Boredom Can Improve Imagination and Creativity
Posted on June 27, 2018 by CHS
Life often moves at a fast pace for children. They spend a lot of time in cars being transported to and from school, extracurricular activities like sports practice, dance, music or art lessons, and traveling to visit friends or families. And it is not just their bodies that move at a fast pace; their minds are constantly stimulated too. When they are not listening to teachers, they are usually entertaining themselves with a tablet, smartphone, computer, or television. All of these activities leave little time for relaxation, reflection, and imagination. In fact, when children do not have a schedule of activities planned out for them, they often find themselves at a loss for something to do and that is when parents hear them say, “I’m bored.”
No parent wants to hear their child say they are bored. Some parents may feel frustrated when they hear this because for them it is easy to think of things to do, or because they find themselves wishing they had time to just relax. Other parents might worry that they are not providing their children with enough to do, and start planning activities or direct their child to different activity options. Regardless of how parents might feel about hearing the words “I’m bored,” the truth is that it is okay for children to be bored. In fact, boredom can actually benefit children’s imagination, creativity, and mental well-being.
The Benefits of Boredom
Experiencing quiet periods of solitude allows children to reflect on their own thoughts, ideas, and experiences. This benefits their mental well-being because it is an opportunity to think about what is important to them, explore their emotions, or process new information they have learned. Reflecting on experiences and ideas supports children in developing their own identity and becoming independent thinkers.
The growth of technology has led to children expecting to be constantly entertained by an outside source. Moments of boredom are an opportunity for them to develop their self-motivation and practice independence by scheduling their own activities. Learning to be self-starters will help children approach new people and opportunities with confidence. Through the exploration of new activities, children can develop their own unique interests and talents.
When children are bored their mind will wander until they think of something to do. Letting the mind wander can lead to daydreams and develop their imagination. This is important because imagination is vital for solving problems, creating change, and developing empathy. After all, in order for change to happen, someone has to imagine the possibility first. Imagination supports empathy because children have to be able to imagine themselves in another person’s situation before they can understand why others are unique and valuable. Research has also shown that when people allow their mind to wander they are better able to solve problems creatively and efficiently.
Helping Your Child Manage Boredom
When children state that they are bored, let them know you understand how they feel, but allow them to come up with their own ideas for things to do. You might say, “Sometimes I feel bored too, but then I always end up thinking of something to do. I believe that you can think of something to do by yourself too.” This empowers children to take control of their own schedule.
Limit the use of technology. It is easy for children to fall back on using digital devices to play games or watch movies. By limiting their digital time, you can encourage them to pursue other interests or try something new. Allow time for relaxation or unstructured activities each day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes. Let your child know that this is “his/her time” to decide what to do. This will help children develop the skills to entertain themselves.
Build a collection of technology free activities that children can choose to use. Some ideas can include: puzzles, board games, a deck of cards, balls to use outside, art materials (paper, child safe scissors, crayons, markers, glue sticks, old magazines), building materials (blocks, empty boxes and paper towel rolls, masking tape), and books. If your child expresses an interest in a particular animal, sport, superhero, or other subject, then visit your local public library and ask the librarian in the children’s section for help finding appropriate books.
If your child struggles with expressing creativity or being imaginative, try reading some of the following books together and talk about what it means to use your imagination or be creative:
- The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (ages 5 and up)
- Not a Box by Antoinette Portis (ages 2-4)
- In the Attic by Hiawyn Oram (ages 3-5)
- Book by David W. Miles (ages 3-5)
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (ages 3-7)
- The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (ages 3-7)
- I See a Song by Eric Carle (ages 4-6)
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (ages 4-8)
- Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran (ages 4-8)
- There’s Nothing to Do by Patti Roderick (ages 6-9)
Remember that being bored is powerful. It can lead to your child developing a stronger sense of self, discovering hidden talents and interests, becoming more creative, solving difficult problems, and understanding the value of all people. So let them be bored! For more information, please see the links below.
References and Resources
- Bored? Good, You’ll Be More Creative by Ainissa Ramirez: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/boredom-and-creativity-ainissa-ramirez
- Boredom by Positive Discipline: https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/boredom
- How Kids Can Benefit from Boredom by Teresa Belton: http://theconversation.com/how-kids-can-benefit-from-boredom-65596
- Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation by Sage Journals: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797612446024
- Let Kids Be Bored Occasionally by Dr. Michael Ungar: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-resilience/201206/let-kids-be-bored-occasionally
- The Benefits of Boredom (TED video) by Cindy Foley: https://youtu.be/ckxiJDnlmeA
- What Happens When Your Brain Wanders (video) by BBC Radio 4: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p048gx4t
- Why You Should Do Nothing When Your Child Says, “I’m Bored” by Dr. Vanessa Lapointe: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-vanessa-lapointe/why-you-should-do-nothing_b_9818144.html