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Children Develop Better When You Let Them Be Bored, Psychologists Say

Children Develop Better When You Let Them Be Bored, Psychologists Say

Boredom in children is common and something that every parent, teacher and sane adult wants to avoid. We’ve all heard the old saying: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” So we expend time, energy, and lots of cash trying to ensure that our child’s mind doesn’t become the devil’s place of business.

But research shows that constructive boredom in children is essential to their mental and emotional development. However, kids need the guidance of parents or other adults if their boredom is to be constructive and lead to creativity.

Researchers Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood, of Pennsylvania State University, found that constructively bored individuals seek out and engage in satisfying activities—much like happy people do. In an interview with Fast Company, Gasper says:

“Boredom operates similarly to feeling happy or excited. It results in you trying to approach something that, in this case, is more meaningful or interesting. It encourages people to explore because it signals that your current situation is lacking so it’s kind of a push to seek out something new.”

Benefits of boredom in children:

Boredom fosters creativity

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Creative Kids

    Researchers all agree that the number one-benefit of children experiencing periods of boredom is that it develops their innate ability to be creative.

    Dr. Teresa Belton, visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia, focuses on the connection between boredom and imagination. She told the BBC that boredom is crucial for developing “internal stimulus,” which then allows true creativity.

    Operating under the notion that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.

    The popular belief that boredom is bad and potentially detrimental is the result of numerous past studies which reported that people with “boredom proneness” lack excitement and are easily frustrated. But recent research finds that being bored promotes creative association and pushes one to find deeper meaning and satisfaction.

    It’s also important to remember that there’s a big difference between a negatively numbed brain and a constructively bored mind. Constructive boredom stimulates creativity. Constructively bored kids eventually turn to a book, or build a fort, or pull out the paints (or the computer art program) and create.

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    Boredom helps develop a sense of identity

    Child Identity

      Psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from discovering what truly interests them. In an interview with Quatrz, child psychologist Lyn Fry said:

      “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

      Lack of things to do can spur kids to engage in and try activities they would not, under other circumstances, have experienced, such as learning a craft or to bake cakes or to engage in an interesting DIY project.

      So the kids are complaining that they are bored and you don’t want to over-schedule them or fill their time with activities you’ve chosen; but you have the type of kids who shouldn’t be left completely to their own creative devices?

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      Here are some ways experts say can help you create a nurturing environment for constructively bored kids:

      Child playing outside

        1. Create a list of things to do

        Sit down with your child and help them brainstorm a list of all the things they enjoy doing. These can be basic activities such as playing cards, reading a book, or going for a bicycle ride. They could also be more elaborate ideas such as cooking a fancy dinner, putting on a play, or practicing photography. When your child complains of boredom, have them look at the list and find something they would like to do. Just make sure you don’t pick for them.

        2. Have designated play areas designed specifically for kids

        When kids are in a play environment created for them, they are more likely to create their own games when they get bored. These areas could be inside or outdoors.

        3. Periodically structure some unstructured time for kids

        Unstructured or “free” time is a great way to ensure that you are building in time for children to entertain themselves and engage in activities that they choose.

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        4. Encourage outdoor play, especially in a nature setting

        Research shows that when children play in natural play spaces, they’re far more likely to invent their own games than in more structured settings — a key factor in becoming self-directed and inventive both as children and later in life.

        Photo Credit: Creative Kids

        Featured photo credit: John Morgan on Flickr via flickr.com

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        Published on May 7, 2021

        20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

        20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

        From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

        There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

        1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
        2. Introduce brain breaks.

        Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

        But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

        It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

        If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

        The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

        It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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        Active Brain Breaks

        Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

        1. Swapsies

        Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

        Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

        2. Dance Party

        Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

        3. Freeze Dance

        Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

        4. Keep It Up

        Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

        5. Simon Says

        This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

        6. Animal Movement

        Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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        7. Find It Fast

        “Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

        8. The Frog

        Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

        9. Pizza Delivery Time

        Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

        10. Limbo

        We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

        11. Human Knot

        Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

        12. Feather Balance

        This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

        13. Stack them high

        The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

        Relaxing Brain Breaks

        We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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        14. Meditation

        Meditation

        is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

        15. Kaleidoscope

        Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

        16. Reading/Listening to a Story

        When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

        17. Doodling

        My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

        18. Coloring Sheets

        Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

        19. Deep Breathing

        Deep breathing

        is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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        Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

        20. Going Outside

        Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

        My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

        How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

        The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

        I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

        Final Thoughts

        Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

        Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

        If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

        Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
        [2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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