Summer’s greatest luxury….
What is Summer’s Greatest Luxury?
That’s right. While it might feel like the one thing we rally against, planning play dates and activities; boredom is actually a wonderful gift that we get to give to our children and summer is the perfect time for it to happen.
In her Wall Street Journal article, Elizabeth Bernstein states,
The bored brain may be up to something good, some scientists now think. When we feel bored, our prefrontal cortex—the area in the brain associated with consolidating memories, processing emotions and making decisions—is highly active.
In addition, when we experience boredom, two areas of the brain may be busy working closely together—the executive network, which solves problems, and the so-called default network, which takes over when your brain isn’t involved with something external. The result is enhanced creativity.”
Well, it’s easy for scientists to say this, but they aren’t the ones hearing “I’m bored!” over and over again.
How will you help your child to learn from boredom this summer?
Here are some tools to use:
1. Make an “I Can Do” list.
Help your kids create lists of things to do, people to play with, games that they love, etc. Let them know that if they are feeling bored, they can go to the list and find something to do there. This is the perfect time to dig out art projects, or models that they didn’t have time to do during the school year.
2. Get clear about what “I’m Bored” really means.
I’m bored might mean, I’m lonely and I want to do something with you. It might mean I don’t know what to do. Your first response might be to clarify what they mean:
“Are you saying, Mom, can we do something fun together? or are you saying, I can’t figure out what to do next?”
When we respond that way, we are teaching our kids a new script that they can use the next time they feel like whining about boredom.
3. Plan what you will say when you hear “I’m Bored!!!”
The only person’s behavior you can change is your own. So plan your response:
“Sounds like you need to check your list. I know that you can find something to do.”
“I’ll be done what I’m doing in 30 minutes and then I’m happy to play cards or go for a walk – I know that you can find something to do while I’m finishing up. Then, you can choose what we do together.”
4. Plan the day, in advance, with your kids.
If you are at home with your kids, every day of the week, it is really helpful to establish some form of structure with them at the start of the day. Let them know what needs to be done before they have access to screens. Talk through any chores to be done (what/when and where). Predictability = control. If kids know that they need to occupy themselves for an hour before you are ready to do something with them, they can plan for that and you can facilitate it as well. Ask them what they’ll be doing.
Kids as young as 18 months can be taught independent play. Set them up to play beside you while you do other things. It is never too early or too late to teach our kids to entertain themselves (without screens).
The reality is that boredom is a window to creativity. Not knowing what they are going to do, is a perfect way for kids to discover that they are capable of so much. Indulge your kids – expose them to summer’s greatest luxury.
And while you are freeing up little time in your schedule, why not indulge in that luxury yourself?
Check out this great example of an “I Can Do” List from the art of dad.