My Messy Mom Life

My Messy Mom Life: Let Them Be Bored

This is the opposite of a regular summer mom column filled with to-do lists and amazing places to go around town. That’s my usual vibe, but not this summer.

The truth is I have a four-month-old now, and with the recent extreme heat, the places we can go and things we can do are few and far between. My big kids have been home … a lot. And I’ve had all the regular feelings of mom guilt, especially when I read an Instagram post that says you only have 18 summers with your kids and you better make them count.

Is having your kids tell you they’re bored every day making it count?

In all seriousness, thinking about my childhood summer memories, the very best ones are filled with a whole lot of nothing. Building forts, staying up late, catching bugs, relay racing, creek wandering and walking the neighborhood looking for something to do.

I have noticed this weird and sensational thing that happens when Kyle and I make our kids sit in the backyard until they “figure something out” to play. It’s about ten to 20 minutes of fighting, whining and complaining, followed by a stroke of genius and hours of the most fun random game they’ve ever played. The good stuff we miss so much about being young, when life was simple.

So I started researching boredom, what it does for our brains and if it’s some Jedi secret mom hack. It turns out small doses of boredom (especially in our tech-driven world) are incredibly enlightening for kids and adults. When you take away all the distractions readily available to us to fill up our time, we are forced to look inward and create something to do. Our creativity grows.

A study was done where two groups of people had to come up with various ways to use plastic cups. One group had to read the phone book before. The group that read the phone book (the most boring and mundane book on the planet) were able to come up with three times as many uses for the cup. Their minds were less distracted from outward gratifications, their boredom forced them to expand their thinking.

This also explains why most people have their best ideas in the shower—it’s a place where you can’t reach for many distractions. Your mind is allowed to wander and create.

Of course, you don’t ever want your kids or teens to be so bored for so long that it leads to them feeling anxious or depressed, but using it in controlled doses can really boost creativity, making a more meaningful summer! After reading studies on boredom, I think it can make us all more effective at solving problems at work, too.

So moms, shake your guilt. That summer boredom is actually expanding your kids’ brains. You are amazing.

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