The Beauty of Boredom

“I’m bored!”
The words we dread in the full swing of summer, but the fact is, boredom is a beautiful thing to wrestle with. If we stay out of our children’s way, it is a place where passions are born, interests are developed, and resourcefulness is increased. When my own kids were small I would give them a list—go outside, play with your blocks, pick a bouquet for the table—which they would righteously refuse.  The truth is they should refuse, it is my list, not theirs.

Boredom can be a personal invitation to our own unique menu of events without outside management. It can help to build an inner fund of resources that guide and prompt one into a meaningful life. Without this fund as children approach adolescence, boredom can push them into self-destruction: drugs, violence, and random pranks that eat up their young lives and spit them out. We are left to pick up the pieces and wonder what went wrong. We are rightfully fearful of boredom and its negative consequences, and so we do the obvious—we sign our children up for lessons, sports and extracurricular activities. We let them watch too much television, play too many games on the computer.

We need to willingly tolerate boredom while our children are young and under our watchful eyes—to allow it to settle into their bones and muscle like a rare fuel to propel them forward.

It is a mistake to use television, technology, and organized activities as an antidote to boredom, for they devour precious time better spent claiming their imaginations, for in the end, that is all we have. There is little life beyond our imagining. If a thing cannot be imagined first—a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS–it cannot be. Our lives are inextricably bound by what we can envision.

As we move through our lives it is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves. The self that longs for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty. If we sit still long enough we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness to answer it.

Here’s a list to help kids choose their own unique menu of events. The trick is to keep the boxes handy where they can reach them with their own hands. They are open ended, without instruction, and full of creative possibilities. Stand back, do not manage the activity, and watch the passion unfold!


1. Dress up box of Goodwill fashions and finds
2. Inventor’s box full of junk drawer gleanings
3. Outdoor box of balls, Frisbees, tools, wood scraps, ropes, etc
4. Bead bucket made of beads from cut up necklaces
5. First Aid box for endless games of medical play
6. ‘Bank’ box with a can of  loose change, paper coin rolls and a simple calculator
7. Art box of offbeat and fun art supplies
8. Card making box of blank note cards and envelopes, stamps, felt tips, old photos, etc.
9. Construction box with real tools, nails, screws, sandpaper, wood scraps, etc.
10. Puppet box of stuffed animals, puppets, and an expanding shower rod and sheet to make a puppet theater in a doorway

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