What should you do when your child says ‘I’m bored?’

Many times, adults hear children (of all ages) say “I’m bored,” and the adults automatically jump into action to provide entertainment to quickly alleviate the boredom. As an educator and Lower School Principal at Colorado Academy, I view boredom as an opportunity for learning and exploration. As children develop, it is important to cultivate their interests to include a variety of topics. Often a child will use the “boredom excuse” when they do not like an activity or consider it too difficult.

We generally consider boredom to be a bad thing, but is it?

  • What is wrong with being bored?
  • Is it really an adult’s responsibility to be the constant entertainer for a child?
  • Does each moment of our day need to be filled with activities or stimulation to keep us engaged 100 percent of the time?
  • Does a child say “I’m bored” to see what reaction they will get from an adult?
  • Does the use of technology perpetuate boredom in down time?

In the February 2019 New York Times article “Let Children Get Bored Again,” Pamela Paul offers these key points to consider.

  • Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusement.
  • Boredom spawns creativity and self-sufficiency.
  • “There is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom.” Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • The ability to handle boredom is correlated with the ability to focus and to self-regulate.

If your child uses the boredom excuse, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Acknowledge your child’s statement, but do not take on your child’s perceived boredom as your problem to solve.
  • Allow your children to feel the boredom and develop solutions for themselves.
  • In non-boredom times, brainstorm topics so that your child has an ongoing list of ideas to pique their interest. This also allows them to always have options to consider.
  • Model times of boredom for your child and how you address those magical moments for yourself.
  • Children take their cues from the adults in their lives—let’s embrace boredom as a time for positive growth.

As you approach the next period of down time—whether it’s a weekend or a vacation—explore the joy and opportunities provided by boredom.