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  • Jamie Wilkins

Let Boredom Teach Your Kids

Goal: Trick the kids into learning during non-school times. It has been our experience that books and core learning are needed and have their place. However, some of our favorite learning moments were unplanned and not a part of any core activity.

We have often just gotten in the car and learned about whatever showed up during our summer travels. Turns out, these not only hold the deepest places in our hearts, our kids also retain far more than we could have expected.

Loading up the car with kid paraphernalia and heading on the road is not really new to most of us. We all love a good adventure – even if our hair grays some in the process.

What about the part of summer when you are not traveling? What if you can't 'just get in the car and go’ somewhere interesting? What about the ‘normal’ days when kids get restless? It seems that the days between traveling and school time are often desired for their simplicity. Then, these times turn on us. Kids get bored and whiny. They may begin looking for their friends and find them unavailable.

Another outdoor fort in the making....

This is when we can teach them to use boredom to their advantage. Creative minds are pushed when interest must be self generated. Summer ‘lag days’ are great for this concept! Yes, we have used boredom jars, book challenges with summer related incentives, left-over science projects, and enough craft items to build a real house.

It would be safe to say that ninety percent of the craft ideas that are generated in our home come from the kids own minds. Whether it be from an image in a movie or a game they want to make and play, or simply just trying to get the popsicle sticks to stand a certain way, kids have the potential to generate some fun activities.

The human brain has the ability to entertain itself if we will give enough ‘free thinking space’ for it to ‘need’ to generate something interesting. This is in contrast to time so intricately scheduled that children begin to expect entertainment to come to them – instead of generating it themselves.

If kids have already become accustomed to strongly directed play, they may need some guidance to get started. Children may also need to learn how to create their own fun. Once they have begun, parents can begin easing kids into the role of self-directing the activity without outside instruction.

Wolfgang (the animal friend) has a new hammock and house!

It may be helpful to keep in mind that kids may still benefit from the occasional suggestion. They may also need help with the trickier part of some project. Parents can show them how that part of the activity is done – especially if safety is a consideration – then allow the child to continue to direct the activity.

Method: Let their own creativity fly! Set your little explorers free to dig in some dirt, build their own creations, and see where their imagination goes. I love the recent comment from our toddler: "Let's build our own playground!" My favorite part of that moment included our preteen teaching our toddler about fulcrums with a giant stick and a few stationary cinder blocks that were serving as a seesaw!

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