Thursday, July 7, 2011

in appreciation of boredom

I'll admit that 2 of my least favorite words to hear from the mouths of my littles are "I'm bored." As I watch so many children in our culture give in to constant media absorption to satiate their boredom, I'm disturbed by the inability of these children to entertain themselves without a screen. I want my kids to have experiences rather than constant screen time, to learn through manipulation and observation rather than someone else's experiences conveyed through a little box.

Over the last few years, I've been trying to turn my attitude toward boredom around and look at boredom as the well from which creativity can flow if I can give my children the right tools and mindset to work through their boredom. Sometimes pointing them to the outdoor to play is all they need, especially if the littlest one hears a sibling say, "remember when we turned these flowers blue!"

On other occasions, I keep various kits, interesting paper or otherwise acquired creative or educational ideas to help them occupy themselves and sometimes they even learn fascinating things in the process like this Sunprint kit that I stumbled across rather cheaply back in the winter.

After they gathered items from the yard and cut a few stencils from the kit, they read the directions on making the sun prints, how to open the paper in a dimly lit area, place their items, carry them into the sun, watch for the paper to turn white, then bring them in and quickly run them under water to "set" the exposure.

We may not have a darkroom setup to learn about photography, light, exposure and shading, but for a few dollars, we had a similar experience in our own home, and we worked through the boredom. By the time the sun printing was complete, two of the kids were drawing, another one reading, and boredom had lifted.

Usually though, a kit is not even needed as there are so many experiments and creative outlets that we can draw from if we brainstorm together to find a fun project. "Do you think milk freezes faster than water? What about vinegar? Soy sauce? Vegetable oil?"

What better way to find out than to gather as many kitchen liquids as we can find (although I retained veto power over the more expensive ones) and put an ounce of each liquid in an ice tray.

We each made a list of the liquids and hypothesized how long it would take for each liquid to freeze.

We checked the freezer every half hour until more than half of the liquids had frozen leaving the oil, syrup and soy sauce in various states of thickness or unchanged. We discussed what made these items different and whether they would freeze at all.

Would we know the answer to these questions if the kids never became bored? Maybe, probably. But likely through methods other than feeling, smelling, tasting these items and the characteristics they employed during the process.

Boredom, you are welcome anytime. We relish the creativity you inspire and savor the experiences you bring. Come again soon!


  1. What a wonderful post! I love the thoughts you've shared. I think my kiddos and I will try the experiment with different liquids and also I'm going to look into sunprints! :)

  2. Awesome post Joy! Funny because this summer I am the one suffering from boredom (guilty). Maybe just a heat induced funk. I need to dig out our sun paper and have some fun :)

  3. We, too, welcome boredom. The girls didn't know what it was until Kaulini started schooland picked up the phrase 'I'm bored' from some of the other kids. Oh well.
    Love the Queen Anne's Lace pic :)

  4. I love your ice cube idea!


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