In praise of boredom

We tend to fear boredom, not liking it, wanting to to find something to do. Modernity has give us a nearly infallible boredom vanquisher in the form of a smartphone. Thanks to downloaded games and music, a phone can entertain anywhere, anytime, so long as it is charged. Not only that, so long as there is a signal, it also brings the tantalizing reality of being able to interact with any number of friends just about anywhere. As a result, we never need to suffer the frustration of having nothing to do.

In the 20th century, a commonly heard lament of children was, “I don’t have anything to do.” Remember? Today, it’s a phrase less heard, because children can easily engage in some sort of technologically supported amusement: streaming videos or music, playing games, texting or chatting. Sounds good. But is it?

Boredom is a great catalyst for creativity and discovery. Boredom inspired children to invent games, to get outside and play, or see if friends were available to play. It led children to build forts and houses out of whatever could be found, or to pull construction sets or puzzles off shelves, or to draw or sculpt or even write stories. Boredom leads people, adults and children both, to discover what they are capable of doing and to innovate. It is, perhaps oddly, a boost to intellectual and social growth.

You may want to allow your child to experience a little boredom. For his or her own good.

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