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The Benefits of Boredom

We are living in a most unusual time. Social distancing, once a foreign concept, is now common language posted on signs, billboards, and t-shirts. Friends, classmates, and even family members are spending weeks at a time apart, whiling away the hours in completely new ways. The first few days after school was on distance learning were filled with frenzy for teachers and administrators attempting to quickly get a new and never-before-seen program up and running. Parents and students were scrambling to set up virtual classrooms, locate the many assignments and resources coming at them almost minute by minute, and establish some kind of schedule that would be sustainable for the unforeseeable future.

Now that we are in the fourth week of this new normal, there is a very slight shift happening. Routines are finally feeling established, families are finding ways to prioritize activities, students have had some time to connect with friends, and more importantly, have found ways to take charge of their learning through teacher videos and conference offerings. While, I am a positive, glass-half-full person by nature, I also realize that there is a level of anxiety and frustration built into these at home school days. Things are better, but still not right.

Ready for silver linings anyone? Well, one may be the many studies that support the idea that allowing for time to do nothing can produce some very impressive creative ideas. Adults, as well as children, do their best problem solving or creating when their brains are in a more restful state. Boredom has such a negative connotation, but you may change your mind if you allow yourself either some time to explore the links below or spend time daydreaming only to garner an idea that solves a perplexing problem. I learned of a study finding that individuals were able to generate more creative ideas right after they spent time doing a very menial task- writing names from the phone book, or even better, just reading the phone book. Some of you may be questioning not the idea, but the existence of a “phone book”! However, the evidence in many studies and personal experiences points to a correlation between creativity and the brain at rest.

IDEO Talks Boredom

TED Talk About Benefits of Boredom

You and your children may not write the next Hobbit series, as Tolkien did in between grading boring student essays, but who knows what ideas your children may discover in their new found time to be utterly bored. Toymaker Melissa, of Melissa and Doug, contributed to the article linked below. In it there are suggestions for ways to maximize the experience of time-on-your-hands. “‘When adults talk about their childhood memories, no one ever mentions anything material,’ says Melissa. ‘It’s always the simple things they remember: connections, laughter and nature.” Your children will remember the creative ideas they explored while being away from school year schedules: the fort in the backyard, the book they read all afternoon, or the garden they planted.

According to the article, boredom can build resilience or grit, give a sense of belonging, increase happiness, and improve mental health, among other things. As children struggle with finding ways to fill time, they learn essential skills for adapting to a changing world and come to a better understanding of what really brings them joy.

Melissa and Doug Article

The Lifehack article, linked below, includes some helpful suggestions for how to get your children started turning moments of boredom into moments of happy memories.  I hope it helps just a little during such a unusual and trying time.

Lifehack Article

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