“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”
- Bertrand Russell
Now that August is upon us, many parents are dealing with complaints of boredom from their kids. Camps are coming to an end, and for those who have had a good old fashioned summer at home, the novelty is losing its charm. In the past week alone, I have spoken with many parents who are frantically searching for "after-camps," sports skills clinics, discount amusement park passes, and last minute getaways just to fill their child's schedule for the remainder of the summer. These same parents are also looking ahead to the fast approaching school year and desperately trying to sign their kids up for every sport, club. and extracurricular activity on the list. But what if less is more when it comes to activities and scheduling?
Interestingly, these same parents are longing for their children to learn how to think for themselves, how to unplug and rely less on technology; how to connect with their imagination and creativity; and to connect with their inner spirits. Perhaps these are lessons that are best learned outside of formal activities?
It is actually in the seemingly empty moments that a child must actively engage their mind and hearts in order to make a choice about what to do. It gives them an opportunity to take control of their time and make healthy decisions regarding how to spend that time. In short, building quiet time into your child's schedule (and your own!) is vital to their development and success in life,
Here are some tips for building in unstructured quiet time into your child's (and your own!) life:
Schedule unscheduled time: Build in a designated period of time into your child's schedule. In general, a 25- 60-minute period of time is ideal, but the specific duration and frequency of the time will depend on your child's age and developmental level. Try to make this the same time each day so it becomes part of your child’s routine. Perhaps right after breakfast? Perhaps right before bed?
Offer some guidance: Explain to your child that this quiet time is an opportunity for them to completely take charge of their time. This is a time for them to do what they want, without screens of any kind. Perhaps they can go for a walk, do an art project, read, listen to music, write a letter to a friend, write in a journal, meditate, or pray? The choice is theirs. Quite empowering!
Separate Siblings: To ensure that each child has their own time to connect with their inner selves, it is important to make sure that each child has his or her own space and that each child respects the other’s space.
Toddler time: Children as young as three can enjoy small amounts of quiet time, too! So as to avoid them completely destroying your house, set up a small confined area with a few carefully chosen toys around such as blocks, or picture books, or containers. Of course, quietly check on them every few minutes. This is a nice opportunity for your toddler to practice healthy separation, begin to learn about solitary play, begin to exercise their creativity, and imagination, and an opportunity for you to sneak in another load of laundry, or better yet—pee without a tag-along!
Quiet time is critical for your child’s authentic self to emerge. Incorporating unstructured downtime into their schedule will allow your child to learn that being is just as important as doing. More importantly, they learn to feel comfortable and content just as they are in that very moment, without needing to be anywhere else or to do anything else. They begin to understand that life isn’t always about striving and reaching for the next best thing.
If we as parents can get past the shrilling sound of those dreadful “I’m bored” whines, we will see “boredom” as a tremendous opportunity for growth. Resist the urge to fill every moment of your child's time. Let him figure out how to entertain himself. Let her discover the beauty that exists all around her in the most ordinary of moments. Let him learn how to savor the moments of silence so he can hear his heart's true desires. All of this will pave the way for a child capable of self-direction, self-regulation, and self-love--skills that will certainly prepare him to handle all of life's challenges with ease and grace.