“I’m Bored” Really Means “I Want My Brain Stimulated”

Don’t get caught in the “entertainment trap”. It is not our job to entertain, but to encourage and promote critical thinking and creativity.

We often hear kids come up and say “I’m bored…. I don’t have anything to do.” It is not our job to entertain our children 24/7. In fact, it is our responsibility to teach our children to think for themselves.

That doesn’t mean they might not need a little prompting.

It is really important in this day and age when we live in a society of instant gratification and in such a fast-paced environment, that we teach our brains, and the brains of our children, to be quiet. We live in a world where information is being thrown at us all the time. Our brains are busy, and we have made them continually busy even when we are not working through social media, video games and online browsing.

We are fast losing the skill to stop, not think and to allow our brains to wander. If we don’t teach our children those skills, they won’t know any different.

Children who have a watch a lot of television or play video games for extended periods or any other sort of screen time, they lose the ability to be creative and to think up their own games. Remember when we used to go outside and play for hours? There were no props (except maybe a stick we may have found or a tree to climb) and we were happy creating and exploring on our own and with friends.

Today, children are relying more and more on electronic devices that have almost become a crutch for entertainment. Without one in their hands, you soon hear “I’m bored” because they can’t think of anything, on their own, to do.

These children have lost the ability to think creatively which also impedes critical thinking skills.

When a child is “bored” what they are really saying to you is “my brain needs to be stimulated.” There are two things that need to be taught to these children.

  1. To think creatively for themselves (come up with their own ideas) and
  2. To stop and allow the brain to be calm and just to wander

Both of these skills are equally important, and both are learned skills. Constant stimulation of the brain is not good so allowing that space for brains just to wander is important. It is also important for children to learn to think creatively without the aid of electronic devices which dampen the ability to come up with ideas.

Children who are not used to doing these things will need help. If they are bored maybe you could ask them some questions:

  • Can you think of something you would like to do now?
  • Can you think of something you can do that is fast?
  • Can you think of something you can do that is slow?
  • Find a book. How could we act out the story in this book?
  • How could you use this ball in a different way?
  • Can you get this ball from one end of the room to the other without using your hands?

These questions will help them to think in a different direction. It will provide the platform and support for them to come up with some ideas of their own. It won’t be easy at the start, particularly if they are not used to doing it, but over time, they will find it easier and easier.

This is much more productive than you providing the solution. When we do that constantly, we take away the opportunity for our children to create those moments where they practice those skills.

Great ideas and inventions did not come out of busy brains. They came out of quiet brains that were allowed to wander and find solutions. Child who are allowed to have those opportunities will come up with great ideas on their own.

So instead of entertaining, look at the activities you might be providing and check if there is enough open-ended play. Are your children getting the opportunity to implement their own ideas? Or are you providing solutions where they only have a certain number of options, and they go with your ideas?

The younger the child, the less options they need to choose from, or it becomes overwhelming, but it is not usually the very young who constantly say “I’m bored.”

So take a look at how your child plays and see if you can create moments for critical thinking and creativity.

Diana F Cameron

Diana F Cameron has been in the early childhood industry for over 32 years. She has a lifetime of experience in special needs, is a trained sound therapist and is often a guest lecturer at conferences and Universities in Australia, the US and Canada.

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