You’d be forgiven for getting frustrated by the many cries of “I’m bored” from your child. It’s tempting to hand over a digital device to keep them occupied while we get on with the housework, some cooking or our own work at home. And while playing and interacting with your child is important for their happiness and development, sometimes it’s okay to just let them be bored, too. Here’s why.
They learn to entertain themselves
Even at pre-school age, children are capable of entertaining themselves, according to Associate Professor Michael Nagel at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Self-entertainment helps children learn to use their immediate environment to play and learn. This in turn boosts their creativity, problem-solving skills and self-esteem.
You’d be surprised at how children can find enjoyment in even the most mundane of things! Cardboard boxes, for example, can be a perfect substitute for games and videos on your phone. Letting children get bored teaches them to rely on their inner resources rather than external resources, a skill that will certainly benefit them in the long term.
Just like for adults, it’s healthy to let the mind wander sometimes - particularly in our world of constant stimulation. We all need to let our brains rest and relax every now and again.
Boredom helps teach resilience
We want children to be able to keep going when things get tough. Letting them be bored decreases their reliance on you for entertainment (cue the whines and the reach for the TV remote!). Instead, they’ll have to rely on themselves to find something to do or think about.
This free time gives children the space to explore their own activities on their terms, encouraging initiative and building the self-confidence to do their own thing every now and again. Even if that thing sometimes involves making a mess!
Boredom can help them form relationshipsInstead of losing their free time to phones, tablets or the television, letting your child become bored benefits them from a relationship-building perspective. It’s an opportunity for them to study other people - whether that’s family members or other kids - and learn how to communicate or read body language.
You might find their confidence in social interactions comes on leaps and bounds when they’re slightly out of their comfort zone and have to push themselves to initiate conversation or reflect on the behaviour of others.
It improves psychological well-being
Research from the American Psychological Association has found that people get more meaningful moments out of life when they’re bored. This is an opportunity to reflect on past events and take these insights into the future with us. In other words, when your little one lets their mind wander, they process things on a deeper level and find more significance - even appreciation - in life.
While we all want to be there for our kids, it’s important to remember they don’t need you around every second of the day. In fact, giving them this independence helps them learn how to handle things themselves - while also giving you some valuable time on your own or with your partner. 24/7 parenting can actually crank up your stress levels, which has a more negative effect on children than a little boredom every now and again.
So take some time for yourself and don’t give into their requests for constant entertainment. Your little one will thank you for it…eventually!