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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?

Arcticwaffle Thu 28-Mar-13 11:54:13

I think even my restless 11yo wouldn't be bored if she had a talking phoenix and a magic carpet.

InMySpareTime's post is interesting as my restless one is actually very creative in many ways (does lots of art and craft, good at fast thinker type competitions, often wins prizes for her creations, she would be an ideal child for Crazy Wednesday competitions) but she still can't just settle down and do something like that without a challenge or a competition to work for. Whereas my 12yo and 8yos will create models or artwork or knitting or whittling all over the place without any urge to compete, 11yo can only do it if it's a set task or a challenge or a competition.

isabel9354 Thu 28-Mar-13 10:31:14

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

ThreeTomatoes Thu 28-Mar-13 09:07:35

grin merrymouse I love those books! Different times huh...

merrymouse Wed 27-Mar-13 20:56:13

Just started reading 'Phoenix and carpet' to children. So far in chapter 1 these pre tv children are amusing themselves by setting off fireworks inside. In '5 children and it' they tried to beat up a delivery boy. It could be a gritty story set on a sink estate. (Except for servants).

exoticfruits Wed 27-Mar-13 13:22:38

If they are fairly useless amusing themsleves then InMySpareTime has good ideas-set a challenge.

merrymouse Wed 27-Mar-13 10:08:25

Agree with Threetomatoes

I think when people think of the kind of things that children do when they are bored - play outside, read books, make things - there is an assumption that the child has access to safe outdoor play space, books in the house, and, at the very least, an adult who will make sure that there is a supply of junk/old clothes and the odd roll of sellotape.

Not all children have these things.

I think Teresa Belton is completely right. However, it made me a little cross when that government person started talking about it. What are hoodies in precincts doing if not 'making their own fun'?

InMySpareTime Wed 27-Mar-13 07:30:03

I have "Crazy Wednesdays" in the holidays. All the neighbourhood DCs come to our house and I set them a challenge:
How best to drop a raw egg out of an upstairs window without it breaking.
How to make "the best" Lego vehicle.
Olympic Games
What is the most interesting experiment you can make with cornflour.

I provide resources and books, but they set the criteria for "success" (usually a "Top Gear" style chart table). I then retreat to the kitchen and make snacks. Some very creative ideas have resulted, they found 15 different ways to drop the egg for example, and 9 stayed intact!
I am a very creative person anyway, so perhaps creativity rubs off on DCs, but that wouldn't explain the great thinking from their friends and neighbours. I think children need permission to let themselves think creatively, and some need a "seed idea" to work from.

PollyEthelEileen Wed 27-Mar-13 07:12:15

Yes, I agree with letting children get bored so that they can stimulate their own imaginations and creativity (nothing breakthrough from Dr Belton - I've known this for 20 years).

I have never run after my children trying to make sure every minute is packed. How exhausting!

ThreeTomatoes Wed 27-Mar-13 07:02:46

peanutbutter that reminds me of an episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon tries to find a menial job when he gets stuck on a physics problem, because he'd heard the same theory! grin

Thumbwitch Tue 26-Mar-13 23:50:05

Threetomatoes - DS1 doesn't get bored on the train - but I do take paper and crayons to restaurants for him, and maybe a couple of small plastic animals. It's all been great training for the 24h flights home... and at least he gets to watch films on those! smile

MrsSham Tue 26-Mar-13 23:35:07

Posted to soon. Some children who find creative play and forward thinking need help to be imaginative, stand and stare time will do then no favours, what's wrong with being able to help a child and point them in the right direction if they struggle to occupy themselves.

MrsSham Tue 26-Mar-13 23:31:03

There is no excuse for being bored. I agree children should learn to occupy themselves but I don't agree they should be allowed to get bored. Go and do something if you are at a loos end but no need to be bored. As far as I'm concerned a bored child lacks creativity and imagination.

exoticfruits Tue 26-Mar-13 23:14:33

Absolutely agree.
They don't need to stay bored.
My stock answers were always:
A mother is a lot of things- but chief entertainer is not one of them
Only boring people get bored.
I wish that I had the time to be bored.
I can find you a job to do. ( that one generally caused them to melt away quick)

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

I agree with you Arctic - for every one Meera Syal out there there will be many more like your dd2 (and mine) who just need the input and who, without the input will not find inspiration.

Arcticwaffle Tue 26-Mar-13 21:46:16

I think it's an over-simplified idea. I have 3 dds. 2 of them are virtually never bored, however little input I offer. dd1 says, "I don't get bored, I just think". She's unusually patient. dd2 however is restless and easily bored, she was like it as a baby, a toddler and now at 11, she thrives on lots of activity and lots of people around. So I've always tended to find lots of activities because dd2 seems to have such a strong need for it. I have at times thought she verges on ADHD but she doesn't have behavioural problems, just thrives on activity.

dd1 and dd3 like quite a lot of activities organised to join in but they don't have the same need for it. They could each amuse themselves, from babyhood, but dd2 still can't really. She's the one most likely to want the tv/computer.

pollypandemonium Tue 26-Mar-13 21:46:09

Of course - they all need to do more dull repetetive tasks. I've got plenty to choose from!

peanutbutterandbanana Tue 26-Mar-13 21:40:08

Brilliant Horizon programme on last week (probably still on the BBC Iplayer) about the creative brain. It concluded that the brain needs space and time to be creative. Moments of inspiration come when doing dull routine tasks that require no thinking... so get them to sort out their pencils or clear out their cupboards and hey-presto, they will be inspired as to what to play next. Ta Dah!

lljkk Tue 26-Mar-13 20:37:42

Bored DS tends to pester rest of family in most irritating ways he can think of. So not good at all.

I really think how good boredom is for you depends on personality. Some of my children can handle it quite productively and one becomes a nightmare child.

Zatopek Tue 26-Mar-13 20:35:12

serin "Excessive Humping"??

The mind boggles.

It is as you imagine. It's a bit of a delicate subject area and I don't think I'm alone in have a DD who does this when she's tired. I try to discourage it and tell her not to do it in company but it has become a bit of a habit I think. Difficult one to ask the health visitor about though!

Meglet Tue 26-Mar-13 19:02:53

Apart from school and nursery we only do swimming Beavers / tennis, so the timetable isn't crammed with activities.

Mine (6.5 and 4.6) are incapable of being bored. I've said before that I could remove every toy, every sofa cushion, pencil, puzzle, blanket and twig and put them in a plain white room and they'd still find a way of amusing themselves. They are lovely but unstoppable.

JugglingFromHereToThere Tue 26-Mar-13 18:55:37

Exactamundo potatoprints smile

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.

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.

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...

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.

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