Ah, winter break. For many kids, the winter break from school is the best time of the year. With no class to attend or homework to finish, they have the free time to enjoy all sorts of winter activities, from building a snowman to speeding down the sledding hill.
There’s one caveat of having all this free time, however: it can lead to boredom.
In our non-stop, technological world, boredom gets a pretty bad rap. It’s not uncommon to see kids and teens retreat into their phones and scroll when they’re faced with a few minutes of unstructured free time. Video games, texting, and social media sites like TikTok and Instagram all make it easier than ever to avoid the dreaded boredom (or so we might think).
But have you ever considered the benefits of boredom?
Letting your kids be bored certainly isn’t fun, but it can teach them some pretty valuable skills. When kids are faced with free time, they’re forced to come up with a way to fill it—and this gets their creative juices flowing. Boredom also helps kids exercise their problem-solving skills and build a tolerance for uncomfortable circumstances. Of course, boredom itself doesn’t help kids develop these skills; it’s more about how they fill their time when boredom strikes.
So if you’re wondering “is boredom good or bad” or “what are the advantages and disadvantages of boredom,” read on to learn more about why boredom is good for your child.
Boredom Encourages Kids to Think Creatively
Creativity is one of the most important skills a child can develop. We often tie creativity to artistic expression, but really it’s about exploring ideas and using your imagination to solve problems in interesting ways. It’s no secret that entrepreneurs are just as creative as artists!
Creative thinking emerges when kids have time to sit down and explore their imagination. Boredom and creativity work together to give them this opportunity. When facing long periods of free time, kids are pretty much forced to put on their thinking caps and come up with interesting ways to spend their time. While some kids might entertain themselves by turning a cardboard box into an Italian restaurant, others might begin writing their own comic book or pretending that they’re a medieval hero on a quest to slay a dragon.
Creativity doesn’t always come naturally; some kids need help igniting their imagination. If your child seems stumped, help get their mental cogs turning by gently suggesting some activities they could try out.
Boredom Teaches Kids to Tolerate Tedium
None of us like being uncomfortable, but learning to tolerate less-than-ideal circumstances is a pretty important part of being human. Letting your kids be bored exposes them to tedious situations early, ultimately helping them develop the skills necessary to persevere through discomfort as they get older.
As your kids grow up and experience the realities of adult life (waiting in line at the DMV, anyone?), they’ll be grateful that they learned how to deal with boring, tedious situations.
Boredom Prepares Kids to Plan
To avoid boredom, many of us avoid having long stretches of free time by making plans. Kids work much in the same way: if you let them know that they’re going to have a few hours of free time, they may start thinking in advance and planning how they’d like to spend it.
Boredom Helps Kids Develop a Growth Mindset
We’ve already touched on how boredom can help kids be more creative, but did you know that this increase in imagination can also help children develop a growth mindset? This is one of the ways that boredom is good for the brain!
If you’re an avid reader of parenting blogs like this one, you’ve likely run into the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset before. In a nutshell, a child with a fixed mindset sees everything as unchangeable, from their abilities to the situations they’re in. A child with a growth mindset, on the other hand, understands that we are always changing and growing. They also know that growth occurs only through effort and experience.
Letting children be bored inspires them to develop a growth mindset. When kids have to figure out how to fill their time on their own, they begin to realize that they have the power to make change happen. Rather than complain or retreat into their phone, a kiddo with a growth mindset knows that they don’t have to be bored—they just have to entertain themselves!
Boredom Ignites Independence
One of a parent’s primary jobs is to prepare their children for adulthood, and a big part of this is encouraging them to develop a strong sense of independence. Letting kids be bored inspires them to think, plan, and explore ideas independently as they search for a way to alleviate their boredom. In the process, they’re able to discover what motivates them as a unique individual by how they decide to fill their time. For example, a child who cures their boredom by coloring could discover a lifelong love of art!
Teaching kids to be independent doesn’t benefit only them: parents get a pretty sweet end of the deal as well. When parents aren’t spending their own free time helping children avoid boredom, they have the time to explore their hobbies and build stronger relationships with those around them.
Boredom Makes Room for Mindfulness
When kids are bored, it’s usually because there’s nothing stimulating happening around them—and this can be a good thing. Between homework, after-school activities, and playdates with friends, kids are pretty busy people. While kids’ brains need stimulation, too much can lead to stress and anxiety. Like all of us, children need time to rest and recharge their batteries, and periods of boredom make this much-needed downtime possible.
Next time your child complains about being bored, help them lean into their lack of stimulus by trying a mindfulness exercise. Show them how to count their heartbeats or breathe square breaths. You can also pull out the Troomi KidSmartⓇ App Headspace for a curated collection of guided meditations geared towards kids. Practicing mindfulness has been proven to benefit kids’ mental health, so teach your kids to embrace the stillness and calm of boredom.
Let Your Kids Be Bored
At its worst, boredom is tedious, tiresome, and time-consuming. At its best, however, boredom can be a valuable tool that teaches kids important life skills. Searching for ways to fill their time gets kids’ creative juices flowing, while simultaneously encouraging them to develop a growth mindset and build a tolerance to uncomfortable circumstances. And these are just a few of the surprising benefits of being bored!
So when it reaches that point of winter break where your kids are constantly complaining about being bored, resist the urge to fill their time with plans and activities. Instead, just let them be bored. Who knows? They might be surprised by how exciting boredom can be!