Ahhhh — summer!
Your child has spent 9 months staring at the back of little Timmy’s head, at a whiteboard, at a desktop, and now…the final bell signaling the beginning of summer has sounded.
Summer camp, art school, chess club, basketball camps, etc? If so, then you’re doing a pretty good job keeping your kid entertained (or out of your hair) during summer months.
Many times, these are activities that serve no other purpose than to fill children’s time and supply much needed childcare in the summer months. BUT psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.
London-based child psychologist Lyn Fry says, “your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”
Fry is not the only one to point out the benefits of boredom. Dr. Teresa Belton, visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia with a focus on the connection between boredom and imagination, told the BBC that boredom is crucial for developing “internal stimulus,” which then allows true creativity.
And though our capacity for boredom has significantly diminished over time with the advent of new technologies (such as the Internet), experts have been discussing the importance of doing nothing for decades.
In 1993, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the “capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child.” Boredom is a chance to contemplate life, rather than rushing through it, he said in his book “On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life”. “It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time,” added Phillips.
Fry suggests that at the the start of the summer, parents sit down with their kids—those above the age of four—and collectively write down a list of everything their children might enjoy doing during their break. These can be basic activities, such as playing cards, reading a book, or going for a bicycle ride. They could also be more elaborate ideas such as cooking a fancy dinner, putting on a play, or practicing photography.
Then, if your child comes to you throughout the summer complaining of boredom, direct them back to that list.
“It puts the onus on them to say, ‘This is what I’d like to do,” Fry advises.
While there’s a strong chance that children will initially mope around being bored, it’s important to realize that this isn’t wasted time.
“There’s no problem with being bored,” says Fry. “It’s not a sin, is it? I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Allow your child time to process their thoughts, and make VALUABLE use of their time this summer.
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Don Patrick is an amateur writer and sports enthusiast. He loves reading books, listening to the Huberman Lab Podcast, and spending time with his family and friends. Don is also a personal trainer and youth hockey coach.