Should Kids Be Bored in the Summer? The Benefits of Unstructured Time
JUNE 6th, 2022
It’s okay for kids to be bored—in fact it’s healthy for them!
Summer is the perfect time for kids to get outside and explore new things. It's a time for them to relax and enjoy themselves without having to worry about homework or strict schedules. It's a time for kids... to be kids! While it can be tempting to fill their calendars with things to do to keep them stimulated and engaged, it's important to let them have some unscheduled time as well.
The benefits of being bored
One of the benefits of free time is that it allows children to explore their interests. If they have a passion for something like nature or art, they can spend their time researching it or exploring it without having to worry about fitting it into a busy schedule. They can also follow their curiosity through exploration and self-play to find new interests and things they like to do. Allowing kids some unscheduled time gives them the opportunity to be creative and use their imaginations.
Psychology Today recommends letting your kids "embrace boredom" to give them a chance to find new things they enjoy. Interests that they gravitate towards at a young age can become hobbies as they get older which will enrich their life for years to come.
Another benefit of free time is that it can help kids learn how to manage their own time. When kids have an unstructured schedule, they must decide for themselves what they want to do and how to fill their day. This can be a great opportunity for them to learn how to manage their time wisely and set priorities. It can also help them learn how to entertain themselves and find ways to stay busy without having someone else telling them what to do.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stresses how important play is for children. They need to learn, but they also need time to run and be active. Playtime is a good break from learning activities or sitting in front of a screen. "It provides the opportunity for problem-solving skills, communication skills, conflict management skills, helps them make sense of their environment, and so much more". The AAP also states that children who are rushed from one activity to the next without a rest, time to think things through, or the opportunity to reflect regularly are statistically more prone to anxiety and depression than kids who have time for free play.
How to handle “bored” kids
So, what should you do if you hear those dreaded words "I'm bored"? First, try not to panic. It's normal for kids to feel bored sometimes, and it doesn't mean that they're not enjoying their summer! Second, resist the urge to immediately fill their time with scheduled activities. Instead, suggest some ideas of things they could do on their own like play outside or start a new craft project. Third, encourage them to use their imaginations and be creative. If you have the time, get involved and set the stage... tell them to imagine they are on a pirate ship and ask them questions about what they think the ship looks like and where they want the ship to go to prompt them to think for themselves. Or take them outside and show them all the flowers, acorns, leaves and rocks laying around and ask them what type of art they think they can create with these things.
If they resist, prompt them with small, open-ended questions until they open up and start thinking of ideas on their own. One important thing to note is that you shouldn't feel like you need to entertain them every minute of the day. If your child is repeatedly saying they are bored and coming to you for ideas, try giving them some time to figure it out on their own. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will get them thinking for themselves and before you know it, they will be off on some new imaginary adventure.
So, should kids be bored this summer? The answer is yes! Unstructured time is important for kids to have to explore their interests, use their imaginations, and learn how to manage their own time. So next time your child says they're bored, try not to worry and instead see it as an opportunity for them to learn and grow.