It's Good to be Bored
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Years ago, I went for a trial for a nanny job in Switzerland. The nanny agency arranged everything and after briefly meeting the parents in London, I flew out for a week’s trial. I don’t remember many details from those few days, apart from the constant stimulation that the mother and current nanny gave the eldest, a three-year-old girl and the middle 18-month boy. From the moment they woke up, to the moment they went to sleep, everything was given to them to do, to think about, to coax into doing by making everything fun and exciting. One afternoon, we went to the park to meet their friends. I was sat on the blanket with the baby, the mum and the nanny while the children played about 10 feet away. They were running around and laughing with their little friends as we watched on. To cut a longer story short- that didn’t last long- the nanny insisted we join in with the children and proceeded to direct their play and inject even more imagination into their (already fun) game.
For years this has played on my mind and I couldn’t articulate why I felt so frustrated, until now. I realise that the children were playing happily without adult intervention and had the skills, like all children do, to make up their own games and stretch their own imagination. We could see all of them clearly and they were in a small enclosed playground, so they were completely safe. Throughout the following few days, I realised that as soon as the eldest was doing anything ‘mundane’, like having breakfast, it would need to be made into a game. I can’t remember the amount of times I heard the phrase ‘I’m bored’, but it was a lot. These poor children had everything and everything done for them (all with good intentions on the parent’s part), that they didn’t have the resources to entertain themselves. It was exhausting constantly trying to come up with fun ways to do absolutely everything.
The thing is- boredom has so many benefits, including promoting creativity, planning, productiveness and being more goal- orientated. It also helps to develop initiative, resilience and their problem- solving skills. These are things that our children need to learn to be able to help them on their way through life, whether it’s at school, in relationships or in business when they’re adults.
Allowing our children to sometimes just ‘be’, lets them explore what their likes and dislikes are; it gives them the power to choose whatever they want to do without always being told the next activity. We’re living in a time where children have so many extra-curricular activities and are always on the go. They’re used to being entertained and having their time mapped out and planned for them. Putting time aside for them to have nothing on and be completely child-led, should be an important part in the weekly diary.
By slowing down and letting our children have some free time to just be by themselves, or at least take the lead if we’re playing with them, we are supporting the idea to appreciate their surroundings just as they are, and demonstrate that life is not one big conveyor belt of excitement and entertainment. We’d be doing them a disservice by portraying life in this way, and even more so if we didn’t equip them with the skills to deal with that fact.
As Bertrand Russell mused: “A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure…”
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