In the midst of this coronavirus crisis, I have seen some pretty amazing, Pinterest-worthy ideas for games and activities to entertain children during a lockdown. Mazes that zigzag through entire houses, art and science projects that would make any teacher proud, scavenger hunts that are intense, educational, and fun- I’ve seen it all at this point. I’ve seen some very impressed kids, many of whom are just as stimulated now as they were before this all began. But I’ve also seen evidence of some very exhausted mamas.
I’ve taken a slightly different approach to parenting during a pandemic. You might call it lazy parenting. Personally, I call it creative parenting. I’m spending a lot of my days sitting on my couch, working through all the books I own (Oh library, how I miss you.). I’ve finally updated my kids’ baby books and our family photo albums. I even painted my nails last week. All from the comfort of my couch. Where were my kids while I was doing all that, you wonder? They were right there with me.
I’ve taken this quarantine as an opportunity to teach my kids how to be bored. I remember learning how to be bored as a child, particularly during those dog days of summer. I think I went to camp once as a kid. Instead, I spent my school vacations playing, reading, and just lounging around. I daydreamed. I imagined. I played pretend with my friends. We didn’t do much of anything most days, but in my imagination, I was doing it all. I was riding horses through wide-open fields (riding bikes on our street), swimming with mermaids (swimming in our backyard pool), and jumping into fiery pits of lava (jumping off the swings). We did nothing and everything at the same time, and I felt gloriously alive.
Now I’m teaching my kids to do the same. A bored child is one who lacks imagination. I want my kids to be creative, to know how to give life to the things of their wildest imagining, so I’m letting my kids be bored. Sure, we go out for walks and do schoolwork, but most of my kids’ days are spent pretending. They act out TV shows, traipse through our backyard in search of treasure, and ride around our cul-de-sac on all sorts of adventures. They don’t need me to entertain them constantly. They are learning how to entertain themselves.
A bored child is an invitation to teach them creativity, to help them to broaden their imaginations, to allow them to give life to their wildest dreams. If you want to create amazing projects for your children, go for it. I applaud you for your own creativity. But if the idea of entertaining a child 24/7 sounds exhausting, I invite you to teach them a new lesson. Let them be bored. Let them see where boredom can lead. Let them know what boredom can create. If your child tells you that they’re bored, tell them to go play. If they complain that they don’t know what to do, tell them to do nothing and see where it leads them. A very wise person once said, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something” (Okay, yeah, it was Winnie the Pooh). So let your kids be bored. Let them do nothing and see where it leads. Boredom can be a wonderful teacher. But it can also be a dangerous playmate, so make sure you keep your eyes open at all times. I’ve known many a new hair cut to have been born in the name of boredom. So sit back and relax, open a new book, but think twice before taking that nap. Otherwise you might be learning a lesson of your own, compliments of your kid, boredom, and a handy pair of scissors.