The word ‘bored’ does not feature within an early years child’s vocabulary, it comes later and is often planted by older children and adults who can be heard using it in phrases such as “Are you bored?”, “Sorry, you are bored aren’t you?” and “This is so boring”. Boredom for adults is often something to get through, we have hugely busy lives and doing nothing is somehow frowned upon and leads us to search out the next thing to do. In these extraordinary times of Covid19 when all of us are living very different lives, many families are finding the need to fill every hour of a child’s waking day with activities, often with a pre-prescribed outcome being the instruction for each day. Has anyone considered properly if children are actually bored?
It is often our own agendas that make us feel that children could be bored, this feeling is exactly that…a feeling. We need to stop, slow down and allow our children to just be. Allow children to follow their own agendas without interruption. We need to understand when to step in and when to step out of their worlds, they will let us know when they need us to support them, join in with them or suggest new ways of doing things. The frustrations of getting things wrong, leads to creativity and imagination skill building as children work out how to get it right. Most of us have to get things wrong first, to truly understand how to do it right.
Do you know anyone who just got into a car and drove it away safely and securely from the first time behind the steering wheel? Some will have kangaroo jumped down the road, many will have stalled and using your hands, feet, engaging your brain and the mirrors all at the same time was like being asked to wrestle an octopus into a string bag.
Back to being bored and little people. They need to be allowed to find their way, to engage in the nothingness and to explore themselves. The magic of play will lead them to places that they have never been before, and you may just be lucky enough to invited along for the journey, it is important to stand back until that time. Those who have yet to have discovered the wonders of imaginative co-operative play, through nothing more than their age will spend hours engaged in creative, curious invitations to play. The wooden blocks normally sorted in a basket will engage for far longer if displayed in ways which say ‘Hello, I am over here. Come and see what we can do together?’ The kitchen cupboards make way for many hours of play, who has not banged a kitchen pan as drum?, they are actually proving very popular for the NHS applause at 8.00pm each Thursday. Consider that box of odd ribbons, fir cones from the garden, water securely sealed and coloured in different sized bottles, these are all invitations to play and observing the magic as children work out what to do with them is beautiful to watch.
Boredom does not only lead to creativity, but it actually helps brain development, as when we are bored we are more inclined to try out new ways of doing things and to partake in something that we may not normally do thus making new connections and physically building brains. If you do find it hard to allow children to explore for themselves, giving them either a commentary or asking open ended questions alongside them helps them to feel secure and shows that you are genuinely interested in what they are exploring. Do not jump in too quickly to make things better when and if it gets tough, there is a difference between grappling and almost getting there and struggling so much that frustration steps in.
Next time you are concerned that your little person is bored consider this, you are supporting your child to build their skills in imagination, creativity, resilience, problem solving, confidence and developing a sense of belonging and happiness. I cannot find much wrong with developing any of those, so believe in yourselves as your child’s first educators and slow down, let them be and follow your child – they know what they need, believe them. Revel in the magic of childhood, be fascinated by children, the rest will follow.