I don’t know about your family, but during this season of Covid-19, my kids have started to get pretty bored. Like many, we have mostly been stuck in our home for several months, and my kids are starting to go a little stir crazy.
But… did you know that being bored is not necessarily a bad thing?
Sure, my kids can start to turn into zombies when they start to gravitate only toward their screens too much. I do, too. We all do. So, we have started to challenge ourselves to set down the screens, and just think – just imagine, what can we do right now? Yesterday, after playing games on their tablets for a while, I called it quits on the screens. After the initial pushback, of course, my kids turned to other activities and just blossomed. By the end of the day, my 11-year-old daughter had taught herself a new song and had composed her first original song on the piano, and my 6-year-old son had created his own games and had done quite a bit of painting.
Boredom Begets Creativity
So often, especially when kids – or adults – whine and complain about being bored (“there’s nothing to doooo”), we feel obligated to provide them something to do. It’s not a problem to do this sometimes, but I have come to learn that if we feed kids activities and ideas too much, they’ll never have the opportunity to come up with some of their own. If I had tasked my kids with my own stuff all day yesterday, my daughter would have never composed her first song and my son would have never brought out the paints. It’s okay for kids to be bored because boredom begets creativity. If we were busy all the time doing what others tell us to do, we would never get creative. And being creative is what kids really need to express themselves and to learn and grow.
Yes, it’s Messy
I will not pretend that yesterday was this all-glorious day. At one point I had to turn my own music off because my daughter’s piano practice was drowning it out. My son dripped paint all over the table and the floor. He got paint on his hands and shirt. He flipped the couch cushions onto the floor to make a bouncy house and declared while jumping on them, that it was his dream to have a bouncy house in the backyard one day.
Yesterday was messy.
But for the sake of my family’s mental and emotional – and physical – wellbeing, I would not have had it any other way.
So, how can we make space for this messy kind of learning?
1. We let ourselves be bored.
Yes, even you, parents. We need to allow ourselves to be bored too if we want to get creative. And allowing kids to be bored, even if it’s uncomfortable at first, is what will ultimately spur them on to trying something new.
2. We let down our guard.
My house is not an immaculate place, so I’m not too terribly worried about paint getting on the table. It may be different for you, but do your best to create a space where messy learning is okay. It may even be in the garage or the backyard, but find a spot where kids can get really messy. (Yes – baths may be necessary later. That’s all part of the process.)
3. We do it together.
Get messy with the kids! Don’t let them have all the fun. You’re on this ride, too. If your kids see you trying something new – and not afraid to make a fool of yourself while you’re at it – they will know it really is okay to do the same. When you get creative and messy too, this will really encourage your kids. So, pull up your sleeves and paint away, or kick off your shoes and go creek-stomping. Have a blast. Do it with your kids. Live life together.
“That’s hiking, Grandma!”
Not too long ago, my husband and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We are both longtime backpackers and hikers. We had our shoes strapped up, our packs on tight, and our water bottle and granola bars in hand. We were ready to go. As we headed up the trail, we soon came upon two people coming our way, making a slow descent to the parking lot. We stepped to the side of the trail to allow them to pass, and my husband and I exchanged silent grins as we could now overhear the conversation. It was a little boy with his grandma. He was practically skipping down the trail in his tennis shoes, all the while holding the hand of an older woman who was tripping over the mud and rocks in flip flops.
“We gotta get back down to the car,” the older woman was saying. “I didn’t know it was gonna be so muddy and rocky the whole way!”
The little boy just smiled and looked sweetly up at her, all the while navigating a large boulder. Then he piped up, “Yeah! That’s hiking, Grandma!”
I really admire this woman. She was not dressed at all for a hiking trip, certainly not on a trail high in the mountains. But she tried it out anyway! She gave her grandson a memory that will likely last him a lifetime. He didn’t care that she was wearing flip flops on the Appalachian Trail. He got to go hiking with his grandma. His grandma took the time and got messy with him and went on a little adventure.
That is what that little boy is going to remember.
Here at Wildwood Writing, nature and creativity go hand in hand. I have always gotten my best ideas for stories while out in the woods. What about you? Is there a certain place in the wilderness that inspires you? I’d love to hear. Share in the comments!
And if you are looking for writing inspiration for your family, I invite you to subscribe to receive a free writing and poetry activity for kids. Subscribers also receive a free writing prompt in their email every week! This is a great way to grow your family’s writing practice.
We also have a TeachersPayTeachers store,with a growing collection of resources that will encourage kids to explore their own writing. I’d love to see your kiddos utilize my family’s creations to spur on their writing. I welcome any suggestions or requests on our resources as well! Please do feel free to reach out – and don’t forget tosubscribeto learn more!
Write away, friends!