With technology, consumerism, and extracurricular activities for kids, we have created a world where children lead highly structured lives, with little time to just ‘be.’ Now due to SARS-COV-2 kids are isolated in their homes without the high structure of these offerings. Kids are becoming bored, and not sure what to do. But far from being a bad thing, periods of boredom, where children have to rely on themselves for entertainment, are essential to a healthy childhood.
Let's take a look at how your child will benefit from being bored.
1. Boredom encourages imagination and creativity.
When children are left to their own devices, they’re forced to be more creative and imaginative in finding ways to amuse themselves. ‘Giving them opportunities to try things of their own volition builds their sense of discovery and curiosity and helps them explore what brings them joy.' Research has found that people who are given a range of boring tasks to complete show more imagination when they’re then asked to take part in a creative thinking activity.
2. Boredom teaches ‘grit’ ‘resilience’
These have become buzzwords in schools, referring to children developing a ‘have a go’ attitude and not being put off when things are tough.
Being bored – or having to think of ways to amuse themselves – is an important way to develop this ‘grit.’ Everyone wants to believe they’re good at everything, but children who never experience failure don’t know how to deal with it when it arises. Having free time to try things out without the fear of failure is essential if a child is to develop grit and resilience.
3. Boredom develops problem-solving skills.
Does your child expect you to come up with something for them to do whenever they’re at a loose end? Well, stop intervening, because being bored will help them develop their problem-solving skills. In a world where children are constantly stimulated, they can feel uncomfortable if they don’t have anything to do. This encourages initiative and problem-solving, as they have to rely on themselves to tackle the ‘problem’ of being bored.
4. Boredom helps children form relationships
Having unstructured time to play with other children will help your child develop interpersonal skills that are becoming lost to the technology obsessed generation. If children are given time and space with nothing to distract them, it helps them to negotiate and collaborate with each other and develop activities jointly. They’re learning to communicate, make eye contact and read body language: things that can only be learnt from experience.
5. Boredom builds confidence
When your child has opportunities to occupy themselves, and manages to do so successfully, it gives their self-esteem a boost. When they have free time, they can try new things, test their limits and take risks, which will all build their confidence.
6. Boredom improves mental health
Today’s kids (and adults, too) tend to be so busy that there’s little time to be still and let their minds wander. Having time to just “be” gives them the opportunity to think their own thoughts and get to know themselves better. Research has shown that allowing the mind time to wander rather than being focused on activities all the time is very important for mental health.
7. Boredom creates a sense of belonging
As well as having time to think, unstructured downtime gives children a greater sense of community. If children are always busy with some focused activity, they take their surroundings for granted, It’s important that they have the chance to engage with their environment so they feel a sense of belonging to where they live.
8. Boredom makes childhood happier
Your child may argue that being bored is, well, boring, but actually, it could make their childhood happier overall. When adults talk about their childhood memories, no one ever mentions anything material. It’s always the simple things they remember: connections, laughter and nature. All the activities that we think are making childhood richer are just getting in the way of a simple but contented life.
Adapted from: The School Run & The Science Behind How Boredom Benefits Creative Thought
Adapted from blog author Elizabeth Newcamp: author of "Mom and Dad are Fighting"
Amidst the chaos of schools and offices closing, spring break cancellations, and frantic grocery hoarding, you may feel you must also take on the full-weight of your child’s education. All over the nation and beyond the USA, parents bemoan their inability to teach math, worry about their children falling behind, and throw up their hands at the idea of working a full-time job and somehow educating their kids. You may feel the same way. You may be thinking right now, "How on earth am I supposed to be my child’s teacher, on top of everything else?"
Take a VERY deep breath. Now, say this out loud:
“I am not my child’s teacher. I am their parent.”
You have not suddenly become a home-school teacher overnight. The responsibility of reading, writing, and mathematics still lies with their school. While teachers are working on ways to best meet CA state standards in this new, uncharted world of large-scale virtual learning, you can calm themselves. You do not need to run out and purchase a home-school curriculum. You do not need to watch YouTube videos on teaching 6th grade Common Core math. You do not need to cram every hour of your child’s day with educational advancement. Your primary focus should be where it always has been: on the well-being of your child.
Children thrive on routine and right now, all of that is gone. As a parent, you can provide a framework that keeps their brains active, as you likely already do during the upcoming spring break and summer. Academic achievement and testing benchmarks are a construct, constantly adjusted to fit educational philosophies. Don’t worry about them right now. Worry about supporting your child/ren as they process what is happening in our world.
The entire world is standing still. Your child is not falling behind. When school starts again on the other side of quarantine, in September or whenever, every teacher will remember, and take into account, that nearly every child on earth experienced the same learning hiatus. Students will still get into college; they’ll still learn long division and the difference between the executive and the legislative branch; they’ll still learn to read, write, and think, even if they do nothing with this time but binge Netflix and snuggle with you when your work is done.
The greater risk to our children, and ourselves, is the stress we are adding to all our lives by believing that parents have to take on the full weight of education. The lesson to be learned, is that what kids need goes far beyond classroom instructional time. A typical homeschool schedule for elementary school kids only has about two to three hours a day. The balance of each day is filled with exploration, reading, household tasks, and learning to manage boredom. Your child’s school schedule is much the same. Hours of their day are spent not on memorizing facts and learning new concepts, but on social interaction, games, and daily classroom tasks.
Once you have relieved yourself of the burden of educating your children, you can shift your focus to teaching them how to cope with the unexpected.
This is a time to lean in to your children, providing them with extra love and support. Spend the time you would have been commuting cooking together. Spend your lunch break eating as a family and read together afterward. Start game night traditions because after school sports and clubs are canceled. Agree to a family walk once a day, before work requires your online presence.
Your children are going to remember how they felt during the COVID-19 outbreak, not what they missed in math class.
Instead of fighting with your children about their schoolwork, focus on surviving and thriving as a family unit. This may mean shifting your kids’ schedules so that their time with you is on the weekend, and weekdays are full of TVs and tablets. That is OK. It may mean that you are happiest with an intricate schedule packed with all the resources schools, libraries, and publishers are providing. It may also mean you are wearing noise-canceling headphones, sitting on the floor of the main room, working on your laptop while the children run amok. These scenarios, and everything in between, should be considered perfect parenting.
If your children feel supported and loved, and if everyone is going to bed mostly happy, make yourself a tinfoil star and put it on your computer right now. (Or, if you hate crafts, eat an Oreo.) You are winning!
I can’t promise you that everything is going to be OK. But, I can promise you that if your child learns nothing during this pandemic but how to deal with the unexpected and how to care for themselves amid chaos, they will have learned more than any book could teach them.
THANK YOU for being the parent of a BLOB NATION Super Star!
The recent “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal is an extreme example, but this parenting tactic is more common than you may think. Are you guilty?
As a teacher, I used to look forward to September, despite the typical back to school nightmares that would visit me before classes started. I still felt there was something special about the start of a new academic year, such as meeting new students or contemplating the challenge of helping them learn.
While my summers involved curriculum revisions and creating new lesson plans, I knew many of my students were likely groaning as their summer came to an end. I was never bothered by this and believed that with time, they would love being back at school again.
After a month into the school year, I would be reminded of how learning isn’t just influenced by me, the classroom, the tools, or curriculum I had. While teachers are responsible for creating a productive learning environment, parents play a critical role in ensuring a child shows up at school ready to learn.
From a teacher’s perspective, there are many ways parents can contribute to a child’s success at school. While many of them are common sense, they are routinely eclipsed by more academic concerns and go undervalued. The bottom line is this – when home and school work together, the learning outcomes for kids are exponential.
1. Normalize and support the challenges that come with learning –
So much of learning involves being placed outside of the comfort of ‘what you know.’ Learning is about being stretched and pulled a little, drawn into discovery and inquiry, taking apart what you know and putting it back together again, and being changed by the whole process. But all of this may create some discomfort as one moves to a place that isn’t certain, is vulnerable, and new.
I used to tell my students that if a teacher cares about their learning then they should feel challenged by this teacher. It was the student’s duty not to take offense but to realize the gift in having someone believe they are capable of learning and stretching.
A parent can help a child embrace feelings of discomfort and normalize these emotions as part of the learning process. It is important not to always try and ‘rescue’ a child nor prevent the discomfort that is part of learning process, but convey that you believe they will get there eventually and are there to help. In order to grow, there is going to be discomfort. Faulting a teacher because learning is hard doesn’t support the child’s relationship with the teacher nor convey faith in a child to overcome the challenge that is before them. Remember not all children find learning easy.
There are also times when kids need adult support and interventions to help identify and overcome their learning challenges. This type of support is made all the better when there is a good working relationship between a teacher and a parent.
2. Help your child adapt –
There are a lot of things at school that won’t go a child’s way – like recess breaks that end too soon, being one of many students with different needs and wants, having to wait for others, as well as following someone else’s rules. School represents many futilities that are part of life and beyond one’s control. Some kids seem more adaptable than others and part of this rests on the support they have at home.
Grumpiness is often a signal that a child is up against some frustration around things that are not going their way. They may unleash their frustration on siblings and loved ones, making after school tantrums frequent. Helping them find some words for their experiences and guiding them to express what doesn’t work can reduce frustration and help them adapt. Tears may be part of the process too, and we may need to support them in surrendering to the things they cannot change with warmth and patience.
3. Keep your relationship with your kid(s) strong –
When kids have strong caring relationships with adults at home, they are less likely to arrive at school ‘hungry’ for attachment. When they are not preoccupied with getting their relational needs met through friends, they will be better able to focus, won’t seek unhealthy connections to their peers, and will be less vulnerable to rejection and wounding from other kids.
One of the greatest challenges in classrooms today stem from peer orientation and the dynamics that play out when kids solely come to school to be with their friends. Adults are often seen as secondary to their school day, lesson plans are an inconvenience, and they share the same values as their peer group instead of the school culture. When peers replace adults, kids lose out on learning. If parents can hold onto a strong relationship with their kids then it frees their child to have healthy peer relationships, and to follow and learn from the adults in a school environment.
4. Match-make a child to their teacher and school –
When kids see that their parents like their school and teacher, it can go a long way to helping them trust their adults at school. Parents need to take an active role and play matchmaker with the teacher by arranging for an introduction (if possible), speaking with warmth about the teacher, conveying trust in them, orienting them to the school culture and rules, and ensuring that the relationship with their teacher stays on track. Kids do best when adults take the lead in introducing them to the people that will take care of them. It provides both security and a sense of rest so that the focus can go towards learning.
5. Put limits on technology –
Kids can be drawn to technology to quell boredom or to connect with their friends, or distract themselves from the challenges they face (same with adults). Setting and maintaining healthy habits around technology ensures it won’t hijack the time that is needed for homework, play, or connecting with family members. While many families start out the school year with good intentions around the use of technology, these rules can start to slide when things get busy. Parents need to be caring and firm as they create boundaries and limits around the use of technology in the home.
Teachers and schools should also set rules around technology use that will help create safe and productive learning environments. The rules will be age dependent but it is helpful for parents to ask about these limits and to support them. Schools are increasingly having to deal with issues between students that have blown up over social media and impact the learning environment. The digital world has made the divide between home and school weaker, and as such, parental guidance and supervision is important to prevent problems from occurring.
6. Support the school schedule and routine –
Schools have set agendas, calendars they plan well in advance, curriculum that needs to be covered, and holidays to navigate around. When parents support a child adjusting to the school routine, it makes classrooms flow better with more focus allowed for learning. When kids repeatedly come in late, don’t have their things ready for school, don’t have support at home with projects or supplies, or take vacations during school time, it makes teaching and learning harder. Parents can help by drawing a child into healthy habits and routine that support getting to school rested, fed, and ready to learn.
7. Let them play –
Kids work at school even though many teachers try to make learning fun and engaging. With so much work, kids need to play and rest so as to balance their day and have space to integrate new learning. While they may be engaged in structured activities after school, they also need time away from these as well as stimulation that prevents expression and inquiry. While it may seem like unproductive time to adults, it is the rest they need so they are able to work again in school. When we push kids to work too much, it can create defenses against learning and upend our relationship. There is a time for work and a time for play. Parents need to help structure a child’s world so there are opportunities for both.
8. Put them in charge of homework where appropriate –
Battles over homework are hard on relationships and do little to foster a child’s internal motivation to care about their learning. If a child shows signs of being responsible, help them take the lead in making decisions about when and where homework will get done and what type of help they want from a parent. When a parent’s agenda is hidden (homework needs to be done), under choices that a put a child’s will at the forefront (where, when, and how it is done), then the child will feel less coerced and resistant to getting things done. The goal for parents is to help create routine, structure, and play a supporting role in getting homework done, but not to descend into battles for control which erode parental influence and a child’s desire to learn.
9. Communicate with teachers and preserve your relationship –
When parents and teachers work on having a good relationship, their children benefit. It is ideal to try and communicate with each other before problems get too big. I often wished my students or their parents came to me when issues were smaller because there was often more I could do to help, instead of blaming the teacher for what is happening at home. It is useful to keep in mind that both parent and teacher see a child in a different environment and listening to each other’s perspective can go a long way. When there are problems, trying to preserve goodwill and a relationship is critical and requires maturity on all parts.
(Example: Trying to change the way a teacher teaches your 'sensitive' child could create tensions. There are usually 30 students in a classroom and although a teacher tries to find a middle road, it may not work for the remaining 28 students.)
The most productive meetings I have been part of are where the adults try to make sense of a child instead of focusing on fault finding and blaming others.
10. Support a child with challenging peer interactions –
In school environments, it is next to impossible to prevent wounding that happens between kids. There are times when they are left out, unkind words may be said, and gossip hurts. When peer troubles are present, it is helpful for parents to draw out tears at home and help them find their words for what has happened. What is most important is for a child to see that an adult believes in them. Confide in a teacher when a child is struggling with other kids too, there are many things they can do in a classroom and with supervision on the playground (of course that teacher must be willing).
What every child needs in their backpack is a relationship at home to turn to. While teachers should create safe and bully free classrooms, they don’t and can’t see everything that happens from the playground or the classroom. The good news is when a parent has a strong relationship with their child, then that child is more resilient and less impacted by the immaturity of others.
When parents take care of their child’s need for relationship and support their emotional development, teachers can harness a child’s natural desire to learn and to overcome challenges. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and when parents and teachers join forces, we are in the best position to help our kids reach their learning potential.
Dr. Deborah MacNamara is on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute, the author of the best-selling book, Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one), and is the Director of the Kid’s Best, Bet Counseling and Family Resource Centre.
Tests/Exams alone can not fully assess a students wide range of abilities.
There are several good reasons to consider offering a variety of assessment methods, beyond the typical quiz/test/exam:
To develop these types of abilities, students need to engage in authentic learning assessment activities. Authentic assessments:
School performance increases when children learn outdoors.
A number of recent studies have documented increased school performance through outdoor education. Research has documented increased standardized test scores, enhanced attitude about school, improved in-school behavior, improved attendance and overall enhanced student achievement when students learn in and about nature. In addition, outdoor education effectively employs a greater range of children’s intelligences. Many researchers contribute the increase in performance to increased relevance and hands-on experience of learning outdoors.
cite: Outdoor Education – Research Summary