Boredom is good for kids

With all the miserable spring weather we’ve been having – sorry if I’m repeating myself here – it’s easy to forget that the children have basically been hibernating indoors with me for the last several months. Yes, there have been occasional excursions to the park, where I’ve stood around counting minutes on my watch and exercising meditation (I try to visualize a warm beach). But for the most part I’ve led them from one coffee shop to another in my quest for distraction.

It’s scary, but the three-year-old orders ‘babyccinos’ (this is a cappuccino without the coffee) like a pro. ‘I want a babyccino,’ she says to me on Saturdays, a slight whine in her voice. She’s got addicted to them, I fear. The other thing she orders with regularity is a dose of television.

Both kids would happily watch wall-to-wall television if I let them. I don’t. But apparently a few hours a day is not detrimental, according to a recent study. The headline? TV time does not breed badly behaved children or impair their social development.

The Medical Research Council in the UK studied more than 11,000 elementary school children and found that watching television or using another screen (think iPad) does not lead to hyperactivity or social problems.

One doctor in Glasgow went so far as to say that it was ‘wrong to blame social problems on TV’. The article doesn’t say who or what should get the blame, but I wouldn’t be surprised if parents were top of the blame list.

Let them be bored

Yet another expert, in another news story that will probably confuse parents, said that it’s okay to let children get bored.

The senior researcher at a school of education argued that boredom helps kids develop their creativity.

I’m all for a bit of boredom, frankly, and the long winter has provided plenty of opportunities for staring out the window at the frozen landscape.

Modern, middle-class parents seem to think that if Annabella isn’t doing piano lessons on Monday, Mandarin on Tuesday, ballet on Wednesday, swimming on Thursday and vocal lessons on Friday she is going to suffer some sort of stimulus deprivation and end up without meaningful, well-paid work as an adult.

I don’t know how many of my friends shuffle their kids from one activity to another, constantly searching for something that will tap into their child’s inner genius and get them into the holy grail of education, a decent high school that doesn’t cost the earth.

As a working mother, I can’t be part of this frantic ferrying around, so there’s not a lot of extracurricular activity.

I feel bad about this sometimes, but I’m starting to reevaluate this useless guilt. We need mental space; doing nothing is not always negative. It can lead to bursts of creativity. Study the sky, watch the clouds.

Lay off the lamb

What I fear more than boredom is kids who literally don’t know what to do with themselves if they aren’t holding some sort of electronic device in their hands.

I’ve seen what an obsessive social media habit can do to adults. There are people who can’t live without checking their iPhone every few minutes; they feel totally lost if they leave the phone at home by mistake.

This, I’m telling you, should be more worrying than a few hours of television a day.

As proof that our social media habits are out of control, a little black lamb – resuced from the snow in North Yorkshire – has its own Twitter account and has already tweeted 200 times since being born on March 24. The ‘micro lamb’ has over 1600 followers and mostly tweets about being stuck indoors; she signs off with a lot of ‘baas’.

You know what, this lamb should just be allowed to get bored.



Filed under Media, motherhood

2 responses to “Boredom is good for kids

  1. Vivian

    The UK study makes me feel marginally less guilty about the amount of tv my guys watch. Does it count when the kids crawl into your bed at 6am and you turn on the tv just to get a few more precious moments of sleep? I feel as though I can almost negate that time since I’m not actually conscious while it’s happening. It could have been just a dream? My philosophy is that if the kids have had an active day playing outside, doing crafts, going to school, then I’m not going to watch the clock strictly once the tv does go on for a bit. It’s the snowy, no school, there’s only so many bead bracelets I can make kinda days when I start to fret about how much cumulative tv watching is transpiring. Also, while I do have our kids enrolled in a few extracurriculars, my impetus for doing so stems more from being a super guilty working mom (I want them to enjoy themselves in my absence) and the fact that I may unearth some hidden talent that will prove my kid a prodigy / future millionaire. OBVIOUSLY, I’m joking on the latter comment – you think I would reveal my super unclassy aspirations here?! But hey, you never know! Wink, wink.

    • I do the same thing with the television in the morning. I feel a tad guilty about this too. But I seem to recall that my parents bascially let my brother and I run downstairs every Saturday morning and switch on the tv for hours. I don’t know that it has had a serious outcome on my life, although you did tell me that I was a tv addict. I also seem to lack drive and ambition. Not sure I can blame that all on television. I have this feeling your kids will turn out just fine, with or without a few hours of tv a day. > Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2013 14:34:50 +0000 > To: >

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