Worried about entertaining your kids at home all summer? Here's why letting them be bored is important
Three more weeks until the summer holidays – and I must admit I am looking forward to the end of Reading Eggs and Mathletics and endless colouring pages and Irish spellings.
However, part of all the school work coming to an end is also filling me with dread. As in – how the heck am I now going to keep the kids occupied while I am actually trying to get a little bit of work done? I mean, can we admit that it is pretty flipping hard trying to concentrate and do work when your 'coworkers' commands your undivided attention all day long...?
However, what if we didn't drive ourselves around the bend trying to make sure our kids are entertained every second of every day...? What if we just let them be bored? What if we just let them invent games and come up with adventures and entertain themselves – you know, kind of like we did when we were kids?
As in – I don't know about you, but apart from the couple of weeks when we went abroad during our summer holidays when I was growing up, my sister and I just played out with all the neighbour kids – a lot. We climbed trees and built dens and ran through the sprinklers on warm days and organised teddy bear picnics and literally always managed to come up with the most fun ways to pass the days.
These days, I think us parents so often think we have to make sure each moment of the day should be one of enrichment and growth for our kids.
Nowadays, kids often expect us to interact with them all day because they've been taught this, but guys – kids' brains are developing whether we are personally stimulating them or not.
Speaking to Mother.ly, anthropologist Dr. David Lancy from Utah State University believes that "Parents have taken on all these extra obligations because someone has convinced [them] that they are essential for optimizing a child." But kids need surprisingly little interference from adults, observes Dr. Lancy, adding, "They are born knowing how to create their own toys, design their own games and to settle their own arguments."
And being involved every minute of your kids' day doesn't leave much room for self-discovery. Dr. Lancy states, "[W]ith too much instruction, children miss out on the opportunity to learn how to learn through self-exploration and observation." He believes this is a valuable skill that will help them adapt to challenges in school and give them an edge in life.
Interestingly, in most other cultures, parents don't believe it's their job to constantly teach, entertain and play with their kids.
Instead, parents welcome kids into their adult world and believe that they will learn and grow—at their own pace—by watching, helping and doing what captures their attention. In our lives, this means that if a child shows interest in an activity, like gardening, the parent should hand them a shovel and have them work independently alongside them—and let them learn from their mistakes.
As a result, experts believe that children become very skilled at what is called the art of "solitary absorption," where kids learn to keep themselves busy, without parents' intervention, direction or observation.