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Childhood boredom is necessary

  • Emotional education
Childhood boredom is necessary

We are immersed in the age of multi-activity and multi-tasking. We need to have 24 hours of our day occupied with tasks that prevent us from feeling vulnerable, lonely, bored. We need to always have our minds occupied with something that prevents us from feeling helpless in front of the world. But have you ever thought that childhood boredom is necessary?

Children spend, on average, ten hours of their daily lives doing activities: after carrying out their morning routines, they enter school, where they will be taught subjects, in some cases in the mornings and afternoons. After their academic day, it’s time for extracurriculars and, if there is still some energy left, when they finally get home, more routines: homework, shower, dinner, reading or screen time, sleep and the next day it’s back to square one.

Society in general makes it very difficult to reconcile family life, so parents, overwhelmed by not having enough time to spend with their children, fill their days with activities that can keep them busy and, why not, help them develop talents they may have innate.

Between so much activity and so much external stimulus to which we subject ourselves and our children every school year, there is hardly any time left for free play. And even less time for boredom. But did you know that your child also needs time to be bored? And they even need time to remind you how bored they are.

Overstimulation, the worst enemy of learning

Children are subjected to a great deal of daily stimuli: through their multiple activities but, above all, through screens. And, according to a research group at the University of Granada, overstimulation of children can affect their learning: it makes them lose interest.

According to Miguel Ángel D’Acosta Balbín, this does not happen when children are bored because boredom awakens their creativity. But, with an excess of stimuli, they will never be able to experience that sensation because they will not feel the need to look for something to entertain themselves with.

Boredom enhances creativity

Following on from the above, it is worth talking a little more relaxed about the subject. A few years ago, Teresa Belton, a researcher at the University of East Anglia, in the UK, analysed, thanks to the analysis of a writer and an artist, the way in which boredom had helped the creativity of both when they were young. “Boredom made her write. She kept a diary from the time she was very young, full of observations, stories, poems and diatribes. She credits these beginnings for her later becoming a writer,” the researcher told the BBC.

Boredom awakens the imagination

“Mum, I’m bored”. We are sure that any of your children has said this expression to you on more than one occasion, an expression that causes so much anxiety in families. But, as we said at the beginning, children need to be bored.

Another main reason is that boredom sparks their imagination. After reminding you that he doesn’t know what to do, what does your child do? Probably not just sit and stare at nothing.

They will seek entertainment in the simplest things: if you are in the park, they will start playing with the sand, with a stick, go back to the swings and socialise with other children… If you are at home, they will pick up their toys, watch a film, draw or ask you to help them with the housework. But they will always seek, on their own, some incentive for boredom.

So it’s no bad thing for them to take advantage of boredom to practise free play. And it’s not bad either if you, as their family, allow them to be bored and let them find their own ways to occupy their time. Try not to give them things to do; don’t set them any tasks or activities. At least not for a while.

Belén Gopegui, a children’s writer, explained it very well to El Diario: “Boredom is a trigger, from it something different begins. If it doesn’t happen, the wheel continues without interruption and nothing new emerges. Boredom allows us to think, to conceive plans, ideas, to imagine other people and perhaps to call on someone who at that very moment is perhaps worried or in the mood for a walk”.

Boredom as a means to self-knowledge

Through boredom, children can connect with their inner selves and listen to what they feel like doing at that moment and what they don’t feel like doing at all. Nancy Colier, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, is clear: “children need space to discover who they are, how to apply their skills to new situations, how to overcome obstacles and improvise, and how to feel satisfaction in accomplishment.

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