“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, and games, and cull anything that wasn’t educational or in keeping with our values. I was purposeful in what I provided them with 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.
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 curriculum and 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. I wish I had read it when my kids were younger because I think I would have tried to give them more basic playthings, as opposed to all of the colorful plastic toys.
When our son 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.
Our daughter was drawn to arts and crafts and spent countless hours drawing, painting, or sculpting. (She drew the bird above) 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, resulting in a self-taught science lesson.
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.
My son is grown now and totally rebuilds computers and cars. It makes me smile as I remember the things he did as a child and how those interests grew into his current businesses.
My daughter has pursued science in college and her research skills have served her very well.
In Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective, professors tell about their positive experiences with homeschooled students. I believe that self-directed learning opportunities help prepare homeschoolers for success in college, or whatever else life holds for them. So prep their environment, and then when you hear that familiar, “Moooooom!,” just let boredom run its course.
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Yes!! There’s a study about this! I heard it earlier this year that boredom actually preludes creativity!
Thank you! I’m glad my own experience is in line with research. It may be a “duh” to a lot of people, but I just wanted to remind young parents that boredom is not only okay, but good, and that kids also don’t need all the latest toys.
It’s a good reminder for everyone! Put down the cell phones and be bored for awhile! Let the mind wander to far away places and see what abundance imagination brings you 🔮🙏🏿
Thanks. I enjoyed this brief journey through ‘memory land’ !! Dad.
Hee hee, my brother and I spent hours creating concoctions in our “laboratory” using kitchen cleaners when we were growing up. Luckily, nothing blew up!
We also created intense plot lines with a bucket of old school Legos, a bed and a few hours.
I agree that my kids could benefit from more boredom. At least, we have made a commitment as parents to not over schedule our girls.
Kitchen cleaners, eh? Some of those can make some dangerous combinations. I’m glad you weren’t hurt. Sounds like you were pretty creative while growing up! That’s great!
Wow, when I was a kid every time I said I was bored my Dad told me to go & write a story. Now all I do is write! On behalf of your kids, thank you to you for being such amazing parents 🙂
Thanks for your great input!
I totally agree with this. When I was bored playing remote control cars when I was young, I disassembled them and experimented with the parts. It’s the reason why I found my love of engineering.
Thank you for your wonderful comment! I appreciate it!
There is a book on my reading list which affirms what you’re saying; The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom is Good by Dr Sandi Mann. Great post!
I wasn’t aware of that book. Sounds interesting! Thank you!
Loved this! It’s amazing what our kids can accomplish if we just give them some room to explore.
How true! Given a chance, they’ll amaze you!
Maybe we should add ‘boredom’ to the list of things that lead to great inventions!
That’s an excellent point!
I really agree with what you say about the importance of “unstructured time.” Kids these days have so much of their time programmed for them, or they are too plugged in to their electronics. They do need time to dream and imagine!
Thank you! Yes, it seems like everyone keeps pretty well scheduled these days. Downtime is important to all of us.
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I love this post!!! Give them time to play and they will! We need to stop over-scheduling our kids. Charlotte Mason taught about mastering inactivity and that’s an important skill. Thank you for linking up with us at Blessed MOMdays!!
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I’m so glad you found me so I could find you. Great post and a great concept. I never connected that boredom leads to creativity when my kids were young, but we were too poor and too busy to entertain them. They had to entertain themselves. Today, they are great, creative parents, but wealthier with houses filled to the brim with lots of shiny plastic toys and every minute structured and mostly supervised. I’m passing this on to them.
Maybe it’s nice to look back and see that it was better that way anyway? I was guilty of the shiny new toys for my kids, too. If I had it to do over again, I think I would simplify more. Thank you for your kind comments!
we have boxes of things that we create from… paper, discs, wheets, chip containers
That’s a great way to repurpose. Great idea!