Saturday morning and in an attempt to reduce internet addiction and the time my children spend on the computer, I have turfed them off, saying “go and do something else”.
Thirty seconds has passed and I hear the words that make every mothers heart sink….”I’m bored”. I should point out that we are not a family that does a lot of out of school activities. The weekends aren’t ram full of clubs and sporting activities. They are very varied – some times we have stuff on, sometimes not. Sometimes we just chill at home, sometimes we visit people, its always different. So there is not a pre-planned menu to ensure each minute is filled!
The reason my heart sinks is that as I have got older, I have found it virtually impossible to be bored. Indeed I consider boredom a luxury!
Thinking about my “bored” children, I do understand completely. I can remember being their age, thinking “I don’t know what to” or “I’ve not got anyone to play with” but the words that came out of my mouth were “I’m bored”. In reality, I had a lot of things I could have done, lots of craft stuff, toys, roller skates etc, but I think I needed help to really see what I could do and have help to start something off – I needed help to get started with something.
So my kids have a colossal variety of activities that they could do. Although I don’t want them leaping from one form of electronic stimulus to another, we do have a playstation, computers, DS to name a few! But we also have a least 20 children’s and family games they could play. I am a artist and crafter so we have enough craft stuff to sink a small vessel. We have a garden with various outdoor toys (yes it is raining again, but so what). They could make cakes or cook something. They could make a den inside the house or outside. They have activity books and comics which are unread. They could just read a book….
One of the problems, I believe, is overload – there is so much we could do, that we just can’t see it all properly. You know how when you decide to have a toy clear out, and you unearth things that never get played with (charity shop, boot fair or bin?) somehow suddenly it starts getting played with again…ahhh! Part of me gets the hump because I wanted to get rid of it, but it gives us clues to why we have so much we could do but don’t.
Sometimes, merely opening the cupboard, finding the toys and letting them be seen, reminds us what we could do! So I sometimes open the toy cupboard and start going through it, not with the intention of a clear out, but just to draw my kids attention to what’s there! It works a treat.
I also think that we need to teach our kids (and ourselves) how to get engaged with an activity. If we start our children off with a game, craft or activity, they are much more likely to get engaged. My husband is brilliant at this…he really teaches my children to become engaged in things especially when we are at the beach. He is obsessed with making sandcastles – he is not doing this under sufferance, but genuinely loves it and vanishes with the kids for hours, just to make a sand village.
He is role modelling “engagement”. He is showing the children how to play, how to be so absorbed in something, so in flow, that their brains don’t have a chance to kick in and interfere.
I see it when we are in the garden at home as well. If we are busy doing some gardening or an outside job, the kids just “find” something to do. They just get on with it. They don’t need to be entertained. My 7 year is particularly fond of digging with the only purpose of getting worms to fed to the chickens! This can occupy her for hours:)
I know that if I get the craft stuff out and randomly start gluing, sticking or scribbling, that they will too. This is not an overly structured activity, not a craft kit with a defined outcome or process. I just get pens, glue cellotape, paper, small boxes out of the recycling and put them on the dining table, and see what we all do with it! Once they are engaged…really involved in making something…I can sneak off and do something I need to!
This is not about being a super mum who spends all day doing craft. I’m just helping them to learn how to get started, play, create and get involved.
I a lot about small steps leading to big results. All I am doing is helping them take the first step away from boredom, into engagement. The first tiny step might be just “seeing” things differently…seeing toys that we forgot we had! The first tiny step might be seeing me stick some goggle eyes onto a baked bean tin and the kids thinking…yeh…let’s do that with all the food and see what great characters they make! (I just thought of that one and now going home to do that..perhaps we might take photos and turn them into cards..hahah).
So next time you hear those immortal words “I’m bored”, don’t strive to entertain them, just think how you could help them take the first step to being engaged and ask yourself “Am I being a good example of how to be engaged”.
Off to get goggle eyes now..enjoy.
(although this post was written about children, we as adults should think about how boredom affects us too!)