The Myth Concerning Children and Boredom
An Article written by Janet K. Irwin


The term "bored" and "children" should never be applied in the same thought process. Children today are so over programmed that they don't know how to actually play. From the moment that they are brought home from the hospital, some but not all parents feel an overwhelming need to be constantly holding and jiggling and amusing their children. Many of these same children are presented for child care and have the inability to do one of the most basic self learned skills, that skill being the ability to self comfort which involves being able to fall asleep alone.

Babies do in fact need a certain level of stimulation in order for them to grow socially and emotionally, but sometimes the need for them to be put down and develop a conscious perception of their ability goes untested. In order to grow into a "whole" being, children need to experience a certain amount of "frustration". They need to learn that there will be moments in their lives when delayed gratification is acceptable.

In order to help young infants achieve a mastery of the skill involved in this process, I offer these suggestions for providers to pass along to parents. I suggest you pass these along during the interview process.

After a parent is sure that the child is fed, properly burped, cleaned up, changed, and cuddled they should have some confidence that the baby''s basic needs are met and they can begin the sleep process. Parents need to be assured that this process won't happen over night but is something that they should be working towards. The move toward this goal should begin "before" the child is presented for day care.

Babies who are spoken to and read to and who have ample play periods will not be "bored". Babies, who learn to self comfort, will be toddlers and preschoolers who can self entertain and will learn to play for the sheer joy of it all. Babies who can do these things will move toward being independent and confident.

Many of us have encountered toddlers and preschoolers and, yes, even school age children whom their parents refer to as "being bored". Using this word to explain unacceptable behavior is an insult to their own intelligence. Children sometimes have to be shown that they are indeed capable of playing for themselves. You have all encountered children whose parents or caregivers have "played" for them.

This may become a long slow process. You will be working on helping to train, along with the parents, children who have yet to grasp the concept of independent play. They have to be encouraged to look at toys and playthings in a new light. The non-playing child must have access to very basic things. These items could include but not be limited to: large cardboard boxes and small ones too, some cardboard wrapping paper tubes (get everyone to save these for you around the winter holidays), Lego's, wooden blocks, Tinkertoys, and some play sets that could include doll houses, farms, garages, and airports.

Next, children labeled as "bored" need to understand that if they think they need two hours (or even more) to explore all the possibilities of how to play with these play things, they are actually, under our guidance, going to get this opportunity. They were not going to be rushed here or have to tuck in 10 or 15 minutes of play here and there through out the day.

They also had to learn that I was not going to "play for them". They are going to have to work through this special process themselves. This is when the little people hiding inside begin to come out and play. You basically will have known all along that the little person has been lurking inside somewhere but you have to help them come out.

So don't ever accept a parent's perception that their child is "bored". If they tell you that, tell them that you don't think children are capable of being bored. Tell them that the child under your guidance will learn that he is extremely capable of exploring his little world and that you are providing the necessary time and space and play materials to reach this goal. Tell them that their child lives in a very hurried world and you are trying to help him understand that the pace at your home is a "slowed down" one and he will have lots of time there to accomplish some very wonderful goals that you have set for the kids.

I bet you will not get an argument from the parent, but if you do then I truly feel sorry for the child. They will grow up trying to always meet someone else's expectations and will never be able to experience "down" time as an adult. They will always have trouble trying to relax and will lead a very stressful life. Just think of this as one of the best things you can ever do for the kids in your care. The all encompassing ability to be themselves and to reclaim their childhood before they run out of time. It is a very noble thing to do on their behalf.


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