Breaking the Boredom Code

bored-childAny time after Memorial Day if you were to ask your child, they could tell you exactly how many days were left until school got out. Yet within hours of the start of vacation, if your house is anything like mine, you begin to hear the two most dreaded words of summer: I’m bored.

Which is actually code for: I’m lost. Whether they walk the corridors of public institutions, wander the halls of independent schools or stroll the hall to the office for homeschooling, since September our children’s lives have been driven by their school schedule. Now we’re setting them adrift in the sea of open-ended possibilities and they need a map to orient themselves. So how can we help them navigate open waters without prescribing exact plans?

Boredom is the gateway to creativity, and our job is to offer direction, not details. Invite them to take our beginnings and imagine the rest for themselves. How can we do this? By recognizing that when kids say I’m bored, they are overwhelmed by all that is possible. We sometimes see this, but then go overboard with our proposals. When we suggest entire plans, they can sit in judgment- accepting or rejecting ideas without engagement. But when we provide only the framework, they are drawn in and required to imagine what the possibilities could be.

What does the middle ground look like? There are many frameworks to try.

Begin with body parts: can you make up a game you play with your toes?

Use senses: what would you like to taste right now?

Play with time: how fast can you build a 4-foot tower using any materials?

Experiment with size: what are the 20 smallest things you can find in the house? Outside?

 The burden of boredom is not ours to bear. Our children’s creativity is plenty strong to carry them into the world of imagination. And just like the academic skills they’ve been focused upon during the school year, imagining takes practice. And it is worth every moment. As Albert Einstein reminded us “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

I’m bored is actually code. It is code for: magic begins here.

About Emily McMason (27 Posts)

Emily McMason is a personal & parent coach. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and Certification in Parent Coaching from the PCI at Seattle Pacific University. Connect with Emily, as well as read more of her reflections on parenting, at Evolving Parents.


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