We live in a society in hyper drive. We constantly move from one scheduled activity to another – work, school, music lessons, sports practice, meetings and more. Many children never get the chance to experience much free time. But this free time is essential for well-being and growth. Children need un-structured time to play, daydream, wander (in a safe environment, of course!), ponder or reflect. And if this can occur outside in nature, all the better. And yes, children need to experience boredom. Boredom leads one to turn inward for direction and to seek out one’s own interests. Even if your children come to you for entertainment, firmly resist the urge to always rescue them. As a parent, you can give them some ideas or hints, but they must be the ones to instigate their own activity. This leads to opportunities to develop creativity and problem solving. “Necessity is the mother of invention” is the guiding force.
Boredom can be an important part of the cycle of rest and growth that everyone needs. Growth is not linear. It happens in spurts and phases. During the inactive time, it is tempting to think that nothing is happening. But this is far from the truth. Energies and forces are accumulating within, paving the way for renewal and growth. This is true for both the body and the mind. And just as we need sleep and rest, we need downtime to maintain our levels of stress at a healthy level. Boredom helps us to develop skills we need through life. Boredom, and thus the urge to relieve it, leads us to become more self-reliant and independent. It pushes us to try out new things, to create and to explore.
So work to value the free time that it takes to potentially experience boredom. Avoid overscheduling each day. Purposefully leave time slots blank. Resist criticizing children or adults when they appear to be doing nothing. Turn off the TV and computer and be open to the gifts of boredom.
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” –Ellen Parr
Marla Nargundkar is an AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Atlanta.