It's been a while since I last posted. Between a really magical family vacation and the end of the year school madness, I have found myself longing for summer to get here. While I am looking forward to a lighter work schedule, my 6 year old daughter is excited for sleeping in and not having to go to school for a couple of months.
One thing I want to do this summer is follow through on a limited screen time policy with my daughter. When the school year began, I was pretty strict about it and she had to earn being able to watch television or play with the iPad. As the year went on, my schedule became so crazy that it became easier to get what I had to get done at night if I just let her have screen time. For me, the summer is going to be about trying new things and being outside. More importantly, I want her to learn what to do when she gets bored. Kids these days don't know how to be bored....they feel like they need to be entertained constantly. And parents who work a lot often feel badly about not spending enough time with their children and then overcompensate by never letting kids feel bored.
Boredom is a critical part of child development. When a child is bored, it encourages them to become more creative and engage in imaginative play. It also helps them to develop problem solving skills and become more independent throughout their day. As parents, we sometimes feel that we need to constantly entertain our kids and provide them with as much stimulation as possible. As a therapist, I tell parents how important it is to provide some unstructured down-time into their child's lives. This is especially important for the kids I work with who have incredibly busy school and therapy schedules. Being bored and not having something to do will help their development in ways that direct 1:1 attention will. It will also help prepare them for those moments as they get older and will be required to do much of their homework and school work independently.
What can we do to help our kids defeat boredom? While I am sure there are a million different ways to do this (and hope that this post will trigger some ideas from all of you!), I have come up with a plan for my daughter this summer. And by plan, I mean I have a few ideas I will share that I will be using this summer to help her defeat boredom.
1. Block off a certain part of each day where she has to play by herself. This means no iPad, no television and no other electronic devices to keep her entertained. Together, we will come up with activities that she can do when she feels bored and I (or any other adult caregiver) am busy with other things. We will look around our apartment and see what she has that she can play with and keep herself entertained without another person.
2. My daughter loves art. She loves drawing, painting, cutting, gluing or any other thing that allows her to feel like an artist. While we have a nice collection of art supplies, I am going to make sure that all her favorite markers work and that she has a fresh supply of glue, tape, etc.. I am also going to find something new and special to throw in her art box each week for her to discover and play with. Each week, I will take pictures of her art projects and at the end of the summer, we will make a photo book so she can remember all the fun and creative things she did during her summer.
3. I am still researching but one thing I want to do is find a really cool and motivating project for my daughter to work on throughout the summer. At first I was thinking of getting her a really big Lego set, but she's still a little too young to be able to complete those big sets by herself. One of my ideas is to pick up one of those giant coloring pages/posters that can be spread out on the floor and when she is feeling bored, she can spend some time working on it. The best part is is that when you want to, it can be a good family or friend project. My favorite is this What a Colorful World one by Pirasta since my daughter has become obsessed with learning as much as she can about the world we live in.
4. Since my daughter loves her special mom and dad play time, I will be sure to reward her with something special each week this summer. Whether it being a trip to the beach, exploring new parts of New York City or just a special meal together, it will be something that she has to look forward to at the end of each week. I know that this will be a huge motivator for her and I am excited to be able to plan some really fun weekly excursions.
I am clearly not an expert in this, but am hoping that this summer will teach both me and my daughter about how to handle being bored. While I think it is incredibly important for her to learn how to problem solve and figure out what she can do to overcome boredom, I want to actively work on not getting frustrated with her when she repeatedly tells me she is bored. I imagine there will be some resistance, but I do believe that being bored and teaching her how to be able to make choices to defeat being bored will help her become even more creative and independent than she is now.
Any of you readers have any specific thoughts/ideas about how to beat the boredom blues? I would love to be able to add to my summer plan. I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.