Are We Afraid Of Our Kids Being Bored

Are We Afraid To Let Our Kids Be Bored?

Why are we so afraid of letting our kids get bored?

This is the question a friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago, a question her father had asked of her. It got me thinking about the topic of keeping our children occupied and how we as parents seem to have become consumed with avoiding any situation where our kids might actually be bored.

Why is that?Let’s Reminisce

When I think about my childhood, back in the dark ages, I think about things that used to be my reality. Here’s what I remember growing up as a child in Zimbabwe:

  • School finished at 13.00, but TV only came on at 16.00. So what did we do during the afternoon?
  • Homework? Well, let’s be honest, homework didn’t take ALL afternoon, even if it felt like it. So what did we do?
  • We did have afternoon activities at school, like tennis, hockey or swimming, but that didn’t take all afternoon and it certainly wasn’t every day. So what did we do?
  • Go and play outside! My mom’s voice clearly ringing in my ears, even now! What did we do outside?
  • I remember riding bikes in the yard, down the dirt road, with the dog chasing us.
  • I remember building forts behind the fir trees on the ‘dark side’ of the garden.
  • I remember climbing trees. I remember playing Barbies in the tree!
  • I remember cutting into the fallen mangoes with a real knife, and guess what – I still have all my fingers.
  • I remember making mud pies and then my mom making us bath in the laundry sink outside the kitchen door so we wouldn’t trapse mud all through the house!
  • I remember reading books! Books, after books, after books! The Famous Five; anything by Enid Blyton; the Faraway Tree series!

What don’t I remember? I don’t remember ever being bored.

Travelling Back Then!

When we went on road trips to visit family two hours away, or trips to South Africa on holiday, I remember reading books in the car whilst listening to cassette tapes on my walkman. We would rewind the tape to play the same song over and over again until the tape literally stretched. I remember staring out the window, a lot.


Reality Check

This is not a post about ‘the good old days’ because life is different now for our kids than it was 25 years ago (eek!).

We live in town. My girls don’t ride their bikes in the streets, they don’t even ride their bikes around our high security complex. We also don’t really want them making mud pies in our perfectly designed and landscaped garden to be honest.

I also don’t want them watching TV all day, or YouTube videos of kids unboxing toys. I’m a huge fan of the internet, and I do believe that the girls have widened their vocabulary and been exposed to so many exciting and positive things about the big wide world by watching TV and being exposed to the internet, but everything in moderation!! A post for another day, perhaps!

When we go on road trips, which we do a lot, I used to make sure that the girls each had a backpack with toys, colouring books and crayons. They also have a tablet each which I would load with games and music to keep them entertained. This was about a year ago. I even had a whole Pinterest Board about ‘how to keep kids busy in the car’. I’m not even going to start on all the snacks and food and sweets and drinks that I would pack to keep them busy too – not to keep them full, to keep them busy!

I’ve Had Enough

When we went on our road trip this year between Christmas and New Year, I did something different. I focused on us as a family!

Whilst I did charge their tablets, etc. and I did pack their colouring books, I did not pack their extensive toy collection. They were allowed to choose two small toys each, and that was it!

I also did not pack endless snacks and treats, I packed some, but I was very selective because I am also fed up of the inside of my car looking like a tip and so the food I packed was carefully selected NOT to destroy the inside of my car – so no chocolates, nothing that melts, no crumbly biscuits. Juice bottles had those pop close lids, and no sticky fruit!

After a few hours, the batteries on their tablets went flat, then the snack supply ran low, and the crayons became scattered on the floor. I decided it was tough; I wasn’t going to stop the car to look for the red crayon and I wasn’t going to unplug my phone to charge their ipads. Not this time.

What Happened.

Well, let me tell you! It was shocking! They looked out the window!!!


Yup … They. Looked. Out. The. Window.

They didn’t cry, or whine, or complain that they were bored. None of that. It was awesome.

Let Me Tell You Something Else!

The December school holidays were quite long, about six or seven weeks, as is normal here in South Africa.

For the first few weeks I let the kids just chill and watch TV whenever they wanted really. I strictly controlled the internet usage because that is what causes the most about of sibling fights, but I was pretty free and easy with the TV time. (#BadMom – yup!)


I consciously made the decision that I was also not going to take them out to play at various restaurant playground areas, and I wasn’t about to take them to have milkshakes and ice-creams every day. That’s just not necessary, and quite frankly a waste of money.

After the novelty of having almost unlimited TV, I noticed a shift in their behaviour. It’s almost like I was watching a science experiment unfold before my eyes. They started playing in their room together. They spent hours colouring in. I would let them choose two or three colouring in pictures from the internet, and then they would colour in those pictures.

And I left them!

When my friend and I were discussing the topic of ‘are we as parents afraid of our children being bored’, I confided to her that for the past two or three Sundays I had consciously neglected my children in favour of spending time with my husband. It was great!

Fair enough, my girls are old enough now. I still make sure I watch them swim. I still feed them and care for them. But I chose to spend the time working alongside my husband in the garden, or watching TV with him, or cooking together, instead of running around after the girls all day.

It was good for us and it was good for them.

Imagination and Creativity!

I do believe that if we continuously turn ourselves inside out to control their every waking moment in an attempt to avoid them getting bored, that they will never learn how to be creative or imaginative.

Listening to my girls play with each other, the little make-believe games they come up with, and even the scary mommy-daddy role playing (another post for another day – not!) they do is excatly what I hope they remember from their childhood!

Yes, having two girls close together has been damn hard some days (read years), but when they play together I know that it’s been worth it. When they think back to their childhood they might remember the fights, but they will definitely remember the time they spent playing together.


When you google “Bored Kids” google throws up post after post of ways to keep your kids busy. Is that really necessary?

Not once have they come to me in the last couple of months and said, “Mom, we’re bored.”.

Not once.

They have always found something that they want to do, or they have come and asked me specifically to do something. “Mom, can we do a craft?” or, “Mom, can we swim?”.

I’m definitely loving the approach I’ve taken. Let me know if you decide to give it a try?

Are you brave enough to let your kids be bored?

What’s the worst that could happen?

One Messy Mama

28 thoughts on “Are We Afraid To Let Our Kids Be Bored?”

  1. If I had a dollar for every time I heard…’I’m bored’. My kids drive me bonkers…and I am not the kind of mom that does arts and crafts, to ensure they’re kept busy. The power went out a few weeks ago. It was like a death sentence. I’m obviously doing something wrong…. 🙁

    Unless I tell them: Go read a book! Go colour in a picture! They cannot seem to figure that out for themselves. The problem is they come from school after 4pm and then it’s homework, so I let them do whatever until bedtime, because they’ve had a long day. They would honestly NEVER get bored of their tablets and You Tube.

    And of course they cannot make mud pies….because dirt, sand… meanwhile I remember straight after church, my brand new lacey dress..I sat in the rain making mud pies. We were NEVER bored as kids. I am sure my mom would have smacked me if I ever told her I was bored. ha ha.

    I’m going to see if I can find something that works to help my kids get their brains working by themselves.

  2. YES!!!
    I can’t applaud this enough. I also can’t wait until Elia is old enough to play with Stevie, and they can fight over who’s made the best sandcastle/mud pie or try to pick the biggest, reddest tomato from the vine. Growing up with two sisters, squabbling is part of it – but so is having constant playmates! What boredom?

  3. My kids love playing in their rooms together all by themselves. They are also old enough to keep themselves busy…I will only check in with them every now and again.

  4. We cancelled DSTV and our data was drained recently and there was no option for TV or devices and it was awesome. My girls played and played and played and they weren’t even interested in doing an activity or two with me. What I did get in return was listening to them play mom and dad and hearing my words and parenting out of their mouths…. well that’s for a blog post for sure.

  5. Even with my girls being 2.5 now, I’m noticing more and more they are getting into a board phase sometimes. At this age, it’s much more physical to keep them entertained. LOL. I love that you limit the TV and Internet, my girls would watch all day long, if I let them. They have discovered the unwrapping toys videos – YIKES! I love them as they are attention keeping, but at the same time, the toy isle at the store is seriously scary to me now! HA! Thanks for sharing! #Blogstravaganza

  6. going back to my childhood, we would try to anticipate the next landmark on any familiar road. Approaching Harare coming over the hill where Haroes Acre now is we had a family friend ( Aunty Isa) who lived in one of the first visible houses across the vlei. One of us would scream ” I can see Aunty Isa’s house” Even today 50 years later I often sub conciously look for the house. Also going down the escarpment towards Kariba it was a challenge to see who would see the water first.

  7. I have never had an issue with letting my daughter be bored and now, at 12, she is able to entertain herself and keep occupied. She doesn’t need me to find things for her to do and her imagination is amazing #blogstravaganza

  8. This is so true. I am a culprit of filling my kids spare time with activities and clubs and then when it comes to holiday time they had no idea how to entertain themselves. They have got better as they get older though! #blogstravaganza

  9. It’s so important to let your children be ‘bored’, because then they won’t be bored! They make up their own adventures, use their imaginations and think about the world around them. A lot has changed since I was 5 or 6 but I believe that having the time and space to play pretend, have fun and explore even if that’s sometimes by observing things through the car window is really positive. #Blogstravaganza

  10. Yes, I 900% agree and loved reading this. I actually love it when my kids tell me they are bored because then I give them a job to do around the house. Unfortunately my kids are smart so they’ve stopped saying that now. Boredom is so necessary for creative development, if you are not stuck with our own head and nothing else for long enough, you are forced into invention to occupy yourself. ‘They’ say that our kids are not learning to entertain themselves anymore as they are so used to BEING entertained. We need to prove ‘them’ wrong. #blogrstavaganza

  11. I love this post. I believe its important for kids to be bored so they can figure out what to get up to. What i find with my daughter is that if do leave her be, she can entertain herself. i think as adults we ‘surround’ our kids with activities and outings, and sometimes it gets too much.

    I love having time for ‘nothingness’ on the weekend so that we can just browse and laze about the house and see what strikes our fancy

  12. This is such a great post and when we go on long car journeys with the Grandkids they do take their tablets and they’re allowed to choose the music in the car but we also spend quite a lot of time playing “I Spy” which they love. When GD 3 was too little to use a letter for his turn he was allowed to use a colour. We’ve had hours of fun in the car doing this and lots of laughs 🙂

  13. So glad I found this post on #GlobalBlogging and I’m happy to share.
    We ourselves have grown a terrible discomfort at boredom (just find ONE person who can wait without a smartphone in hand) and we are passing it to our kids. We need so be very aware as parents and there’s a chance we’ll also find our own creativity back.

  14. I refused all screen time this afternoon so the children were forced to entertain themselves through drawing and playing together. We were going to go t the park but there was some naughty behaviour over lunch so that was cancelled 🙁 Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

  15. I can relate to this post. I grew up in Zim too and the childhood we had was in my opinion the best. Times have really changed. Being able to play in the neighborhood all day without your parents worrying about you was the best thing for our playtime. Being given freedom without our parents hovering over us was such a treat. I really think it added to who I am today.

    With my first born I really had anxiety at the thought of her being alone and bored. I also had guilt coz she was the only child. As a result she really expects to have all my time and she involves me a lot in her playtime. I kind of let go when I fell pregnant with baby no 2 and amazingly I discovered she could play alone and keep herself entertained for a while. And she zones out in front of the TV but she actually can’t watch it all day. She gets over it and finds things to do.

    The internet and society has changed and affected our parenting styles. Thanks for this.

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