Monday, April 23, 2012

Unstructured Creativity a.k.a. Boredom

Courtesy -
I have been interested lately in the research on boredom. It seems that our culture is a bit obsessed with eradicating this human condition. People seem to be occupied all the time these days. Smartphones and portable gaming devices have ensured that their owners are never without an entertainment option at their fingertips. As the former owner of a smartphone, I know firsthand how consuming it can be to have the world at your fingertips. This year my husband and I, due to various reasons, gave up our phones. It's been very interesting. No longer can I get lost in email while riding the Metro. I can't play angry birds or instantly have access to the internet if I am wondering about something. It so many ways it has been very freeing and I find myself observing the people around me more, sitting with my thoughts more, and being bored.

 I am a firm believer in the creative potential of boredom. Giving children unstructured time to explore their surroundings and even be bored often leads to the discovery of new interests. If children are given time to be bored and aren't permitted to resort to video games, TV, or internet time, they will pursue other options. I love the story of Caine's arcade that has been making the internet circles lately. This little boy was given lots of free time and he used his imagination to create something wonderful, a cardboard arcade! The video is heartwarming (there are two occurrences of inappropriate language) and shows the great potential of unstructured time and raw resources in the hands of a "bored" child.

Research has also affirmed the fact that boredom is very important for developing creativity and problem solving abilities. Being given time to just think and be helps a person to to develop a self-awareness, and consciousness of the things and people around him.

I am curious as to what you all think about boredom. Do you give your children time to be bored? Do you structure their time? What sorts of resources are available to your children during their play time? Growing up we were surrounded by books, so my default option when bored was to read. Other times by siblings and I played adventure games in the backyard that involved grand plots where we were usually orphans (a la the Boxcar Children) trying to survive on our own. Other play time included building cities of Legos, Playmobiles and wooden blocks. I remember feeling bored as a child but I knew that it was my own problem and I had to find a solution. It sure helped to have three siblings who were usually up for some sort of adventure. As we approach the summer, I would love to hear your ideas for keeping children occupied while allowing them the freedom to explore their own interests and time to just be. Also, what are some of your favorite summer reads? There were books that I read over and over through the long summer hours, books like Caddie Woodlawn, Calico Captive, and the aforementioned Boxcar Children series, the Ralph Moody books, and many others.

Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. 
And if you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below! 


  1. I wholeheartedly agree. When my children tell me they are bored, my response is, "Great! That's perfect! You are about to discover something fun!" If they grumble in reply, I offer to cure their boredom with a chore suggestion. As you can imagine, they always chose to remain bored until they come up with an idea on their own, which doesn't take long. If they chose to do nothing, I'm okay with that, too. I encourage them to be okay with that because, well, we all need to just be still sometimes. I think it's healthy for our minds and emotions.