On Letting Our Kids Be Bored

On Letting Our Kids Be Bored | Twin Cities Moms Blog

I know. I’m off by like three months here. This should really be a ‘school’s out’ post, not a ‘back-to-school’ post. But hear me out?

I have two babies – a two and a half year old, and a four-month old. Even at these young ages, I see the strain of plans wear on them. I walk the line as a work at home mom – able to belong to mostly stay at home mom activities while putting in plenty of work hours. We sacrifice a lot to make this work, and it’s all 100% worth it. But I think in my zeal to get out of the house with the kids, sometimes I overdo it. For instance, this fall our schedule looks like this:

Monday: day-long childcare for one (I work)
Tuesday: day-long childcare for one, after-bedtime sitter for both (I work)
Wednesday: morning MOPS, evening church
Thursday: {I’m home and working a bit}
Friday: morning ECFE, family night

And that’s without any of the other fun things that spontaneously crop up, playdates with friends, doctors appointments, grandma time, etc. While it may not look like a lot, even this much activity can wear on mama and babies. My son especially (he’s the 2.5yr old) is pretty sensitive to crowds, noise, and overstimulation in general, which I’ve found to include cramming too much into a day.

I am totally guilty of overstuffing my hours, and kind of rightly so. Two kids, several part-time jobs worked from home, normal housekeeping things, church involvement, and so on – stretching my hours is often the only way I can make it all work. Sometimes it seems like too much for me, but that’s a whole separate blog post =)

My point is this: it is ok for our kids to be bored, even babies. When I allow my son to simply roam our lower level while I make a meal or tackle a small project, he goes from the playroom/family room to the porch to the office and back again. He invents games and builds Lego towers. He talks to his ‘guys’ and makes up songs. He roots for toys at the bottom of the box and reads long-forgotten books. And when he tires of self-directed play, he lets me know and we re-direct into snacktime or mommy play time. As far as my baby girl goes, I even let her be bored once in a while. She fusses at first, but eventually (we’re not talking hours here, but mama’s got to shower sometimes!) she will settle and take in her surroundings, be it the bouncy seat, pack and play, or carrier on me. And you know what? Even if she doesn’t settle into wherever safe place she is, I may leave her a few more minutes. I’m not a huge cry-it-out parent, but I do know and believe whole-heartedly that if my baby is safe, fed and with a dry diaper, it’s ok if she squalls for a little while. I’ve learned that often she will nod off, become content with her surroundings, or escalate her cries (in which case I am swift to pick her up and snuggle). She has also recently begun to play with and reach for toys, which provides mommy a slightly longer shower time =)

Do I adore playing with my children? YES, so much!! There’s nothing more fascinating and joy-giving to my heart than being involved with my kids’ games and pretend play, watching their wheels turn and loving that they invited me into their world. But I want them to flourish on all accounts, and I know that providing them some time to be bored creates space for them to wander, to imagine, to improvise and learn to grow into their own minds. And this concept is applicable to children of all ages – it’s even good for me to let myself be bored! Though it has been a while since boredom has crossed my own mind… =)

What do you think? Do you give your kids – young or older – space to be bored?

6 Responses to On Letting Our Kids Be Bored

  1. Kate October 2, 2014 at 8:37 AM #

    I’m with you on this. Every word. In being a single parent, I had to leave my boy to his own quite a bit just to get anything done. He played well by himself {if you don’t count that time he stuck a pin in the outlet…} and when he was done, he’d come and sit by me, hang out in the kitchen while I cooked or followed along as I cleaned {and then I’d give him a sponge and make him help}.

    Kids need, absolutely NEED to spend time on their own, finding their own means to entertain themselves and build up their imagination. It’s critical in brain development and these helicopter parents who can’t leave their kids side for even a second …. well, I just don’t get that. It doesn’t help them one bit. Thank you for sharing this vital parenting skill.

    • Anna October 2, 2014 at 9:00 AM #

      I never heard that pin story – crazy!! Thanks for your encouragement, friend.

  2. Honja October 2, 2014 at 8:49 AM #

    I’m right there about busy schedules. I am very deliberate about not scheduling too much and allowing down time, but it still creeps up on me. I haven’t necessarily related it with positive boredom though, I like that. More to ponder! Thanks

    • Anna October 2, 2014 at 9:01 AM #

      Thanks Honja!

  3. Sarah October 2, 2014 at 9:31 AM #

    I completely agree, Anna. My kids are a little older than yours, and this fall, I’ve very intentionally scaled back on scheduling things outside of school and daycare, both for sanity’s sake and for financial reasons. Running from school and work to activity after activity and not giving the kids time to “just be” was really stressing me out.

    I’ll admit to you that, while it feels good to not be running constantly, I am still getting used to our less-frantic schedule, and sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable. I find myself stopping what I’m doing in a panic and wondering, “where are we supposed to be right now?!” And when my kids are not participating in something organized outside of school and are – gasp – just playing(!), I sometimes feel a little guilty, as if I should be providing more stimulation for them than what we have at home. In my heart, I know that the down time is good and they’re having lots of fun and valuable experiences (my daughter still does dance and piano and Brownies, and my son does swimming lessons), but my head is still getting a little tripped up. I’ve even found myself trying to justify our decision to scale back in conversations with other parents.

    Why is it that having activities on the schedule *in moderation* is so outside my comfort zone?

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