The Benefits of Boredom

April vacation is here! The kids are out of school and the weather is warm, great conditions for a family vacation.  Alternately there are plenty of options from gymnastics to computer programming to fill those non-school hours with edifying pursuits. But some of us do not have a trip planned and prefer not to spend an almost equivalent amount of money on “vacation camp”, and we are faced with the daunting question: “What am I going to do with my kids all week?”

Well, the magic answer to that question does exist : NOTHING. That’s right, nothing. Apparently boredom has benefits that may outweigh any or all of the 21+ enriching activities we’ve spent hours planning to get ourselves and the kids to the end of the week.

Creativity & Imagination
Being bored forces children to use their imaginations to entertain themselves. A 1980s study comparing the imaginative capacity of preschoolers who watched TV with those who didn’t showed significantly more imagination on the part of the TV free kids. More recently, Dr. Teresa Belton, who studies the connection between boredom and imagination at University of East Anglia, maintains that boredom is critical to the development creativity in children.

Independence & Self Reliance
When kids don’t have their whole day scheduled out for them, they are compelled to figure out on their own how to best spend their time. According to child psychologist Lyn Fry, “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy.”

Tolerance & Emotional Self-Regulation
Having to deal with being bored is one way kids get practice tolerating things they may find unpleasant or uncomfortable, definitely an important skill in adulthood. It will serve them well when they become parents, and have to listen to their own kids whine about being bored.

Better Sleep Habits
This particularly applies to the overuse of digital devices for entertainment, but applies to non-digital forms of excitement as well. Giving kids’ brains a break from constant stimulation, even educational or beneficial stimulation, can improve sleeping habits and contribute to the ability to calm oneself. If they never get a break, how can they learn how to consciously take one when needed?

Does this mean we don’t have to play cruise director? We don’t have to defy time and space to deliver 3 children to 3 separate activities that all begin within the same 15 minutes? That’s exactly what this means. But before you start calling your mom friends to find out if they prefer mimosas or margaritas, I’m afraid I have to point out one teensy weensy downside to this approach: they are going to whine. By ‘they’ I mean your kids, and that’s ‘whine’ with an ‘h’. So herein lies the real challenge for us, the parents: to listen to the whining and hold strong. As in “No, you can’t watch TV”; “No, you can’t play video games”; and “No, you can’t use the ipad”.

That being said, we’re only human. So when you’ve reached the point where you’re wishing you actually were a cruise director, on a boat, somewhere far away – remember it’s only a week. Still fantasizing about working for Norwegian Cruise Line? You’ll find a few links for some activities and ideas for things to do below. So you and your mom friends can make it to the end of the week and enjoy your margaritas in peace.

“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety if impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them to grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.” Philosopher Bertrand Russell, 1930

Kids’ Fun Stop Indoor Playspace (Parent Talk member discount $2 off child’s admission)
Needham arts & crafts drop off classes (Parent Talk member discount 15%)
Jump N’ Slide (Parent Talk member discount 33% on walk-ins)
Check out our ParentTalk Member Discounts page for more discounts on drop-in fun
Needham Public Library Calendar
Needham Candlepin Bowling
Wellesley Toysinbox 3-D Printing Show
Natick minigolf
Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln
Cambridge Science Festival
Boston Common Swan Boats
Museum of Fine Arts Vacation Week Free Activities
Zoo New England Vacation Week
Ecotarium in Worcester

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :


One thought on “The Benefits of Boredom

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    Great reminder about the benefits of some unstructured down-time for kids. And thanks for posting ideas for activities this week, if needed! Looking forward to reading more from PT's new blog coordinator and others in the PT community!

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