The Benefits of Boredom: Why Kids Need Unstructured Time by @EricaHornthal


Are you worried your child will be bored this summer? Do you feel like s/he has to be busy and engaged in social activities all the time otherwise they get into trouble or display negative behaviors? Do you dread the words, “I’m bored!”?

Here are 3 reasons why being bored might actually prove to be beneficial for your child:

Allows for Exploration of Their World

Unscheduled time allows children to tune into their inner world as well as the world around them. It is extremely important for children to be with and learn to cope with their own emotions and thoughts especially while they are in an environment where they can ask questions about the things that they feel.

In my private practice I often hear, “if I don’t put my child in activities she gets very anxious.” I’m not suggesting that we expose our children to excessive or unnecessary anxiety. What I am suggesting is that if children are not taught to avoid anxiety, because then they never learn how to cope with it later in life. Tuning into their environment can also teach children empathy, safe boundaries, connection, and increase emotional intelligence.

Awakens Passions and Interests

Free time allows children to discover what they are truly interested in and passionate about. Consequently it allows them to figure out what they are not interested in. Allowing our children to find what excites them, leads to satisfaction and increased self esteem. It also leads to autonomy and independence, which is something we strive to teach our children as this enables them to be productive members of society. 

Increased Creativity

Having the freedom to explore their own imaginations allows our children’s creativity to awaken and thrive. Instead of turning to a computer screen or tablet, your child can create his own imaginary world or game that encourages large motor skills which enhances development. Creativity allows our children to become inventors and problem solvers.

Parent educator and author, Nancy H. Blakey put it best. “It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves….if we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.” Let’s give our children the freedom to explore, create, and play in their worlds this summer. Remember, that boredom can also be a sign that our children just need some positive attention and love. Engage with your child and try to figure out why the boredom exists in the first place.   Join your child in a game or imaginary play and not only will they be engaged, but your connection will become stronger. 


About Author

Erica Hornthal, CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy, is a licensed clinical professional counselor and board certified dance therapist. She received her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago and her BS in psychology from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Erica supports individuals’ growth and change by encouraging them to resource their own body-mind connection to express their inner desires, wants, and needs. Erica’s work has been highlighted in Social Work Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, as well as on Fox, CBS, WCIU and WGN.

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