By Armady Baucke

“I’m bored!” is something we parents hear on a regular basis, and as parents we usually respond by letting the kids have screen time or organising some sort of structured activity for them to do.

But is that doing them a disservice?

COVID-19 has meant isolation and even lockdown have been a very real, and mostly very new thing for Aussie parents to deal with, and in those times boredom has become a hot topic of conversation.

Boredom means different things to different people and some may argue boredom means you are not spending your time engaging in meaningful activities.

“Only boring people get bored!” parents have cried.

As parents we can become so worried about the kids becoming upset, angry or feeling left out, we try and schedule something every day.

Armady Baucke says that not only is being bored is not a bad thing, boredom is important.

Up until children are in their early teens, they really don’t understand the concept of time, therefore they don’t know how to manage it. A lot of kids struggle with initiating free play themselves, and it could be because parents have always driven it, filling time with activities, outings and screen time.

When parents make it a priority to organise activities and outings every day and create routines it is to make life easier. Every hour of the day is accounted for, to keep little minds stimulated and happy.

As much as routines can help with the flow of a day, it can get to a point where you may create a mindset in your child that they always need to be busy, always need to be doing something whether they are inside or outside of the house.

Often, when life gets in the way and something doesn’t go according to plan, a child can become visibly frustrated and angry because they don’t know what to do with themselves, they haven’t had an opportunity to ‘nothing’. This causes stress on both parents and children.

Every hour of the day does not need to be accounted for.

Parents shouldn’t feel like they have to fill the boredom with something productive or educational. By giving your child time to think and create and use their imagination, you are allowing them to learn skills which aren’t teachable by you.

They learn qualities such as:

  • self-belief
  • perseverance
  • curiosity
  • self confidence
  • playfulness
  • focus and concentration
  • resilience
  • they learn their strengths
  • using their imagination without coaching

Free play is a great way to boost your child’s imagination.

Out of boredom, comes imagination.

Children are born naturally curious and love to learn about the world around them. As babies and toddlers, children are fascinated by the simplest things.

Parents can continue to encourage free play throughout childhood, the simple things can bring the most pleasure; drawing, colouring, building blocks, reading, playing in the backyard if you have one.

A great way to teach young school aged kids about balancing boredom with structured activities is to let them have some control over their extra-curricular choices. This gives them the freedom to try new things and find ‘their thing’, however, we must remember to create boundaries around how much stuff they do, because as we know kids will happily fill up every afternoon plus weekends if they could!

Through unstructured play, kids can start to work out solutions for problems on their own.

If they find a sport or activity they want to try, explain to them they will have to commit to the entire season, and show up to all the practices and games.

Along with their extra-curricular activities, you can explain that they need free play and unstructured time to balance everything out. Explain that in this time they need to entertain themselves and not rely on anyone else. With that balance, they learn about down time and resting their bodies and minds.

Being bored helps kids recognise and work out their emotions on their own. They can work out if what they’re doing is making them happy, sad, angry or anxious. This is an important part of life development. Through unstructured play, kids can start to work out solutions for problems on their own.