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The Gift of Boredom

February 29, 2012

I think often about the type of life I want to craft for my family. I love the word “craft” in describing what I’m trying to do, because it denotes something handmade. Something with a lot of heart in it. Something made out of love.

In this fast-paced life we live today, it’s easy to be caught up in so much. So many good things. There’s work, because we need to eat and clothe ourselves. There’s education and things we need to learn. There are hobbies and passions to keep kindled. There are fun places to go, friends to enjoy, sports teams to join, book to read, movies to watch. Whew, there’s so much to do!

We can become so over-stimulated we become bored. Or we can be so busy that we never have a minute to ourselves, and when we do, we don’t know what to do with it. What do we do in those free spaces?

Some months ago I was over at a friend Kelly’s house for dessert and coffee. Something she said rang in my ears, long after we left the conversation.

“I want my kids to have the gift of boredom,” she said. She went on to say that her kids won’t necessarily view it as a gift, but it is.

I love that. And I nodded my head in affirmation. I want that gift for my kids too. And along with that gift comes the gift of time: time to explore, to create, to think. Time to run around outside, free of inhibitions. Time to use their imaginations, to throw rocks into a creek and go exploring in the woods. Time to get dirty, find pine cones, look at leaves.

That’s the way I grew up, but it’s fast becoming unheard of. A distant way of life long ago. But I want to work to create space for the gift of boredom.

What about you? How do you create space for your child/children to explore nature, engage their imaginations, and play?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 29, 2012 11:32 am

    Both my boys seem to self-entertain pretty well, though my 4yo tends to get “stuck” doing the same things he enjoys for hours (building, taking apart and rebuilding Lego cars is the current obsession). But the nature/outdoor stuff you’re describing is the source of a growing discontent/frustration for me. We love, love, love our house – could be happy in it for a long, long time – but the location is just AWFUL. We’re on a very busy road, hardly any yard to speak of, no good way to fence it in. Not to mention the mosquitoes that hold us hostage indoors from about May – October 😦 I so want my boys to have lots of time to freely explore outside, but that is so impractical/impossible here. There’s no point in even buying E a bike because there’s nowhere to learn to ride (gravel driveway on a hill). We bought the house before we were even TTC and so didn’t even have that on our radar when we were considering what we wanted. And now, for various reasons, we’re kind of stuck. Sigh.

  2. February 29, 2012 12:13 pm

    Amy, That’s great about your kids occupying themselves indoors so well, especially during the winter months. My kids do better with outside. Inside, they still do pretty well. Although it’s more “imagination” play these days and LOTS of rough-housing/wrestling. That probably has to do with the fact I have two of the same age. I wish they did more Legos/building than they do.

    I understand the yard situation. Ours is small too, but sounds better than yours. We have room for a play set, live on a quiet street, so that allows for my outdoor play. Also, we have some awesome trails 5 minutes away and I’ve discovered lots of parks/playgrounds and a soccer field they can use. That helps to change things up a bit! We’ve also found state parks that we can go to and let them play in the creeks, etc. If you have any state parks around or places like that, it’s worth checking into!

  3. February 29, 2012 4:39 pm

    I have limited “screen time” to the weekends. That’s not to say that they get NO screen time during the week, but it is rare and they know the general rule is no screen time during the week. If the computer is working at the Y, they’ll play computer games there while I work out. Or, if I occasionally allow them to watch something on netflix while I shower right now b/c La’s not home as much. But, this has helped. IT’s difficult for me at times b/c it is so much easier to just stick them infront of a screen. My kids are like zombies; they barely blink. Boy could I get A LOT done, but I don’t want to use it as a babysitter so that I can get other things done.

    MY kids have a great imagination I think. That said, I still deal w/ a lot of asking and whining about the no screen time rule throughout the week and it definitely grows wearisome. And, I also have to respond and intervene a lot more to sibbling squabbles. all. day. long. when I don’t allow them to veg out infront of a screen.

    But, I’m praying and hoping that it will pay off in the long run. praying and hoping it will benefit their relationships with each other and with others outside their family as well now and down the road.

    • March 2, 2012 7:25 am

      I need to do better with the screen time. They watch a video everyday after naps while having snacks while I start dinner prep. I also use it to “babysit” while I scrub the floors, for instance.

  4. February 29, 2012 4:48 pm

    I also want to ditto what Amy said about outdoor play. It can be a source of frustration for me as well–small yard, busy court where drivers drive WAY too fast in and out, neighborhood friends that aren’t necessarily the friendliest at times. 😦 But, it is where God has planted us and I pray everyday for contentment and creativity.

    Audiobooks are a huge blessing for us. My guys love stories…my boys more than my girlie believe it or not.

    And, dress ups is another thing we have a lot of…more than I would like to have, but it is seriously entertaining for my children and evokes quite the imaginative play times.

    One thing that I remember dawning on me when I was a young mom that I would recommend to other young moms is NOT to buy your kids every toy that is on the market. The epiphany hit me when I saw play toys in the store that was an icecream cone with scoops of icecream in diff. flavors. The reason it struck me is that my guys were building their own icecream cones at home with railroad track pieces and something else. I can’t even remember now. The point is, I realized they were learning to be resourceful and creative and use their imagination.

    I would say the fewer toys, the greater the imagination. 😉

    • March 2, 2012 7:24 am

      Your true about the toys, Bri. So often my kids pretend random things are something else in their heads and have the greatest time!

  5. March 2, 2012 10:40 am

    D, I didn’t limit screen time during the week until this year. Mine got screen time everyday just until recently…I am SO not the example in this area either…just an area I’m sensitive to and working on is all. 🙂

  6. March 2, 2012 4:35 pm

    I think about these things a lot. I grew up with the beach and ocean as my playground always, always exploring. Now, it is a priority of mine to not over-schedule our family, that plenty of time be available for a walk maybe, or some exploring around our yard, perhaps a lunch out or a walk around a local museum. I am the youngest of four children and I think the best gift our parents ever gave us was the gift of time to do nothing and everything.

    Also, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a sweet comment. 🙂

  7. March 4, 2012 8:54 pm

    I’m not a mom, BUT I fully agree with building in down time and the need for boredom. I believe it helps to learn to turn to God in those times and not always have to be overly stimulated. Easier said than done! But I think it CAN be done. My sister is doing a great job with their four trying to have the kids involved in life, but not drowning in activity.

    On a different note, I see you’re reading the Bonhoeffer book — I blogged about it at messymiddle.com. Loved it! How are you liking it?

  8. March 5, 2012 10:54 am

    i’ve never considered it a gift of boredom but it’s something we do a lot around here. errands are run twice a week, the three days in between, we are home and after they finish school in the mornings, they have all afternoon ahead of them. they read, they play alone, they play together, they mess around outside…they’re using their imaginations. i just make time for them to do it and they will.

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