Why it is okay to let kids feel bored

Experts say ‘nothing time’ can prove to be immensely productive.

Harper's Bazaar India

Often when kids say ‘I’m bored’, parents get into a frenzy to find tasks and activities to keep them ‘entertained’ and help them make the most of their time. But contrary to what many people believe, boredom can do more good than harm for children and can help them develop skills, creativity and confidence. While they need help to plan their unstructured time, it’s best to let them just be and explore. According to the American Psychological Association, boredom makes kids more motivated and improves children's minds and well-being.

Let’s look at how nothing time benefits children and what parents can do to let kids make the most of it.

Your little bundle of joy needs time to relax

In today’s day and time, children are always busy with one thing or the other. And this, according to Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai isn’t beneficial in the long-run as kids don’t get to do a lot of things that they need to. “Letting them just be is extremely important. Today, there is no room for spontaneity in kids' lives as their days are planned, and their brain is focused on the task at hand. When there is nothing on their schedule, they feel bored, but that’s the only time their brain gets a chance to relax and wander through their boredom. It also encourages the child to think of innovative ways to tackle his or her boredom instead of relying on technology. It is a sign of calming down.” 

Being bored can do the child a world of good 

Kids often complain about being bored. But boredom can actually help them develop skills, creativity and self-esteem as per a research article, 'The Benefits of Boredom' by Gia Miller. “The nothing time gives the child an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, explore their imagination and creativity and along the way build confidence, social skills, and cognitive abilities,” adds Dordi. Boredom provides the child a new direction. “When you break the cycle of constant stimulation, boredom can help build focus and attention. It also fosters a sense of independence as they don’t have anyone or anything to rely on to be entertained. Being able to sit and do nothing improves mental health,” she says. 

Boredom helps children’s real interests come to the fore

Sherene Aftab, founder of Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancy and a mother to twins, urges parents to let children be bored and free. “When children are left to be by themselves without a time limit, their real interests come to the surface. Creating interest that lasts is important, and pushing them to try everything at the same time is not the way to go. If you want to create interest, you have to show interest in the first place. You need to let kids have their own voice,” she advises.  

What parents need to understand

It is important that parents allow their kids to get bored. “Parents should understand that instant gratification isn’t always the best thing. Determining a well-balanced routine, one that includes downtime, is important. Boredom doesn’t mean children can’t do anything at all; it means they don’t do activities in a set time frame. Creativity is the biggest takeaway from boredom,” says Dordi. 

Parents should take a step back

Experts also caution parents against getting too involved. “If the child is left free to imagine, they will see the world in a different light. We must allow them the liberty to do what they want when they’re bored. Parents should show them how to do something and then let them do it their way.” 

Understand why the ‘boredom’ sets in

When kids are young, parents should encourage their child to explore their interests. “Parents should introduce an activity or concept, and allow kids to decide if they like it or not. If they can communicate what went wrong, great. Parents should take the time to hear the kids out, and attempt to understand why they don’t want to do something they may once have been interested in,” says Aftab.