by Elise Spronk, OTR/L
In 2016 during the last presidential campaign, my youngest son came home from school and announced that his friends had decided what my campaign slogan would be if I were running for president. I was intrigued and quickly asked what that would be. I didn’t know that I had such a strong, public stance that could possibly impact a group of 4th grade boys. He replied emphatically, “Elise Spronk for President! It’s good to be bored!” So apparently, my stance on kids needing to work through their own boredom was something I had preached enough about, or at least they had heard it plenty of times when playing at our house. I felt an immediate sense of accomplishment.
Not to sound like a “boomer”, but some, maybe many, kids “nowadays” have lost the art of entertaining themselves. Gone are the mudpies, the homemade/kid made tree forts, or blanket forts. Most kids don’t spend all day on bikes, riding back and forth across town to each other’s houses. Life is different. I’m not blaming anyone. Some of those activities are gone because of safety reasons and I totally get that. I’m the first to admit that my kids don’t get to do a lot of the stuff my parents allowed me to do. But what I’m concerned about is when we jump in too quickly to intervene and remediate our kids’ boredom. “I’m bored” triggers a knee jerk reaction to solve the problem by construing a well thought out craft or game. Again, I’m not knocking plans. Awesome activities can be planned and implemented by researching Pinterest and other websites. However, giving a child the opportunity to solve his boredom can result in some pretty amazing skills: ingenuity, creativity, problem solving, perseverance, negotiating and social skills if playing with a friend.
My fondest childhood playtime memories are the times my friend and I hauled a piece of plywood into a tree and thought it was the best treehouse ever. Or building leaf houses, woodpile forts, exploring to the back of the nearby field which took an entire afternoon because it was at least a ½ acre away. We built blanket forts and slept in them. We fished in the river with corn and never caught anything (which was good because we wouldn’t have wanted to touch a fish anyway). We played “kick the can” in the dark neighborhood. It was good to be bored.
The next time you hear your kids complain about being bored, just pause. At the most, just give one simple suggestion. They’ll work it out. We always did.