Kids playing ball

I recently found myself in a difficult position. I was stranded for several days in a place that offered few of the amenities I am used to in my life. In short, I was bored, and I was facing three days of boredom.

Thankfully, I’d been in such situations before and knew the blessing that can come with being outside of your normal comfort zone. I read two books and remembered some of the ways I used to spend my time before social media and games on my phone. I re-learned to play cribbage and a few other games. In hindsight, my three days of boredom were a gift.

As parents, it can be all too tempting to try and plan something for every day of our kids’ summer vacations. There are far more summer activities available to kids and families than there were in my childhood. It’s possible to have kids booked almost every day of the break. I encourage you to resist that temptation. Make it your goal to hear the phrase “I’m bored” at least three times this summer.

Multiple scientific studies have shown that boredom has the power to get us thinking in new and creative ways. Our brains naturally like to be engaged in some type of activity. When confronted with a lack of stimulation (boredom) the brain will start engaging in attempts to keep itself occupied (creativity.) In today’s world, kids literally have the world within their grasp. With a simple phone or computer they engage in a wide range of activity. It’s becoming harder and harder to give our kids the gift of boredom.

Prepare your children for this opportunity. Tell them a few days ahead of time that you are declaring a “technology free day.” Give them a few days to think about the various things they could do that doesn’t require technology. Kids love to hear stories from when their parents were children. This could be a great opportunity for you to share stories of what you did in the summer as a child in the days before cell phone technology. My children were entertained by my childhood stories of playing “kick the can” with the neighborhood kids. Who knows, when they get technology back they may even research how to play the game and give it a try.

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Scott Butler has been a professional educator for 30 years. He has worked as a classroom teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Additionally, Scott is a licensed mental health practitioner. He is currently the director of the Boys Town Day School. He is father to four kids ranging from 14 to 22. Outside of work, he is an avid gardener and quilter.

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