The Art of Being Bored

How can it already by the second week of July? School starts back up next month. Next month. How is that even possible? My elementary school summers were spent in Phoenix, Arizona. Perhaps it was the unrelenting heat, but the almost three month break from school seemed to last for.ev.ver (said like Michael “Squints” Palledorous from The Sandlot).

Me – circo 1990 in Glen Arbor, Michigan

Back then, my summer days involved countless hours in our swimming pool, one massive road trip to Michigan, and day trips down to Mexico. I had very relaxed summers growing up. My mom stayed home and we didn’t do day camps, classes, or any other scheduled events that seem to dominate kids’ schedules nowadays. We’d go to the library and Video Showcase, where each of us kids were able to rent a movie on $1 Tuesdays – discovering such films as Mac & Me, He Said/She Said, and my beloved Three Men and a Little Lady. And yes, I was bored – some days more than others.

Thank goodness.

The art of boredom is dying – especially among children. It is alarming the amount of children who are rarely given the opportunity to fully use their imagination and fill empty time with self-created adventures. Perhaps I am more cognizant of this trend living in Northern Virginia – the pace of family life in this part of the country really can feel relentless at times.

I purposely do not fill up our summer days with activities and outings. Yes – we still do quite a bit and my children experience plenty but they also have quite a bit of days with absolutely nothing scheduled and they’re left to their own imaginations for entertainment. Yes – they use the iPad and watch plenty of television but they’ve built an entire city out of LEGOs in the basement, they created a vending machine out of a giant cardboard box, they worked together and wrote a book, they designed a scavenger hunt, and they play outside plenty. Most importantly – they’re learning how to self-motivate and work together as a team.

The internet has no shortage of articles about why bored is good for the soul. Study after study have demonstrated why unstructured time is crucial for childhood development and psychological well-being. I admit there are times when I doubt my instincts and wonder if I am doing enough for my children this summer. But then I am reassured when I’m called down to the basement to marvel at their newest invention made out of BBQ skewers and Play-Doh.

We have plenty of family adventures planned for the rest of summer but there will also be a lot of down time where they will harness their boredom and transform it into independent creative play. They will draw. They will paint. They will make a mess. And they will clean up after themselves. I will not comb Pinterest for activities to keep them occupied day in and day out. They will have time to think. Time to plan their own day. They will play outside unsupervised. They will build forts. They will fight. They will be sent to their rooms. They will read. They will be bored at times. And they will have a fantastic summer because of it.

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