School Holidays and Boredom

With the school holidays here, I know that many parents will be planning action-packed holidays and trips away – wondering what they can do to keep their kids occupied and busy. It can be a hard balance to know what to do…especially when we live in a society infiltrated with advertisements for school holiday camps and activities to keep children active, stimulated, and out of parents’ hair.

One of the reasons these activities seem so appealing is because we’d love to enrich our children’s lives, whilst also hoping to avoid the inevitable: “MUMMMM! DADDD!!! I’m soooo borrrrrred!” comments.

In truth, it’s no surprise that after a full term at school (action packed days and weekends), kids are unsure about what to do with their free time. Over the past nine weeks, their lives have been about order, structure, and routine. Taking that away can be unsettling for parents and kids alike. Where there was routine, now there is a blank canvas.

So, what to do?

  • First, the reality is that many parents/caregivers work over the holidays, making holiday camps a helpful option for their family. In this case, a nature or play-based camp that allows lots of outdoor time and freedom to rest their brains may be a good alternative to educational or academic based camps/courses. Camp Australia have a great programme these school holidays.
  • Involve children in the decision making. Ask them beforehand what they would most love to do over the school holidays and schedule a couple of big ticket items (e.g. cinema, ice-skating or rock climbing) in advance.
  • We need to remember that children’s boredom is not ours to solve. It’s okay for humans to be bored. Boredom is nothing to be afraid of. Indeed, it’s our brain’s way of signalling that we want to be engaged in something or with someone. That “something” is the child’s responsibility to figure out. For younger kids, empathising and helping them brainstorm and setting up the activity will be helpful.
  • Ensure that there are plenty of things available for your child to engage in – books, crafts, board games, puzzles, age appropriate toys, and access to outdoor activities. Also, where possible, making it known that you are available to engage in the activity with them if they ask for company.
  • Reassure them that it is okay to have “down time”. Lying on their backs, looking at the clouds and daydreaming is valuable thinking and processing time (you might even want to join them). People might assume that “doing nothing” is a sign of laziness – mostly because of the societal expectations to be doing something (often fuelled by social media). Allowing for and also modelling many opportunities for down time during school term and holidays will help children learn to value it as an important part of their days. Let your children see you reading a book or sitting down to drink your cup of coffee or tea. Invite them to join you outside to look at the night sky.
  • Foregoing the idea that we need to create a “magical” (i.e. exceptional and extraordinary) childhood for our children. The most magical moments can be found in the simple and mundane of day-to-day life.
  • Start the holidays off with inviting each child to write down five things they enjoy doing and adding it to a “Banishing Boredom” jar. Then, when they are feeling bored but uninspired they can pull some ideas out of the jar.

Ideas might include:

  • helping mum/dad fold the laundry (one can dream, right?),
  • play a board game,
  • ask mum/dad to help me bake a cake/cookies,
  • play outside,
  • find patterns in the clouds,
  • grab a microscope and look for insects outside,
  • read a book,
  • listen to a podcast (have some available for child to easily access),
  • watch online videos of their favourite sport/area of interest/documentary
  • more ideas for a DIY Jar can be found here.

Schedule Connection Time

Scheduling in some connection time as a family helps too! Being available for chats, cuddles, and spending quality time together are amazing boredom busters! Outside of the stressors of term time, children are likely to have more emotional space available to share their ideas, concerns and dreams and to fully connect; making the holidays a perfect time to fill up their buckets.

Allow Yourself Parental “Time Out”

Of course, parents find the transition to holiday time tricky too. You might want to mentally prepare yourself for the change in routine and give yourself permission for some parental “time out” (e.g. keeping up with your regular exercise routine, having coffee with a friend etc).

So, when you and your child(ren) are thinking about how their school holidays could be spent, remember to engage them in the decision-making and leave time and space for downtime, boredom, self-reflection, and blue-sky thinking. Plus, of course, self-care for parents and a healthy dose of family bonding too. These might just be the antidotes your child needs to unwind and prepare for a successful upcoming term.

Happy holidays to all of you!

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