Boredom Fuels Creativity and Imagination in Children

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Do you believe in the power of boredom? Do you think that boredom fuels creativity?

Earlier this week, I had a scheduling snafu. I am co-host of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast. Typically, we record on weekends (read: when my husband is home to distract the kiddos), but this week we just couldn’t.

And so we ended up recording on a weekday morning. With three kids eight and under, this required a bit of strategizing.

First, I suggested the usual:

  • Play in the backyard
  • Build a fort 
  • Read some books
  • Play a game
  • Make some art
  • Build with LEGO
  • Work on a puzzle

As children tend to do, my three responded “That’s BORING!” to each and every suggestion.

Boredom Fuels Creativity in Children

Here is what I know to be true about boredom:

  • Boredom causes in an increase in child whining and sibling unrest
  • This initial phase of boredom can be uncomfortable for all involved

Whining is hard to listen to, and sibling squabbles can drive you bonkers. But if you are patient, or if you have noise-canceling headphones (don’t I wish!!), the whining will peak and then begin to dissipate.

And that’s when the magic happens.

My children never fail to find something creative once they give up on the “I’m boooooooored” song and dance.

So this is what I told them last week…

My children were bored, they had refused all of my suggestions, and I needed a [mostly] uninterrupted 60-minutes.

What’s a mama to do?

I simply replied, “Well, I am sure you will find something amazing to do and I can’t wait to see it!”

And, do you know what? They did.

Kara and I were able to record a fun episode about dealing with homeschool doubters at Thanksgiving with minimal interruptions and my children, for the most part, got along and engaged in creative and imaginative pursuits.

Here’s what they did…

My 8-year-old built a water clock for his little sister’s birthday:

My now 7-year-old got lost in imaginative play with our favorite toy, Build & Imagine:

boredom fuels creativity and imagination, science, stem, STEAM, daughter, education, homeschool, scientists, education, resources, science ideas
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

My 5-year-old found a bag of coffee filters in the craft closet and made a pyramid:

boredom fuels creativity and imagination
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Boredom fuels creativity and imagination in kids

Parents often feel guilty about letting their children sit idle. If we are home with our children, we feel we should make sure they are engaged and learning and having fun… but boredom serves an important purpose.

Free, unstructured time is essential for everyone, but most especially for our children. I believe that this “I’m bored” time is both educational and necessary, not only for a child’s sense of well-being but also for his or her healthy development and happiness. By allowing our children the space to be bored, we are giving them an opportunity to explore and discover their own unique likes and dislikes.

Plus, they often come up with something really cool!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: Do you believe in boredom? What boredom-fueled things have your kids created lately? Share here!

Boredom fuels creativity and imagination in children
Image source: Pixabay
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6 thoughts on “Boredom Fuels Creativity and Imagination in Children

  1. Ella,who is five has dropped a couple f-bombs and picked up some garden variety ‘bad words’ from kindergarten playground friends. While we tell her without freaking out,what words are not appropriate or tell her she needs to choose a different thing to say when she is mad. The one word that gets her in actual hot water is’Bored”. She actually doesnt say it, she has been redirected to ‘that is uninteresting’ or I am Uninterested in everything. I believe in Boredom as a good concept but not as a descriptive whiny term. We dont over schedule or put a huge emphasis on over acheving. We seriously have to fight to protect her down time, her dreaming time, her idle time. She is an only child and plays alone and in her imagination a lot. I fiercely protect this. The heat really came on once we started Kindergarten and I am assumimg it gets turned up more the older she gets. I dont want her to inherit the notion that being over stressed and running from thing to thing equals success. I have to be better at modeling this as well.

  2. My younger son falls into the expected pattern of bordom pushing him to do and create amazing things. However, my older son in middle school, the one with a fantastic imagination will just sit through bordom. Yes, he will whine and be mopey for hours and sit around staring at the wall, and generally being in a funk.

    He’s a voracious reader and lover of video games. I conceptualize his behavior as needing the action to come to him, but he can’t create his own fun. He’s given free reign about the neighborhood, he can use almost any tool/object in our house, but we limit his passive screen time to an hour a day. Once he’s finished all the books in the house and has used his media time, he can’t figure out anything to do. This is probably less of the norm, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many other children were similar.

    1. Well, every child is different for sure and the teenage years make things tricky. I am sure there are many kids like your son, and I may even have one or two by the time they are middle school-aged. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Bob!

  3. Luckily, mine loved costuming, so when I got the bored whine, I’d tell them to go make a costume. I might have gotten some initial resistance, but with no more direction than that, they’d find things around the house to style whatever the theme du jour was – royalty, super hero, rock star, real or imaginary animal, and on and on. Of course, I had to stop and review the finished product. But those pictures of what they came up with are priceless.
    Gwynn Torres
    The Creativity Institute

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