The Value of Being Bored

By Diane Braun March 23, 2024

I'm going to begin by saying what follows is NOT an indictment of younger generations. I completely acknowledge growing up without a cell phone, or computer for that matter. We had one television in the house and if it went on the fritz, it was sent to be repaired, sometimes for weeks at a time. There were no VCR's or VHS tapes, DVD's CD's. If there was something on television that you wanted to watch, you better make darn sure you were in front of the set when it started. Summers were long and quiet. We lived in a large subdivision and my friends were kids whose houses I could walk or ride my bike too. The library provided stacks of books which I believe led to my life-long love of reading. Empty glass jars were meant for catching fireflies and tadpoles.

When boredom struck, we were told to find something to do. No offers to take us somewhere or buy us something. We learned as we grew older that if we complained too much we were given chores to keep us busy so the boredom complaints lessened once we figured that out. I remember finding old notebooks from the previous school year, pencils and crayons, and just doodling. Trying to draw things I could see out my window or people I knew.  This led to looking for "how to draw" books at the library. When I was old enough to babysit, my earnings went to buying real drawing tablets and tools. I totally believe my artistic side bloomed from being bored. 

This is the value of boredom. Learning to entertain yourself. Develop skills you have. Gaining self-esteem at no cost merely by accomplishing something on your own.

How do we encourage this in our children? As always, communication is key. When the "B" word seems to be coming up a lot, sit down and talk through what you already have. Dress up using older siblings or parents' clothes, art projects with found items around the house (and yard). The simple act of throwing a ball at a target can develop skills for many sports. With older kids a long term project such as a vegetable garden would not only fill their time but provide healthy snacks. Once those veggies are harvested, challenge your older child to find recipes or different ways to serve those products. Is there an area in your house or in your child's room that needs organized?  Challenge your child to design an organizational system using only what you have on hand. You might find your child realizing those jelly and spaghetti sauce jars can be re-used to hold pencils, pens, toothbrushes--it's endless!

Another way to remind your child of options is to create a chart. As you talk through things already available to them, make a list:

--Build a fort and play in it

--Go on a nature scavenger hunt

--Board games

--Work a puzzle with more pieces than you've attempted before

--Facetime a grandparent to watch while they make a favorite recipe

Being proactive with a list of boredom busters can save your child coming to you when they're bored. But be prepared for the complaint that they're not interested in anything on the list.  That's when you step in and tell them if they can't pick one, you'll suggest two and they can choose one of those. If the negativity keeps up, suggest cleaning their room or another chore.  That can make the list look much more doable. 

Don't be afraid to admit you get bored, too.  Share what you do. Share what you did as a child. How did you benefit? Always remain positive and encourage your child to be excited about this down time.  "I can't wait to see what you'll do!"