'
What actually happens is bored children plonk themselves in front of a screen and become even more flaccid and un-creative.

Allowing children opportunities and space and facilities and resources and support and inspiration and guidance and input is what makes them creative.

Art is underrated as an activity that can promote problem solving, introspection and thoughtfulness. Boredom per se does not do this

serin Mon 25-Mar-13 22:14:55

Zatopek "Excessive Humping"?? grin

The mind boggles.

I used to tell mine there was no such thing as bored, and suggested they might be tired and need a nap instead.

Now they are older they usually take a rugby ball to the park.

MsMarple Mon 25-Mar-13 22:20:57

I used to feel guilty for not doing lots of active-parent-engaging-child-in-play stuff, but now I see I was simply giving him space to develop creatively!

NorksAreMessy Mon 25-Mar-13 22:22:51

When anyone in our house has ever said they are bored, my mantra is 'if you are bored, do something nice for someone else'

That shuts them up!

DomesticCEO Mon 25-Mar-13 22:25:20

Norks, isn't the point that you don't give them the option of screen time to alleviate the boredom?

MsMarple Mon 25-Mar-13 22:26:10

Norksaremessy - I totally agree with you about giving kids resources, support, opportunities etc, and about art too BUT children only 'plonk themselves infront of a screen' if you let them. You don't have to have allow them to stupify themselves.

Startail Mon 25-Mar-13 22:37:45

Sometimes, I've refused to organise anything for my 12&25y DDs today and eventually after a bit of fighting they have got bored of computers, cleared the dinning table and drawn and done a bit of craft.

DD1 likes craft and is doing art GCSE. DD2 actually can draw, but lacks confidence and has to be in the right frame of mind to start.

So yes sometimes being bored is good, too much being bored clearly causes troble.

AlteredState Mon 25-Mar-13 22:41:19

BangOffTrend "^...only boring people being bored." Oh if I had a quid for every time I've said that to dd(6)! Usually she ends up reading a book (I caught her in the bath with a library book the other night!).

Smudging Mon 25-Mar-13 22:42:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Smudging Mon 25-Mar-13 22:43:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

forevergreek Mon 25-Mar-13 23:05:25

We have no tv so they def can't get bored and watch it. Being left to occupy themselves ( with us near as still young), usually involves play dough/ watercolours/ Lego/ train track/ or some game involving animals with pirates and fairies all living in shoes!

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Tue 26-Mar-13 04:35:48

I kind of agree, but times have changed- someone recently wrote that "children today are effectively under house arrest", and I think she has a point. A child's ability to be creative and find something to do is curtailed by the lack of independence children have these days. Child of Our Time noted that the distance the average 10 year old child is allowed to go by themselves has fallen by something like 30 times since 1980.

sleepywombat Tue 26-Mar-13 04:59:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lavenderhoney Tue 26-Mar-13 05:02:53

As soon as my dd started to walk, both dc dumped me as a playmate -( they are 6 and 3 now!) and played together, favourites are playing dress up and make up adventures. They paint each others faces, draw and colour, watch tv and favourite DVDs together and generally only find me for correct spelling to write posterssmile ds even reads to dd and makes it up if he gets stuck.
I don't mind mess, noise, bit of spilt water etc. they help me cook, clean and know to find something to do if I am busy.

When they are bored they argue and wrestle but it always finishes with giggling. I might suggest a park or a walk, or offer to build a den and give them a real picnic to play.

Tv is ok- they aren't allowed anything except cbeebies or fireman Sam which they get bored withsmile etc so they only watch tv for about 30 mins before shouting " lets play hide and seek" etc. I don't think it's anything I do - its them. But I really don't mind mess and shouting with excitement. Dh does, and is quick to use the tv as its easier for him.

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