“Mooooooommmmm, I’m booorrred!”
Believe it or not, I was happy to hear those words from my children. It wasn’t my responsibility to constantly entertain them, and when they got to the point that they were bored, that’s when their creativity took over, if I didn’t rush in to rescue them.
When we made the decision to homeschool, one of the first things I did was to go through everything we had in the way of books, toys, games, etc, and cull anything that wasn’t educational or in keeping with our values. I was purposeful in what I provided them with because I wanted to make it so that no matter what they chose to do, it was beneficial. Even on weekends, days when I was sick, or just sick of homeschooling, I knew their free time would be productive and edifying.
Through homeschooling I’ve come to believe that unstructured time is important in childhood. It’s during this time that their imagination kicks in and they experiment with new ideas and discover new interests. If every minute is filled with school or extra-curricular activities, then they’re deprived of that opportunity.
A few years ago I read an article called Is This the Perfect Playground, Full of Junk? about an exploratory playground in the UK that was filled with what most people would consider “junk.” Things like mattresses, tools, rope, wood, and old cars. The kids were free to build, demolish, and take risks, with only some basic guidance of a few adults. (Link to article below) While I’m not totally comfortable with all of the ideas, I do agree with the premise, and I wish I had read it when my kids were younger because I think I would have tried to give them even more basic playthings, as opposed to all of the colorful plastic toys.
When Hayden was about nine, we were remodeling a house and Hayden came to us with a light switch he had found and asked if he could have it. My husband and I looked at each other and shrugged an “I guess so,” and he happily ran back to his room. He soon emerged to show us what he had done with it. He had found some wires, a battery, and a small fan (from a computer, I think). He connected them together, flipped the switch, and the fan came on. I was amazed because I would have never thought to do something like that.
Years later at another house, we had inherited a workshop full of junk. One day he and a friend asked permission to use some of that stuff and they built a rudimentary car using old lumber, wheels, and other found materials.
In both of these examples, my son took things that I considered “junk,” and did something meaningful with them. Given the opportunity, what might your kids create?
Art & Animals
Our daughter was drawn to arts and crafts supplies and spent countless hours drawing, painting, or sculpting. She also loved animals and had a wide variety of pets and rescues. She was knowledgeable about animals at a young age because in trying to save a ‘possum, raccoon, squirrel or bird, she would research them on the Internet, pursuing her interest to a self-taught science lesson.
Forts and Paths
From my own childhood I remember using a card table and blankets to make forts or houses with my sister. We then used every book in the house to make paths. (I don’t remember ever putting those books back up, so sorry Mom!) I also liked playing in the dirt with Hotwheels cars, making roads, and using sticks for fences and buildings. Huge cardboard boxes were always fun to make things out of, too, such as a playhouse for my sister and I, or a kitten.
Don’t be afraid for your children to become bored. Provide them with simple things and let their imaginations find creative uses for them. Allowing your kids to play with basic materials may not only be good for their imaginations, but your bank account as well. The resulting projects may also reveal new talents and interests.
Do you have similar observations from your own experience? I’d be interested to hear about them so please share them in the comments.
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