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Let them be Bored

Children being bored

How many times do you hear the phrase 'I'm bored'? How do you respond?
It can make me feel quite defensive at times. I'm rushing around trying to tick many boxes and the added remarks/moans of 'I'm bored' can be a little too much to take. Sometimes I  feel as though my children being bored means I'm not doing enough for them. Guilt creeps in quickly. 

We recently highlighted the Importance of Free Play. We were so keen on doing the Petits Filous Let them be Bored Challenge following the launch of their recent campaign - Play Free and today I want to share with you how we got on. 

I have a family of 3 children. All very different. Different ways of thinking and attitudes but how would they get on when left to self select? Where would their preferences and imaginations take them and how was this beneficial to their development? Would I, as a parent, find it easy and what would I take away from it?

Children being bored

I wasn't suprized that Neve took to drawing several times over the Boredom challenge. I was however suprized to see her drawing and labelling the solar system.
This bit of kit we've had since she was 12 months old and it comes out often. I like that its mess free and something that keeps the children nice and calm!

Children being bored

I was in Laundry mode. Washed, dried and folded. I was carrying up the never ending piles when I walked passed Neve content and quiet in her bedroom. 
Painting is an activity she really enjoys doing. I have tried to make this as accessible to her as possible, and so far so good. 
I had honestly dreaded allowing her the freedom to do this independently initially. I pictured the walls, wardrobes and floors to be covered with paint! But she has proved me wrong.

I observed her colour mixing, painting her hands and squelching the paint between her fingers. She stamped her prints down onto the paper before painting her hands again! 

I did have a little negative thought creep in that I would have a huge mess to clean up... but she washed her hands by her self and tidied up well. Apart from a small smudge of orange paint on my bathroom towel - she had done and dusted the activity on all her own! 

Children being bored

The twins are forever crawling under the table. It's one of their favourite past times. Today to make things a little different I draped blankets over the table. 

The giggles that followed was music to my ears. Reuben grabbed a story, dived back under the table and sat and read the book to himself. Ethan joined him and they happily sat beside one another before diving back through the draped blankets! They sat babbling to one another. Smiling and giggling together. Just that tiny change to their usual antics appeared to make it even more fun for them!

Children being bored

Pinto Beans in a tray with various containers and new items to explore. This went down a treat. There was lots of filling and emptying containers. Shutting and closing lids. Stirring and making noises. 

They were occupied for around 40 minutes doing this! I felt free! I made a cup of tea and drank it warm and I even managed to dunk two biscuits without the rustling of the papers disturbing them! They were completely absorbed. I heard beans pinging down onto the floor but 2 minutes of tidy up time was worth the 40 minutes play they had. They are usually so fleeting with their activities. This was definitely a record for us.

I even managed to wipe the kitchen down and just enjoy a few moments of calm. 

Children being bored

We were very lucky to have some snow! We ventured out. Our coats almost bursting from the numerous layers underneath. Our wellies crunching through the snow. Neve, 4 years old bent down to swish her hands around in the snow.

I wanted to warn her that she would make her gloves wet and her fingers would get cold. I knew she had only got the one pair of gloves and soaking wet they'd be of no use to her.  But I resisted. I only knew this from personal experience. Would it really matter if they got wet?
The swishing turned into a full blown snow ball fight! We were all laughing together. I reflected on the moments on the way home and thought if I had told her to not swish around in the snow like she did we wouldn't have made the memories we did today. 

Children being bored

Each season/celebration I pop together handfuls of items to create a Tinker Tray. I leave the tray in Neves bedroom for her to access as she wishes. During our boredom challenge she wanted to play with it downstairs. I helped her carry it down and went about doing the dishes. 
Concentrating, she built towers, made patterns and used chalk pens to bring her play to life. I heard her acting out being her teacher from school too! She lined materials up, counted them out and used the peg dolls for small world play. 

Children being bored

Out on a walk, Neve found a great big stick. She insisted to walk with it most of the way because she had seen other walkers holding sticks as they walked. 
It made me have a chuckle to myself that she had taken note of this observation from a few weeks prior.

We had had lots of rain so it was perfect for getting the wellies covered in mud!

Children being bored

This was a moment that really took me back! I remember having a dolls house like this as a little girl. I had a flash back from my own childhood and how I would sit and play in the living room at home. Completely lost in my own imagination. It was a surreal moment as Neve sat there doing the exact same thing dressed up as Goldilocks. 
Play is timeless. Generations before grew up playing and learning in many of the same ways our children do today.

We were very lucky to be able to have a Skype call with Anita Cleare who is a parenting expert, coach and public speaker about the play that took place during the Boredom challenge. We discussed the learning that was taking place during each of the captured play sessions above - 
  • Building Relationships / Social Skills
  • Experimenting 
  • Developing Fine/Gross Motor Movements and spacial awareness
  • Gaining Understanding
  • Building Language
  • Exploring and making sense of the world around us
  • Confidence / Self Esteem
Plus much more. Free play these last two weeks really did bring lots of value to them. 

As a parent its made me realise that sometimes there is much more to be gained from saying yes, and in some situations saying nothing and allowing them the chance to discover things themselves. Quite often it's very tempting to say no or to go on and reveal all. I will work on this going forward. 

As always it has been an absolute joy to observe my children playing. Each and every moment of our children's day they take so much in! They have so much to learn everywhere we go! Each time they play and interact, learning is taking place. Whether they are learning new skills or building existing skills play is vital for happy, healthy successful minds. 

It's made me realise that children being bored isn't always a bad thing. It's made me realise that encouraging children to play by themselves is not only good for them but for me too. It means I can take a few moments to sip a hot cup of tea, get the tea cooked or finish little jobs that need doing.

It's made me see I need to stop being so hard on myself, because while they are busy playing they are learning much more than we often realise. 
Children's lives are busy. They are structured, often with tight routines. When structure and routine are taken away sometimes they can feel thrown by the concept of 'you're free to do as you please'. With a little encouragement, they should be more than happy to engage in their own activities of free choice. We've tried it this last couple of weeks and found it to be very successful!

Children being bored

Play keeps minds and bodies active and engaged. In addition to this we must also make sure our children enjoy a balanced diet. Calcium is essential because it gives strength to bones and teeth. Since our bodies can't make calcium, it is important that children get enough in their diet. An easy way to meet kids’ calcium needs is by ensuring they get 3 portions of dairy a day. 

For example, a glass of milk, a piece of cheddar-type cheese and 1 small pot of Petits Filous fromage frais provides children with their daily calcium needs
I never go anywhere without Petit Filous yoghurt for the children. Not only are they quiet possibly their favourite thing to eat, it helps with their calcium levels and also gives me 10 minutes peace while they are busy enjoying their snack. 

I’m working with Petits Filous and BritMums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign
about the importance of free play.

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  1. Fab post - I’m bored is not a word allowed in this house! But it is something that I hear a lot from other mums and kids and parents seem to want to fill those bored moments as soon as they can. This is such a great campaifn

  2. I love that they all chose totally different things

  3. Anonymous14/2/18 12:04

    Love this post - We love Free play in our house - cannot have enough of it!

  4. Boredom? Absolutely! That’s when the imagination and creativity kick in. 😀

  5. That tinker tray!!! Love! That is our fave boredom buster. Well, mine anyway ... the kids sometimes need a bit of time to get over their boredom meltdown. I think that is the hardest part as a parent, being comfortable with the whining until they settle into an activity. It's all too easy to quickly turn on the telly anyway because you had enough to deal with that day already.

  6. Ahh I love that this went well for you guys! The orange paint made me shudder a little but I think we need to do more of that, just stepping back and realising that the kids will always clean!

  7. I love your description of how you stopped yourself from intervening, and things worked out all the better for it. Gorgeous pic of the squelchy paint hands, too. It looks like fun and I want to try it myself!

  8. I love that you had the chance to get a cup of tea too :) It's so much easier to do the parenting stuff when you don't feel like you have to do all the things, all the time - a massive benefit of free play for parents too!

  9. Im always torn when the kids say theyre bored. This has really helped. Shared with my sister too who loved it!

  10. Yes, I'm a huge believer in this motto. I'm amazed at how their creativity grows in the midst of this.

  11. What an amazing variety of play and letting them paint alone makes me so nervous!

  12. This is a fantastic campaign! Free play is so important for children and as you say - the hardest bit as parents is actually taking a step back. I love watching my kids playing in nature, when a stick becomes a wand, or a log becomes a horse. It makes you realise that they don't really need toys very much either! x

  13. Such a great post and sounds like you got up to some great fun and getting creative. We also did the challenge and really enjoyed it - was great to see their imaginations come out

    Laura x

  14. This is wonderful - we saw so many positives on this campaign too x

  15. This is a wonderful post Amy! My son took to drawing a lot as well. Love the tinker tray!x

  16. We learnt so much through this campaign. We have always been such big advocates of free play, but by taking part I had so many new ideas now. Thanks for adding to my list - love the paint picture! x


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