Ready, Set, Summer! The Benefits of Boredom for Kids

School’s out! School’s out! Hooray! Kids around the country wait with bated breath for the long, sunny days of summer fun. They anticipate the fun, their spirits soar, and when summer finally arrives the devil strikes: “Moooommm, I’m bored!”  Or his evil cousin raises his head, “Can we play X-Box now, Mom?”

If you’re like me your gut reaction to these kinds of comments is to pontificate about how kids used to play outside and use their creativity and MAKE their own fun in the sun.

As you might imagine, the kids tune that kind of nonsense right out.

So I try to bite my tongue or respond with some sort of sage quip I’ve read recently from a parenting guru. Either way, I hold my ground and what I’ve discovered over this past decade and a half of parenting is this: boredom is a blessing.  Yes, I’m serious. A blessing.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children who watch a lot of TV read fewer books, have lower grades, and exercise less often than other kids.  I assume that the opposite, then, is true, which is fantastic. But this isn’t why I believe boredom is a blessing. Instead, here’s what I’ve realized by simply being in the parenting trenches over the years: When our kids are left to their own devices for a certain amount of time, when they are desperate enough for fun, when they realize, finally, that their Mean-Old-Parents really aren’t going to turn on the TV or hand them the X-Box games, the beautifully creative part of their brain begins to surface. Click, click, click.  Suddenly, unbidden, new ideas start to emerge. The siblings that used to bug them? They morph into fellow spies and hide-and-seek partners. They become accomplices in building forts and comrades in Ghost in the Graveyard. They might even play a board game together. Imagine!

We’ve disconnected for the summer—no TV, no computer, no video games—for several years and I’ve seen this effect again and again. It takes our older boys a few days to adjust to life without gadgets and gizmos—the “detox period,” we call it. We endure complaints and comparisons and assure our children that those “other” parents who embrace technology all summer long must love their kids so much more. But after a few days, the kids’ ideas percolate, their complaints disappear, and we’re rewarded with the kind of creativity we hope for all year long.

Are you ready to give it a try? Any tips to share? Leave us a comment & let us know!