let them be bored

Are your kids counting the days yet? Mine definitely are. Only seventeen more school days until summer vacation!

We have so many plans for summer. Swimming. Playing volleyball. Softball games. Basketball camp. Our options seem endless. But past experience tells me there will come a point when I’ll hear those three dreaded words: “Moooooom, I’m bored!”

I’m always happy to assign a chore to a bored kid. Funny how activities like folding laundry, vacuuming carpets and pulling weeds are never the kind of entertainment they have in mind.

It’s easy for kids to watch a movie, play on the iPod or turn to any number of screens for entertainment. And believe me, my kids have done it. I’m not judging. But I’d much rather they go outside and play or read a book or do something that requires a bit of creativity

When my girls were younger, I often tried to avoid those moments of boredom. I scheduled activities to fill our days. At the first sign of boredom, I’d jump in to resolve the problem. To me, boredom meant trouble. Bored kids made messes or got into things they shouldn’t. Bored kids fought with one another.Bored Collage 1Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed doing things with them. But I also realized it wasn’t my job to entertain them or rescue them from boredom. When given the chance, they came up with some pretty creative ways to spend their time.

I remember one day when Emily noticed a small bag of clothes next to the trash. These clothes had been handed down three times – and they’d seen better days. Emily’s eyes widened.

“Mom! Can I have these clothes?”

“Oh Em, they’re all ripped and stained. I’m just going to pitch them.”

She gasped. “Don’t throw them away! I can make clothes for Taylor’s dolls.”

“Fine.” I tossed her the bag.

Off she went with a pair of scissors, a needle and thread and an armful of dolls. She set up shop in her bedroom and spent the rest of the afternoon lost in her creations.

Even now, as my girls are older, they still need unstructured free time. It’s a rare commodity around here. Sometimes we get so used to having every minute planned out and structured that we forget how to entertain ourselves.Bored 6

A couple summers ago, out of sheer boredom, the girls and I decided to walk a mile to the mailbox. The sky was cloudy, but if we hurried, we could make it back before it rained. On our way back it slowly began.

“Uh-oh. I just felt a sprinkle on my arm.” I said.

Within a few steps Emily joined in. “I just felt one on my cheek.”

Madison looked up and crinkled her face. “A big one just landed on my nose.”

We marched along as sprinkles of rain dive-bombed us like little moving targets.

Suddenly, the rhythm of the rain picked up. Now we had a challenge: get home before it poured.

As we turned the last corner, the sky opened up and the rain hammered down. We sprinted through the newly formed puddles, dripping wet and laughing hysterically. Our neighbor, standing under his front porch, smiled and waved as we raced by. That moment turned into one of our favorite summertime memories.

There’s a line in the Disney movie, “Up” that I love. The little boy, Russell, was telling the old man about his favorite times with his dad. At one point Russell said, “It might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.”

I’m all in favor of fun activities for kids. I love watching my girls play sports. But every now and then, they need a day when we don’t plan a thing.

Maybe this summer I’ll schedule some unscheduled down time. After all, if I want them to have a fun and memorable summer, maybe I just need to give them the chance to be bored.

How about you? Is it difficult to let your kids be bored? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

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