Despite the abundance of toys and oodles of activities kids now have available to them, boredom in children seems to be on the rise. The first reaction of many parents to “I’m bored” is “I didn’t have half the stuff my kids have when I was a kid. How can they be bored?!” And sometimes kids get bored, but it doesn’t always mean what we think. When it comes to boredom, it’s usually better to dig deeper and get to the root of the problem.
What does it mean when kids get bored? Advice for kids from 3 to 5 and older
Boredom is an emotion. And kids are in the very early stages of learning what emotions feel like, how to express them, and what vocabulary to use in the attempt. “I’m bored” could actually mean a number of different things like:
They want your attention It could be a way for them to reach out to you. In that case, suddenly giving them a lecture on how they don’t know how lucky they are to be bored can severely backfire. It shows kids that you’re not willing to listen to them and that they should be ashamed of what they feel. The end result is that they haven’t learned how to deal with their boredom and they feel worse. They might end up acting out or not coming to you in the future when they have more serious problems.
They don’t know how to express what they actually want Maybe they’re feeling sluggish and need some action to perk them up. Maybe they’re having difficulty with the activity they’re currently doing. Maybe they don’t know what they’re allowed to do in this period of free time. You can use “I’m bored” to find out what your kid is really feeling.
They don’t know where to start Kids are now so overwhelmed with scheduled activities that they don’t know what to do when they have a moment of free time. Coming up with ideas of things to do is a creative skill. If kids don’t have the space to practice thinking up activities, they never learn how. Kids in the past didn’t have every minute of their day planned out for them, so they had to fill their spare time themselves. A little boredom can be good for creativity.
So, instead of jumping to conclusions, try looking for non-verbal clues to find out what the real problem is, or ask them questions to go deeper and coax the answer out of them.
What are things to do with bored kids that will help them? From small kids to big kids
Boredom is not bad. It can encourage kids to be creative and imaginative, it can help them develop problem-solving skills, and it can boost their confidence. They just might need a little help to get started. Try some of these tactics:
Invite them to help you with a chore If you do this, suddenly your kid might have a stroke of inspiration of some other wonderful thing they could be doing, or they could surprise you and actually help you! It’s a win-win situation.
Come up with an “I’m bored” list together with your child Coming up with this list together means that the child has some agency of what activities go on the list and helps them think up ideas. Once you have the list, you can point to it whenever they tell you they’re bored.
Ask them why they feel that way This prompts them to think more deeply about what they’re actually feeling. Are they feeling restless and need to move around?
Education apps and gifts for kids who get bored quickly
It can be tempting to sit your kid in front of a TV when they complain of being bored and you have other chores that need to be done. But TV shows don’t engage children to think. When a child has screen time, it’s great if they can interact with the screen and incorporate learning into it. That’s where educational apps come in.
Learning apps like ours are great because they have short games designed to develop attention spans. They also focus on one or two key learning skills so that the child isn’t overwhelmed with information and can fully absorb the lesson.
We have lots of non-digital learning materials available on our social media sites like Pinterest, so you know where to go next time your kid says, “I’m bored!”