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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 21, 2021

        Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

        Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

        Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

        If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

        How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

        Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

        • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
        • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
        • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
        • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
        • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

        Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

        Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

        Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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        You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

        Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

        Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

        Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

        • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
        • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
        • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
        • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
        • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

        Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

        Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

        There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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        • Excessive sleepiness during the day
        • Difficulty waking up on time
        • Hyperactivity
        • Depression
        • Inattention
        • Mood swings
        • Aggressive behavior
        • Irritability
        • Impatience
        • Impulse control

        As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

        How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

        Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

        For Babies

        Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

        Gentle Sleep Training

        This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

        1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

        Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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        Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

        2. Sleep With Parental Presence

        With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

        Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

        More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

        You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

        Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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        • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
        • Block blue light exposure.
        • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
        • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
        • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
        • Avoid late afternoon naps
        • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
        • Feed baby right before bed.
        • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

        For Elementary-Aged Children

        It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

        These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

        • Offer them a nutritious snack.
        • Bathe them.
        • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
        • Read them a story.
        • Sing them a song.
        • Cuddle or massage them.
        • Talk about the day.

        For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

        For Teens

        They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

        • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
        • Limit screen time.
        • Avoid late-night binging.
        • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
        • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
        • Talk through problems.

        Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

        Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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        Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
        [2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
        [3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
        [4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
        [5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
        [6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
        [7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
        [8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
        [9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
        [10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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