Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Overcoming Kid's Summer Boredom, or Not?

Time for some creative thinking...

For many parents, like myself, the end of the school year brings heightened anxiety.   Three entire months of activities need to be cultivated, organized and executed.  For me, I have but 4 weeks of the summer planned out for our daughter -- with a play-based summer camp hosted at her school commencing the week after school ends. But, unlike prior years, this is the first year that I am not stressing out about the rest of her summertime activities. Perhaps, it is because she is getting older and more self-sufficient. Or perhaps, it is because I am not afraid of, and even look forward to, those three often dreaded words  -- I am bored.

Recently, I helped friends lead a birthday party for twenty-five 8 year olds. Midway into the party one of the young attendees impertinently approached me and said, over and over again: "I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored." Aside from being almost speechless at this poorly behaved child, I was amazed that the child felt it my responsibility to keep her amused at all times. So I simply said to the child: "Enjoy being bored."  With that, she turned on her heels and found someone else to pester into amusing her.

I have long maintained that being bored, in moderation, is healthy for children.  They do not need to be constantly stimulated by electronics, or transported from one activity to the next. They don't always need every minute of the day organized, especially in the summer. Being bored is an important cognitive state for children, it forces them to tap into their creativity, to make up stories in their heads, to find a toy out of a common household device, to daydream.  It allows them to imagine, invent and explore their inner world. It also gives them time to process, to reflect. Boredom is essential, and to be clichéd -- boredom is the mother of all invention!

Taking away boredom takes away creativity and ultimately, takes away ambition.  While kids explore their inner world, they begin to discover their passions. It gives them time to think about goals. Ultimately, unstructured (boredom) time teaches children how to manage their free time, their way.

As New Yorkers, my family does not spend much time in the car.  However, in the summer, our car time greatly increases, traveling mostly to beach destinations.  When it is just my daughter and I in the car, reading is encouraged, drawing is allowed, singing along to music is common,  pointing out cloud formations is practiced, but electronics are prohibited.  Yes, this rule causes far more work for me than if I simply put a movie on her lap, but it is worthwhile. In our car, imagination rules the road.

With all that said, I do believe there is a fine line between abundant summer time play/downtime and some structured time for school work.  How much is lost over the summer, when children are not at school?  Not too much, perhaps, but not too little either.  If I allowed my daughter to skip piano for  3 months, she would lose a fair amount of technique, and most certainly most of the pieces that she has committed to memory.  So while there will be plenty of time to be bored, piano practice will continue through the summer.  And dito  goes for some schoolwork, too. I already purchased a few grade-level appropriate workbooks that will be used to reinforce what was learned earlier in the school year.  This should make me popular in my house!

All things considered, while I cannot keep the "I'm bored" phrase completely out of our family's vernacular,  I can make sure the house is stocked with plenty of the following creative tools this summer:

sidewalk chalk
crafts, especially the bejewelling kind!
cooking/baking projects
tape, scissors and popsickle sticks
& lots of playdates!

Good Luck!

Go get bored! 

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