Back in the day we were constantly told ‘an idle mind is the devil’s playground’. Even today, we try to occupy kids, structure their days and keep them engaged all the time. However, Nina Uusitalo, Neuropsychologist and guest speaker at Fun Learning Educator Training, believes it’s important for kids to idle. We caught up with Nina to discuss more about why expert psychologists believe kids need to feel bored. This is what she had to say.
When we see children idling there are several thoughts that immediately cross our minds. For instance we may see it as a waste of time and neglecting an opportunity to be productive. Furthermore, we may even worry it may become a bad habit which will negatively affect children’s well-being. Moreover, we maybe concerned with the boredom which can follow idling, and look for ways to help kids have fun instead.
What we do when kids are bored
There are many ways adults tackle the infamous problem of kids feeling bored. Here are the top three contenders.
Using smart devices
We live in a time where most households have more than one smart device. Whether we are at home, at a restaurant or travelling, using a tablet or a phone to keep children engaged is increasingly common and convenient. Moreover, kids too spend hours upon hours staring into and tapping on screens without any complaints about feeling bored.
Giving kids homework
If children idle or grouch about feeling bored we often prompt them to study. We encourage them to take their books out and revisit what they learnt in school. They spent time writing, reading and working out math problems until they get bored of not idling.
Scheduling extra curricular activities
On one hand extra curricular activities are how we support kids to develop skills, follow their interests and fine tune their strengths. On the other hand they are precautionary measures to prevent children from feeling bored when they are not in school. Thus, kids spend most of their free time going from football to karate to cello practices. Whereby, adults resume the role of chauffeurs, cheerleaders and assistant coaches.
We explored the benefits of feeling bored and here is what we found.
When we are bored our minds and imaginations begin to wonder. We pay more attention to the environment around us and proactively explore everything we encounter. Curiosity, exploration and observation are important for children to make sense of their surroundings. More importantly, getting those creative juices to flow is a great way to have fun and learn. They can go under their beds or behind the curtains, and create a magical world of their own. In short the creative liberties and possibilities that accompany boredom are endless.
Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes discovered the principles of hydrostatistics while taking a bath. Even you might find yourself coming up with the best ideas while taking a shower, mowing the lawn or making pancakes. Our subconscious mind is funny that way, whereby it refuses to work overtime or under duress. In fact some of the best scientific discoveries were made when the scientists were sleeping or taking a break from their work. Therefore, when children are bored they get the opportunity to think of new things they can do. It lets them invent games, stories, ideas and a whole different way of thinking. When they are away from screens and ready-made toys, it prompts them to use things they find in the environment to create their own toys. Thus, boredom has a way of unleashing the inventor within every child.
Creates Fun Learning opportunities
Often when we are doing household chores or taking a long trip we use smart devices to keep kids occupied and in one place. It can make our work easier and help kids combat those pesky feelings of boredom. However, these are great learning opportunities missed. If instead we encourage children to help us with the household chores, they can learn a lot from it. Furthermore, if we use a long drive to point out things by the road and engage them in a discussion, we are boosting their vocabulary and knowledge effortlessly. More importantly, these situations are excellent moments to spend time together as a family and discover the joy of life.
Promotes autonomy and decision making
When we heavily structure children’s everyday life, we leave little wiggle room for them to choose and decide for themselves. One of our main responsibilities as adults is to empower children. We want to support them to be responsible and active citizens, as well as make smart choices in life. We need to equip them with the necessary skills to shape their own path and decide for themselves ‘what’s next’. Therefore, idling and feeling bored gives children the freedom to reflect on their interests and capabilities. It also allows them to try different and new things. Finally, it enables them to choose how to spend their time in a way which makes them happy, content and stimulated.
Discover more Fun Learning ideas, activities and inspirations to support the overall well-being of your little ones.