It was the summer of 1983 and quite often my mother and aunt would haul 4 kids in the car and head to the beach on a sunny morning. My sister, cousins and I would feel like it was Christmas in July we were so excited to be heading to the beach for the day. We would pack lunches, beach chairs and sunscreen and would be giddy with excitement the whole ride there. When we arrived we were in the water all day, only coming up to eat and build sandcastles. Ahh, the days of pre-electronics, cell phones and iPods, when we had to entertain ourselves with nature and unstructured play.
Now fast forward to today. Myself, my son, my cousin and her two children are sitting on the beach and all we heard all day was “Mom we’re bored!” The pouty faces, the slouching in the beach chairs, the cold shoulders. My cousin and I peered at each other thru the incessant whining of our 3 children. Hearing their cries of boredom was like sticking ice picks in our eyes. We wondered how could we, 30 years prior, be having the time of our lives at the beach and our children today be so bored?
The culprits? Steve Jobs and Bill Gates sadly enough. The creators of hand held anything’s and in your pocket devices. Games of mental destruction and our social media frenzied society. Ugh. As Atari and MTV arrived in our youth, little did we know that when we became parents it was going to be the death of us and our kid’s abilities to keep themselves entertained. Sticking your child on their electronic device to keep them pacified is only a quick fix and only digs you deeper in a hole.
Unfortunately, our society is raising a whole generation of children who are addicted to screens. This is because little screens are designed to produce small amounts of dopamine rewards in their brains that make other experiences pale in comparison. Children however need other kinds of experiences from building with blocks to engaging with other kids to being creative. Kids today need to be more physically active or else they will not be able to focus and learn. That’s why it is essential to limit their screen time, no matter how many chores you can get done with them on their IPads.
So what can we do as parents to help our zombified children come back to earth? How about a little unstructured time? You see today, and all of us are guilty, we feel the need to fill their schedules up with 3 and 4 sports activities, drama, music lessons, homework and other activities. In between these, our kids just head for their electronics for some down time. Could it be that maybe us, the parents are the problem? Squeezing in every activity known to man so they don’t know how or what to do with their downtime when they actually have some?
In my opinion, too much “structured” time, strangles our children’s abilities to be creative and find their own passions. Children need to make forts in the backyard, collect bugs, catch tadpoles in the pond, and just look forward to a lazy day in the sun. It is also very important for children to be able to learn how to manage periods of unstructured time rather than try to fill it up with Mario Brothers, Mindcraft and Slenderman. This is something that, if learned young, will carry on with them as they become young adults, which will be highly important as they take on full time jobs and responsibilities.
So how can we help our children come out of the boredom black hole? When your child comes to you and says that they are bored, stop and focus on them for five minutes. You can use this time to connect with them and they can get the refueling they need to be on their way fairly quickly. Once they are refueled, approach the “what to do” question. Consider making a list of activities that do not involve electronics and putting them on pieces of paper so that you child can choose a few from the “boredom basket”.
Some activities could include; starting a journal, making a dream board by cutting out pictures out of magazines, teaching them how to make their favorite meal, brush the dog, paint a picture, play a board game, draw on the sidewalk with chalk, play “restaurant” and show them how to take orders and cash out customers, even string beads to make friendship bracelets. You get the picture. There are thousands of activities you and your child can do to alleviate boredom. Engage them in activities that teach them how to use their creative sides of their brains.
hey will feel satisfied and fulfilled for much longer of a time period than catching gold coins or blowing up buildings. If you must entertain them with electronics at times, that is fine just make sure you try and get them educational ones like a spelling or a math game. It forces your child to think and use their minds rather than use their adrenaline thumb trigger finger.
Our children are the future leaders of tomorrow. Personally I would rather encourage my child to create a dream board with his goals and aspirations. Never did any President of the United States sit in the oval office and attribute his success to his ability to beat the Angry Birds game.
Cheryl Hajjar, President & CEO
Indigo Magic, (978) 479-4899