It's OK For Your Kids to be Bored
You could very well be sentencing kids to boredom, at least at first, but it will open up a whole new world of creativity, fun and adventure as it helps them expand their minds.
Diane T. Creston, stresses the importance and the benefits of unstructured play for children. Creston states, "When children use their own creativity without a structured play environment, they find ways to amuse themselves - even if it means simply daydreaming. Plain and simple, it's called creative child development and I fully recognize that in our society, it's a hard concept for people to grasp at first."
That's the advice of Creston who wants to see American children spend more time in unstructured play, less time in structured activities and much less time in front of mindless TV programs. Diane Creston, a noted child development marketing authority, states, "Think back to when you were a kid and you will recall valuable lessons. Left to our own devices, we discovered that our busy, well-entertained children may not ever have the chance to learn them.
"Many American parents who work 60 to 70 hours a week impose a very structured lifestyle on their children. Being in the military poses additional challenges. Parents are very concerned about boredom, so they over schedule to keep kids busy. Believe it or not, there is a direct relationship between boredom and creative thought." Creston firmly believes that children need time to be children.
She suggests that parents help children get the most out of unstructured play by limiting TV. Creativity, social skills and fun are vital to a well-rounded child. Parents might also provide materials, creative toys and even gentle suggestions, if necessary. Parental guidance and parental participation is also very important.
Creston said, "Bored kids eventually take out the paints, build a dinosaur den, read a book and create things, or they come home sweaty from a game of neighborhood soccer or bike riding. Educational, nature and science toys with a special focus on scale-model animal and dinosaur replicas are big favorites with children. Kids love fantasy play and the fun of creating their own world.
Boys love building sets, race car sets, scooters and even building tree houses. Girls love fashion dolls, pottery and jewelry making kits, to name a few. If military assignments, or job demands necessitate that a parent spend time away from the family, one excellent use of digital camera's is the ability to take a snapshot of your child's latest creation and share the pictures via e-mail. A framed collage can also be made from photos of your child's newest creations. And, these same creations are great for show and tell in school.
Creston states, "Although most of the products that I've been involved with are designed for children four and up, I constantly study toddler trends. Several pediatric physicians, who are part of our research team, have shared some disturbing trends with me regarding middle and upper class parents who push their children to the extremes in the hopes that this will provide a better foundation for the child's future.
"They've told me about situations where parents are determined to find the "perfect three year old" preschool so that their daughter will be prepared for law school later in life. Other parents make their children compete in soccer matches and karate competition when the child is recovering from the flu. Their misguided reasoning is that the child needs to learn what competition means, regardless of illness, or circumstances. This thinking is completely off base and harmful to both parent and child."
This concept of boredom is new territory at the beginning because children may be upset that they cant watch TV. They may also bicker with their siblings. Creston states, "Working or single parent households may have even more of a challenge, but she strongly encourages parents not to give flip on the TV, or let kids watch a video."
The lifelong benefits of unstructured play are so great that Creston urges parents to try to find an hour a week for it. There's a reason why professors in adult creative learning classes give assignments such as: Come up with innovative uses for a paper clip...you have five minutes. Or, why teachers in acting schools give assignments where they ask students to demonstrate creative ideas involving a chair. A chair is a chair, but what else can it be?
She offers these parenting tips to make things easier:
Set Limits to TV and Video Play. There is something very wrong with the fact that many children watch an average of 38 hours per week. Cutting back can provide unstructured play time. Most parents and care takers passively allow the media to routinely expose kids to violence and sex when they would never let an individual, or educational institution expose their children to this type of content.
Far too many children spend hours each day at computers, playing with handheld game devices, or watching videos. Creston suggests that parents set a firm daily limit to these activities. She says, "The value of a toy is simple to calculate...to what degree does the toy invite imagination and creativity? After a week, if you find that your child is more interested in playing with the toy box instead of the toy, you've wasted money and time."
Unstructured play time doesn't require a huge investment in new toys. Creston cites one focus group study where two kids were playing with toys. One girl had an electronically enhanced dinosaur and she boasted: "My dinosaur can say 500 words!" The other boy, who was holding a non-electronic dinosaur countered with: "My dino can say anything I want it to say and it looks like a real dino."
Creston states, "We hear so much about hyperactive children who are medicated as a result of this behavior. Is the child really hyperactive, or does the child simply need more unstructured play time? Children are free spirits and when that's denied, we see physical and mental manifestations that have a negative impact on a healthy childhood.
"Spend time watching your child play. This shows children that adults value their play." Creston says. It's not necessary to join in, although that's great fun too, as long as parents don't try to take over. In fact, one highly successful parenting strategy involves spending time each day with your child doing whatever he or she chooses to do."
During this "special time," the child makes the decisions, controls the flow of the play and assigns all roles. It's unstructured play time for your child, yet you get to participate. It's important for us to share time with children and it shows them that you value their play and fantasy games.
Creston encourages parents to give this boredom concept a serious try. She states, "Giving your children a break from organized activities and electronic baby-sitters could very well mean sentencing them to boredom, at least at first, but it will open up a whole new world of creativity, fun and adventure as it helps them expand their minds."
Tags: Diane T. Creston , Boredom , Children , Creativity , Unstructured Play
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