Are We Afraid To Let Our Kids Be Bored?

Why are we so afraid to let our kids be 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?
  • I remember riding bikes in the yard, down the dirt road, with the dog chasing us.
  • Homework? Well, let’s be honest, homework didn’t take ALL afternoon, even if it felt like it. So what did we do?
  • I remember building forts behind the fir trees on the ‘dark side’ of the garden.
  • 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?
  • I remember reading books! Books, after books, after books! The Famous Five; anything by Enid Blyton; the Faraway Tree series!
  • I remember climbing trees. I remember playing Barbies up in the tree!
  • Go and play outside! My mom’s voice clearly ringing in my ears, even now! What did we do outside?
  • 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!

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 to it!

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 exactly 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?

Let our kids be bored

3 Little Buttons


  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. This is such a brilliant post Carls, it hits the nail on the head!! I’m with you – what’s the worst that could happen? X

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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 🙂

  14. Yes to this! I deliberately avoid over-entertaining my two, as I just don’t think it’s necessary! Fab post, thanks so much for linking up to #HappyNewMum

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. I don’t mind our kids being bored… I find thats when their problem solving skills, social skills and imagination all swing into action. #DreamTeam

  19. I love this post. My little boy is only 11 months, but I’ll be remembering his advice as he grows up. I also LOVED the faraway tree books when I was a child! Completely forgotten them until I read this! Thanks for a great blog. #DreamTeam x

    1. Author

      My girls were just gifted with one of the excerpt faraway tree stories this weekend. We’ve already finished it! I can’t wait to read the whole series to thtem!

  20. Hi it’s me back again with the #DreamTeam linky 🙂 My girls are able to find things to amuse themselves with but my son struggles with boredom so much he becomes a real pain the in A. As soon as I say switch off that screen and do something else he magically turns into a bluebottle fly and buzzes around my head trying to torment me into relenting. I have to invest in an enormous fly swatter, but I can’t find one in Ireland. Perhaps you can find one in SA or Zim before you leave and post it to me?

  21. I hate how so many children are so over-scheduled these days. I swear not letting them just be and if that includes boredom fine is contributing to huge mental health issues for our kids. Leave them be and watch their passions and imaginations emerge. #DreamTeam

  22. Hi, I think it’s all about a balancing act. It can be good for kids to be bored as it allows their imagination to be stimulated #dreamteam

  23. Oh I love this post! My daughter is still a bit too young at 3 to be left to entertain herself for ages but I do sometimes think that the ‘parent guilt’ makes me force trips and activities on her all the time. I may start to relax a little bit as she gets older, see where it takes us 🙂 #DreamTeam

  24. Learning to make your own entertainment and being comfortable in your own company are valuable life skills 🙂

  25. I love that you did this….this is exactly what we had as kids. We had endless road trips without dvds or tablets or a constant stream of snacks. But like you I hate the posts which say things in the old days were better…they were different but I love nowadays too. Yes the internet is awesome but yeah, it doesn’t need to be awesome for the kids JUST yet! We are big believers in letting kids “play” and make their own games. Also, I have a close friend who was born in Harare, moved to SA (Port Elizabeth) then OZ via UK! 😀 #dreamteam

    1. Author

      Oh wow … small world. I’m moving back to the UK at the end of June. I kinda feel like I’m going in circles. The life of an engineers wife!

  26. Yes I definately agree with all of this! I think kids can be too reliant on parents or gadgets entertaining them. Just as you observed, kids actually play with their toys when there’s no tv etc. They learn to entertain themselves. Sometimes they need a rest from going out as well. I know I certainly do! Great post and lovely read.

  27. I’ve never been bored a day in my life, not even as a child. If my mother heard anyone’s child saying “I’m bored,” she said, “Don’t be bored. Bored people are boring!” I’m so happy you discovered your children can amuse themselves. I’m convinced all children can amuse themselves. The ones who seem to *not* be able to are only that way because they’ve had someone constantly amusing them. Left to their own devices, they will learn soon enough how to be self-reliant. Great post! Pinning.

    1. Author

      I’m kinda done with the ‘mom guilt’ of feeling like I have to entertain my girls all the time too. Why? It’s really not necessary!

  28. Great topic.. Having everything instantaneously has removed imagination from our kids but yhry can get it back very quickly.

  29. great post. I was thinking recently about the fact that I don’t hear I am bored very much from my kids and I have reckon it is a) because they have more toys than Hamleys b) because there are four of them so if one of them is playing something dull there are three others who may have hit the play jackpot and c) because being from a large family they have learnt to be a little bit patient. They have to wait sometimes and I think this enables them to occupy themselves a bit. I am not sure I would be brave enough to risk on a long car journey though. I take my hat off to you for that one #dreamteam

  30. I am so with you on this.I have recently come to the same conclusion and watched almost the same results.A large part of it is the laying down of boundaries too I think.If they are forced to look to themselves it open’s up a whole new playground…well so far so good…..However mine are close together too and do still want to kill each other a significant part of the time but they are def playing together MUCH more which has to be a good thing.

  31. My mummy was worried for a long time at me being bored. But then she just left me to it and the unbelievable happened I amused myself x now I play outdoors with all the kids from the street and love my independence x #DreamTeam

  32. I love this post! It’s interesting in school, I can tell the children who have been entertained all the time because they just can’t play. It takes me showing them that they can get out any toy they want to and make up stories or build whatever they like wth Lego. It’s definately getting worse too over the past 5 years. When I ask these children what they like to do, they reply iPad or some screen. It’s sad so letting children get bored is actually important for their development. #dreamteam

  33. Loving this post. I’ve never entertained my children constantly and I think they are more imaginative because of this, I’ve never heard them say they are bored anyway! #dreamteam

  34. Great post! Now that I think about it, it is important to let kids be bored sometimes. It will develop their independence at deciding on what to do with their time rather than relying on mommy or daddy to tell them what to do. #DreamTeam

  35. It takes 15 mins of being bored before creative thinking or introspection (which is the cause of our happiness) kicks in. I think our over programming of kids has lead to the higher rates of anxiety and depression…good post. #Dreamteam

  36. Totally agree. I think we as parents try to overstimulate our kids too much and think that they constantly need to be busy. Just Saturday we went to braai at friends, there were other kids who they’ve never met. It took an initial ice breaker of playing “hide and seek” and you would swear that they’ve been friends for years. They were outside most of the time playing games of which some were made up along the way. And then there were times where they just sat on the lawn and chatted to each other – doing nothing out of the ordinary just chatting. The adults thought they were bored but in fact they weren’t – they just took time out. They didn’t play with their tablets or watch tv. In fact they didn’t even play with the board games that we brought along. We had to call them to come and eat and by the time we left they were knackered. Sometimes taking time out doesn’t mean they are bored – they are just rekindling their imagination #dreamteam

  37. I think there is such a lot to be said for allowing our kids the opportunity to be bored at times. I’m so guilty of cramming their days in a constant cycle of soft plays and entertainment, but actually they seem to have the most fun when they have a “boring” afternoon playing in the garden and making up games. I think it encourages their imagination. Loved this. Thanks for hosting #DreamTeam x

  38. Ooh, mudpies! My siblings and I used to love making mudpies! I am not one of those parents who makes sure my kids are doing something every minute of every day. When they were little I would take the to the playground and let them play with other kids. I sometimes played with them, switching between playing with them and sitting down with a cup of coffee on the bench while they occupied themselves. My youngest has a wild imagination and was always building forts in my living room. It annoyed me but it also let him use his own creativity and I encourage that. I don’t know why parents feel the need to occupy their kids all day every day but it’s okay for them to get a little bored every now and then. Thanks for hosting #DreamTeamLinky

  39. Love this post! It’s so true that when they have nothing to do, that’s when the creativity has a chance to show itself. We are always pretty busy, but I’m going to give this a try with mine ? Thanks for being a brilliant #DreamTeam guest host xx

  40. You learn so much from being bored. I learned that I can bend my thumbs backwards and touch my wrist. Boredom is good for kids! #DreamTeam

  41. Back from #dreamlinky and I guess we are afraid to let them get bored as they have forgotten to play and then they need us to create their fun. This post will be relevant forever.

  42. It’s lovely to discover other cultures. I’m sure being bored is no bad thing here is where imagination comes in. #DreamTeam

  43. I remember being bored quite often as a child, but I had lots of imagination. I used to play with my sister, in the house or the garden, with the neighbours, we invented our own games. Sometimes some free being bored time is necessary to get kids to think creatively and find ways to entertain themselves. #dreamteam

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