Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

Let the Kids Be Bored and Encourage Independent Play

let the kids be boredMy name is Summer and I have a confession. It’s a real struggle for me to let my daughter just be… bored.

I think about my childhood compared to hers; there was A LOT of down time during mine. We didn’t have cable (or Netflix or an iPad, etc.). We didn’t have a Nintendo (I’m dating myself). On a tight budget during the late 80s/early 90s, there wasn’t much instant gratification. If I was bored, I either came up with something to play or create, or worse – my mom would find something for me to clean. She was so clever!

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I passed that “stuffed animal school” bit on to my kiddo.

But, kids these days (yes – definitely dating myself), don’t necessarily know about the blessing of being bored.

I remember playing school and teaching my stuffed animals things, recording songs off the radio on cassette and learning the lyrics so I could sing them myself, and making elaborate soap opera plots for my Barbie dolls.

I even had a “bored jar”. I put strips of paper with activities written on them in a jar. Whenever I ran out of stuff to do or play, I drew a strip of paper and did whatever activity was on there. Here are some I remember:

  • Play kitchen
  • Build with Legos
  • Read books
  • Play dress-up
  • Ride my bike
  • Write a song (I was an ambitious 8-year-old)
  • Sleeping bag game (this was a super safe game where my brother and I slid down our stairs in our slick sleeping bags)

You get the idea. I came up with this jar idea. I wrote the dozens of activities. I took the initiative to stay busy.

Enter 2017.

My daughter has Netflix, Amazon Video, PBS Kids, and the Nick, Jr. app at her fingertips on several devices.

The first thing she says to me when I pick her up from preschool is “Mom, can I watch something on your phone?”

What ARE those toys-in-eggs videos someone came up with, by the way?! So. Weird.

She’s signed up for dance, soccer, gymnastics, and swimming lessons. And she has oodles of toys, books, and art supplies.

The point is, she’s never known what it means to be bored. But, we are working on it.

As she approaches four, and we have a second baby due in a few months, we have started cracking down. We have increased the rate at which we say “no” to the YouTube requests and to the easy fix of turning on a Netflix movie, etc.

She is smart and creative and her preschool teachers sing her praises, but I truly believe a lot of my learning and problem-solving tools were sharpened thanks in part to independent play time.

So, we’ve really been encouraging her love of painting, of dance parties, of riding her scooter, of building castles, and so on. We try to leave her be at least a little bit every day so she has to be motivated to think of something to do or play on her own.

independent play

You never know what she will come up with!

I know it’s easier said than done, but LET THE KIDS BE BORED!

Decline their pleas for electronics and instead let them figure out they can go outside and dig in the dirt, make a kid-safe and yummy recipe, enjoy a toy they haven’t played with in a long time, or sing some songs!

They may whine, but we owe it to them to give them a taste of the creativity-inducing boredom of our younger days.

Note to self: practice what you preach. Turn off Go, Diego, Do… NOW!

Baby steps, I guess.

What fun, independent play do your kiddos enjoy? Mine is really into dirt and gardening right at the moment!

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