Children Need Time to be Bored

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"Children need time to be bored" by Melanie Jean Juneau (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com, CC0/PD

Childhood should be a time to play with freedom and joy, without fear. Children need unstructured time for free play and they even need time to be bored because boredom is the birthplace of creativity. It is all too easy to fill every moment with the noise and distraction of television and the internet. While these activities might keep our kids quiet, it does not help them learn how to discover the world around them and develop their own unique talents.

For centuries, children around the world lay on the grass to watch an ant or stare up at the clouds. This is not a waste of time when we consider the fact that God also needs space and time and silence to speak into our children’s lives. If we keep them in a constant cycle of enriching activities so they will snatch a place in the best preschool and the best university, will they have learned how to nurture their spirits with listening prayer?

The Rise of Fear-Based Parenting

When my oldest children started school in the mid- to late-1980s, they played marbles, bounced tennis balls off the school wall, and could bring real baseballs and basketballs to school. In short, they played like children have played for generations. By the time they were in grade eight, the principals had banned marbles and real balls from the schoolyard. Why? They were too dangerous!

My oldest daughter drew a picture entitled “Recess at St. Mike’s” that shows a girl standing frozen in place, with a ball and chain around her ankle. Quite revealing, isn’t it?

When I was a child, we hopped on bikes without helmets, only wore sunscreen at the beach, and ate peanut-butter sandwiches. I understand that the world has changed, but along with new, necessary safety measures this generation has put into place, society has burdened children with fear.

Childhood is a time to play in freedom and joy, freedom to lose themselves in the sheer joy of the present moment, without nagging regret about the past or fear of the future. My family was and is fortunate to live in the country, where my children roamed safely, caught frogs, built forts, explored a creek, and created wonderful imaginative games.

One example stands out in my mind. I had gathered everyone for dinner, but we were waiting for Anthony. Someone spotted him out the window and called the rest of us over to see him. There was Anthony on the platform of our large wooden play structure, wearing his usual uniform consisting of a black cape, black barn boots, and grey felt hat, engaged in a fierce sword fight with an imaginary enemy. Suddenly he clutched his chest and staggered over to lean on the railing. Then rallying his draining energy and stamina, he suddenly rose up and with a courageous flourish thrust his sword into his evil opponent and collapsed in exhaustion and agony.

We were all delighted with his imaginary drama.

Children need free, unstructured time to let their imaginations fly and God needs time and space to whisper to their hearts.


Copyright 2019 Melanie Jean Juneau

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About Author

Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, the Editor in Chief at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.

3 Comments

  1. Good article, although I’m not sure what the reminiscence of eating peanutbutter sandwiches has to do with today’s fear-based parenting? Kids today eat peanutbutter sandwiches. The only ones who don’t are those with peanut allergies, and for these kids, avoiding peanutbutter has nothing to do with fear-based parenting. Anaphylaxis is a valid reason to avoid an ingredient, and people who do so should not be mocked in articles, particularly on a Catholic website.

    • Melanie Jean Juneau on

      Good point- I did not intend to mock children with serious peanut allergies. I simply see young parents worried about so many more health and security threats to their children than I did when I parented my older children. I saw the rise of fear-based parenting as I raise my youngest three.

      Bike helmets, seat belts, sunscreen, sunhats, protective swimsuits, supervised outdoor play, a ban on peanut butter in school, etc. are necessary in our modern society but we must try not to instill fear in our children.

      • True, and I freely admit that I’m guilty of this myself. My son has pretty much outgrown his dairy allergy, is in the process of outgrowing his egg allergy, and his nut levels have come way down so it’s likely he will outgrow those in a few years as well. For safety’s sake I have had to remind myself and him that we can’t get too careless about his nut allergies just because he’s starting to outgrow other allergies, as there is still potential for a dangerous reaction. Consequently, he has become somewhat paranoid about nuts, and I know I’m partly to blame for that. But I can’t be with him every minute, so I had to be sure he knew to take them seriously. (His school does not ban peanutbutter. There are some rooms that are nut-free, and there is a nut-free table in the cafeteria, but nuts are not banned from the entire building.)

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