Let them be bored

Little girl rubs her eyes and yawnsI remember being little and experiencing a range of emotions and sensations.

I was happy when my cat snuggled on my lap and sad when I left my grandparents’ house. I was excited when I went with mum to pick up my older siblings from school and scared when I went into a dark room.

And on more than one occasion I remember being bored.

Bored with my toys. Bored with my bike. Bored with my brother and sisters.

Sometimes I was BORED all day.

And I never once blamed my parents.

How times have changed. I now I spend the bulk of my day entertaining my children and, if I am really lucky, their friends.

I know I am not alone.

A friend recently advised: “I was in the kitchen making dinner while simultaneously helping my 4-year old add glitter to her drawing for dad’s imminent arrival when my 2-year old shouted over from the comfort of the couch – propped on a pillow, munching on crackers and juice while watching the latest offerings from ABC 4 Kids – ‘Mummy, I’m bored. Can I have my iPad …’ and when I explained she didn’t need an electronics fix – she looked at me as if I had two heads and had failed her.”

And isn’t that the worrying thing? Many of us feel like we’ve failed our little ones if they are bored.

Boredom is a necessary part of childhood.

I did some amazing things spurred on by my boredom and discovered so many new and interesting games, locations and hidey-holes.

Reframing boredom for my children is one of my biggest challenges – teaching them to solve things for themselves is a wonderful life skill but I urge all adults to stay away from the negative and isolating responses like “You’re not bored, your boring” which can hurt a little one’s ability to forge ahead and explore new things long after you’ve forgotten the conversation.

So be brave – next time your kids are bored, put away the electronics and the plastic fantastic toys and challenge them to use their imagination and come up something you can do together.

I still love cloud watching with my kids and play “I spy with my imaginary eye’ (which is great for the under 4s who don’t quite grasp the original concept – you’ll soon get to know that ‘a’ for unicorn is quite common in most households).

And if that ‘bored’ word comes up at playgroup this week – here are some fun things to try that will encourage new sensations and take them in a fresh direction.

Colour Sensations

  • Bubble Print. Mix a little bright paint colour in margarine container with 1/4 cup dish washing liquid. Blow till bubbles overflow. Place paper gently over top for a fancy image!
  • Paper Dyeing. Fold paper towel, butchers paper or serviettes into quarters or eighths. Dip corners into different pots of edicol dye mixture to soak up colour. Unfold to view pattern.
  • Cellophane_windowCellophane Windows. Cut squares from a piece of coloured paper and then use PVA glue to stick cellophane over the gaps. Hold up to the light for full effect.

Mixed Sensations

  • arious colors of chalks on white background.Chalk Pictures. Dry – Draw one chalk colour on top of another, rub the chalk with your fingers to blend colours together. Wet – Wet the paper, drain well. Draw on wet paper with coloured chalk.
  • Taste. Have various toppings for dry biscuits – cream cheese; grated cheese; apple; carrot; sultanas; chopped dried apricots or dates; polony; ham and anything else the children might enjoy! Let older kids assemble their own morning (or afternoon) tea – just be mindful of any allergies/food intolerances within your group!
  • grass headHairy Harry. Mix one teaspoon of grass seeds with one cup of potting mixture and pour into a stocking (if you don’t have a stocking to hand you could use a thin sock). Tie to make a ball shape. Glue on felt features and plastic eyes. Place on a foam cup of water with leg of stocking touching water so it can drink. Grass will grow and look like hair. You can even trim the hair and it will continue to grow for some time. Alternative: Use wheat grass if you fancy adding the grass to smoothies, alfalfa seeds to add to sandwiches or chia seeds if you already have some in your pantry
  • Sniff & Smell Pictures. Cut food items from an old magazine and glue to paper. Once glue has dried add another dob of glue on top of picture and sprinkle over some dried herbs and spices to make an interesting aroma for the children to smell!

And if you need some more inspiration for playgroup or at home – check out or online Play Ideas now.

Kath is a 40-year-old mum of three who works part time and enjoys catching up with other stressed-out mums in her spare time. Usually she’s racing against the clock to make her boys (+ husband) arrive anywhere on time and feels quite the talented mother when two of the three kids make it out of the house with shoes on!