“I’m bored.” How many parents hear these words from their kids – from sitting 10 minutes in the car or waiting for their food to come in a restaurant?
How did we manage it when we were kids? What was the difference?
First, I feel today’s kids expect “entertainment. They are given more media to passively fill time. Even during meal times, many kids need a tablet or a toy in front of them to peacefully finish a meal. I also think kids’ today are not pushed to self-soothe. In my opinion, when my kids utter, “I’m bored,” it’s like an automatic pronouncement of what I can do to solve their problem, instead of them thinking first, before asking for help.
Today, I see this “boredom” issue as an opportunity to guide my kids from needing external surroundings to provide the “soothe” and “sound” to pushing them to find that compulsion to think first and find their own creative solutions.
I have tried my best to advocate self-soothing since my kid were a few months old. When my kids cried, I would check the reason if it were for feeding or diaper change before I carried them out of the crib or bed. Otherwise, I allow them to consume the silence in their own way. I remember my daughter would start making her own sound in the crib that seem to me, labeling what she saw around her in her own words.
When they were between 12-24 months, I would put their favorite toys safely in the crib during the daytime, so they can maneuver on their own. Then I would alternate this with their favorite books to encourage flipping the books on their own. Soothing or rhyme music or even audio books as a background also helps.
At toddler age, I learned that sorting different toys in crates really help. Instead of just saying, it’s playtime and all toys are scattered, I sort the buckets to blocks, toy animals, robots, etc. This prolongs playing time and makes packing away more fun for kids. Consequently, I feel it helped my kids become more organized when they grew older.
I will tackle this in later articles but utilizing technology, for me, at the right age, quantity and use also affects how kids handle boredom.
How can we handle kids’ “boredom” today? For me, it boils down to 2 words – INTERESTS AND “NOTHINGNESS”.
I set up different “INTEREST” corners in the house for them to explore. I picked this up when my kids used to go to Montessori and saw different workstations. I see kids freely and quietly choose what to do on their own.
I saw my son started from playing blocks for hours. Then progressed to getting his crate of cars and sorting the colors. So, I followed through by forming a rainbow with the different colored cars. Then at 5, get his crate of animal figurines and his metal box of Animal Kaiser cards (cards from an arcade game) and start matching them and forming stories on his own.
“NOTHINGNESS”, for me, is “Forced” alone time. It is allowing kids to acknowledge the void and creatively find their own zone. Since I only allowed IPad and TV during weekends, my kids had to improvise. My son loves to do his own “videos” (no camera), about Yokai or Plants vs. Zombies. He also started to think of his own jokes and would share them to us when I got home.
My daughter, on the other hand, spends most of her time in books and music. This allowed her to explore different genres – from Geronimo Stilton, biographies to now more contemporary titles like Paper Towns by John Green. She also likes music and now asked me recently if she can enrol in contemporary ballet.
The common thread both my kids love is art. I always have boxes of art materials in different rooms. Because my kids are both a bit “high-strung”, I have found the added benefit of seeing the calming effect art does for them.
Below are some tips that might be useful in handling your kids’ “boredom”:
- Always have paper and colored pens or markers with you. In the car, kids love colorful whiteboard markers to doodle on the window glass.This is Marcus doodling by himself in Shake Shack Roponggi, Tokyo while we were waiting 1 hour for our turn.
- Teach your kids traditional games. Rock, Paper, Scissors, Tic Tac Toe and other games come in handy when you are in the mall.
These are my kids arm wrestling in SM Mall of Asia while I was shoe shopping for them.
- Even if I did not like to, I used to just give my kids game tablets in the restaurants. Recently, a friend introduced me to Silly Putty and Model Magic, which I find quite easy to bring and pack away. My kids cannot stop creating things with them.
This was Marcus last Wednesday challenging me to a contest on who can first create 5 things with his Crayola Model Magic compound.
- Role Play has always been my kids’ favorite past time. Whether them being a ticket booth operator, or playing house, I think kids always love pretending to be in their own adult world.
This was my kids’ hotel reception. They had a sign at the first floor that says, go up to register then on the second floor, I had to stay behind the yellow line to wait for my turn.