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Helping parents and teachers understand the LEARNING benefits of all those wiggles & giggles!


“Boredom is a blessing,” I always say. Of course, when my kids were young they groaned when I said that because they were looking for me to provide a ready-made solution. But as I saw it then and am even more convinced now, constantly rescuing a child from the clutches of boredom is not a good idea. I looked at it this way...

Stuck in a tree? I'm right there for you.
Stuck on a homework problem? No problem. How can I help?
Stuck with nothing to do? Over to you, kid.

Now, if you're thinking that sounds harsh, please keep reading. If you agree with me, jump to the bottom of this post for a few additional thoughts you might find of interest on those inevitable, "Mommy, I'm borrrrred" days.


Boredom is not a life-threatening disorder, nor the end of the world. In fact, quite the opposite. Boredom can be the beginning of a whole, new, eye-opening world for children...

DISCOVERY & ADVENTURE.  An essential gateway to discovery-rich, life-enhancing, imagination-generated possibilities.

HANDS-ON CHARACTER-BUILDING. A perfect, kid-sized opportunity to fend for herself, building the underlying self-awareness, confidence, and resilience necessary to develop self-reliance.

CREATION & ORIGINATION. An opportunity to invent something entirely of her own making, which is often the best way to learn about the world and (even more important) to learn about herself. Without a prescribed activity or set of instructions, a child is forced to experiment and find her own way of doing things. Fascinating, passionate pursuits are often born out of these experiments. And when a child really cares about what she's doing, she'll stick to it longer and learn more from it.

So with all that at stake, I say, let 'em be bored!

But when?


Much has been written in recent years about the over-scheduled lives of our children, and the potential negative effects. Insufficient "downtime" can impose unnecessary stress on little ones, precipitate early achievement-fatigue, and rob them of the time they naturally need (and they need lots) to discover, explore, think, imagine and create on their own.

Making more time in your child's day for free play -- including boredom -- is the easy and obvious antidote to this dilemma. But here's the thing. When our modern mindset is to "make" free time, is it really free?

I fear the biggest danger lurking behind the unyielding calendar of drop-offs and pick-ups is a false lesson in the value of time -- that time is measured in how much you cram into it rather than how much you get out of it.


A child has no patience for doing nothing, and in the absence of someone serving her up a ready-made solution, she will dig into her imagination and discover her own ingenuity. But in order for this to happen, you have to trust your child and trust in the power of boredom.

So, to help you navigate the murky waters of "Mommy, I'm borrrrred," here are a few "Disboredoment Strategies" I've found useful over the years...


1. DON'T SOLVE IT. When your child whines about being bored, deflect it. Always show understanding and sympathy for her nothing-to-do plight so that she knows you care about her and her feelings, but offer no solutions. Instead, deflect the question back...

"What do you think you'd like to do today?"
"What did you do the last time you had nothing to do?"

Sometimes all she'll need is to talk about it and then she'll find her own solution. Other times not. If she's still complaining, sketch out some broad alternatives...

Suggest a change of scenary: "What about playing outside in the yard?"
Suggest a different prop: "What about finding a toy you haven't played with in a while?"
Suggest a type of activity: "What about making something? What would you like to make?"

Notice how these questions are still open-ended, requiring your child to find the specific answers for herself. And try not to lead her one way or another. A critical part of the growth and development she'll get from free play is in deciding what to play.

And, I think it's obvious, but I'll say it anyway. Television, computers, and video games are part of the problem and NEVER the solution. Kids learn nothing of value by watching others do things.

2. DON'T JUMP IN. Free time should be as uninterrupted and unsupervised as possible (unless safety is an issue, of course). That means you need to stay out of it.  A child's free time, alone or with siblings/playmates, should be hers to do with it what she wants.

That said, if your child asks for your time to play, you should give it freely whenever you can. Invitations to play are important for building strong bonds between you. However, if your child is turning to you to be her playmate all the time, you should be careful to help her strike a balance. It's essential she learn to play alone, even if that means putting up with a lot of "Mommy, I'm borrrrred" whining for a while.

3. VALUE HER CHOICES. No matter what she chooses to do with her "nothing to do" time, be sure to acknowledge her choices, show interest in her discoveries, encourage her curiosity and persistence, and project forward, asking her what she's going to do next.

Make note of what she tells you and watch for continued interest in the subject. For instance, if she chooses to create a dinosaur pit in the backyard, watch to see how long she pursues it. If it lasts for more than a few days, you might want to suggest a trip to the library for some dinosaurs books.

So the next time you hear, "Mommy, I'm borrrrred," remember. This is your signal to do nothing. And I think we can all agree, moms deserve some nothing-to-do time too!


  1. I am a huge proponent of boredom, Gill! Not sure when all adults decided they needed to become cruise directors, planning every moment of a child's life. Here is my post, Boredom is NOT a 4 Letter Word.... http://grassstainguru.com/2009/10/27/boredom-is-not-a-4-letter-word/

    Bethe @Bablmers

  2. I love this! The skill to be able to entertain oneself (without media) is as important as any other social-emotional skill. Unfortunately it is a skill that I see not being developed at parents, caregivers, and teachers spend so much time intervening in a child's ability to plan play for themselves rather than teaching them the skills to find something to do when there is "nothing" to do.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. very well said, I couldn't agree more. It's so nice to find like-minded people, there aren't alway many around us in our neighborhoods.

    I wrote a post on this, the title inspired by our friend @bethe who commented above. http://imaginationsoup.net/2011/06/viva-boredom-let-your-kids-get-bored/

    Cheers to boredom!

  4. Applause! No one has ever died of boredom! My Mom used to say,"If you're bored I've got lots of housework you could do". That inspired us to come up with something, I'll tell you!

  5. Yep, in total agreement. I've never heard our kids (6 and 3) say that they were bored. I think this is because they've always been left to find their own entertainment at certain times of the day... and they do. They come up with amazing stories and scenarios. We've just taken away the tele too because we feel that we're all better off without it. F

  6. excellent post!! thank you for flushing out the benefits of 'boredom' for children: problem-solving, creativity and invention of new ideas! wonderful :)

  7. Great post! My 4 year old comes up with best ideas when she's allegedly "bored". My 2 year old is very busy and hardly has time for boredom!

  8. Excellent post as usual. Here is another tip to add. I find that I try to be out of ear shot when they are bored. That way I am not too quick to jump in with ideas. Once they come up with their own ideas, if they are being safe I also try to be out of ear shot. I find it very tempting to interrupt. For example, tonight 4 of my 5 children created a game with couch pillows when they were bored before dinner. They were having a grand time but I was so tempted to pipe in "be careful", don't argue", etc. Instead I walked away and minded my own business. Guess what - they did argue but solved it themselves. No one told on each other and they even cleaned up by themselves!!! One other bonus, they were moving instead of watching tv or playing a video game.

  9. I never hear, "Mom, I'm bored." "Mom, there's nothing to do." We have eliminated the word bored from our house. There are too many opportunities in AND out of our house to NEVER be bored. The kid's know what they can and cannot do AND if they choose to do nothing and just "be" that's ok too! Great post!

  10. My mother had a saying: "Never say you're bored; bored people are boring!" Kids are never too young to learn how to cook. I may have started even earlier, but I have clear memories of cooking at age four. And by seven I was famous for my french fries! Just posted a kid-friendly recipe this morning!

  11. If my brother, sister or I said "i'm bored" our mom would find work for us to do! Sometimes she would giggle at us b/c we showed all the signs of being bored but we could never say it b/c we didn't want to! It just made us think harder about what we could do to try to get us out of the realm of the the bored. Sometimes we would get out an old toy that we hadn't played with for a long time and somehow accidently come up with a whole new way playing with that toy. Same with going outside to pitch baseball. We would make up new rules to the game rather than the conventional rules. Without boredom we would never have had any fun!

  12. Well said! I really like the wording of your opened ended questions. I try to "schedule" a lot of down time, but I'm kind of a homebody so we're home a lot. That makes down time easy. I agree that boredom opens up creativity and allows for kids to think on their own.

    I must say though...I feel the same about stuck in a tree. If you got up there, I'm sure you can figure out how to get down;)

  13. Great article. I totally agree with you yet so many people think they need to keep their kids occupied 24/7. I recently wrote the following: http://karynclimans.com/2011/07/19/a-bit-of-boredom-is-better/
    Not as well researched as your blog post but still to the point.

  14. Yup, just as I thought, this blog is awesome!

    I know this is a little "children are starving in China, so eat your veggies," but I also see "boredom is a blessing" in the context of "boredom is a luxury." I don't think that's nearly as effective an attitude as what you've sketched out, but I'm definitely planning on offering my twin boys chores to do when they come to me complaining of boredom! :)

  15. Agree totally with you, except for the line about getting nothing out of watching TV. We're an almost-no-TV family, but my 20-month-old loves watching a couple of music videos a day and then does the dance moves for us and sings the songs - it's fun :) The 10-15 minutes of videos a day don't do her any harm and she does learn from them. Me, when I was a kid, I learned a TON from Sesame Street :)

  16. Definitely agree and love that you're putting it back on the child to come up with a solution. That will develop a valuable life skill!

  17. My 22 month old daughter wants me to her playmate all the time and I am not able to encourage her to play alone. Do you have any ideas?

  18. Boredom is a precursor to creativity. That's what I tell parents who sign their kids up for my program. It takes about two weeks to "deprogram" kids. They are so used to being told what to do, when to do it that they find themselves bored at my program...but only for about two weeks. Then they realize they have access to art supplies, science supplies, books, board games, they can play outdoors as they please (even in the rain if they have proper clothing). At the one month point of being in the program, the kids don't ever want to go elsewhere!!

  19. I love this post and how you clearly show the benefits. Your ideas for "Disbordoment" Strategies are wonderful. (nice term!) I shared this post on my Parenting Groove blog: http://parentinggroove.com/boredom-is-a-gift/
    Thanks so much.