I am a huge fan of boredom for kids. It stretches their creativity, it lets them know they do have a Cathedral of the Mind. It reminds them that their minds are full of wonder, vast and deep. But boredom is not always comfortable. And large stretches of unscheduled time can be disorienting for some kids. If you ask my eight year old son, he could literally die from boredom. Ahem.
Last Friday, I was a bit defeated. I sat on the porch with my Mom and Mother-in-law and I tearfully recounted my adventures with a directionless eight year old. It was mostly about him pouting and being gloomy and saying “we have nothing to do.” Over and over, all the live long day. And me saying, broken record style “How about…. Or maybe… We could…” We are not in want of things to do. He just could not pick.
They reminded me, again, that I do not have to be the perfect mother.
And he is not going to die of boredom, he really does know how to keep himself busy. He needs structure. He went from the schedule of homeschool days to open ended time. We realized in that conversation he needed a schedule to answer the nagging questions presented by Elvis himself, “what now, what next, where to.”
Most people need some sort of structure to keep them on track when it’s not summer. I know this. I need structure in my own days. I reach for my copy of Sink Reflections every time I need to restructure my own life. I know I need return to habits, routines and small schedules to help me give myself grace anyway.
I did what any mother does in this day in age. I hit up Pinterest. Surprisingly, none of the schedules fit us, because each family, each situation, each child is so different. And then, I reminded myself that I do not need Pinterest.
I know what makes us tick– I wrote an article about it years ago. And of anything I’ve ever written, I keep coming back to this piece, especially at the beginning of the seasons where I feel most discombobulated. So, I started us off in the place I always start– I tailored a loose schedule around food.
So, I pumped out a schedule. It is just a loose rhythm for our days so I can accomplish my own goals. But also, so my son knows what comes next.
For years now we have a food schedule. 8 am breakfast, 10:30 snack, noon lunch, 2:30 snack, dinner whenever it gets made. Using these as touchstones of the day, he knows what we do and now he’s ready to put his own spin on our loose schedule. He knows that he has tennis lessons at 7 am. He starts a project after breakfast and chores, we swim and read in the afternoon then, he can have some WII fit time.
This is working for us. It’s not a minute by minute schedule but, he knows what is expected of him. And what he can choose to do next. His choices are infinite within the container. Oooh. Parenting win.
He’s started choosing his own projects.
He taken several CreativeBug Classes. He’s got a certain fondness for Lisa Congdon (umm… me too, buddy). He’s nearly filled a Moleskine Watercolor Album. He reported yesterday he has 7 pages left (front and back).
He found a book at the library Martha Stewarts Crafts for Kids. He’s been working on the Popsicle Stick House all weekend. And is finishing it up this week with trees and a porch. All of his own design. And he started making random structures like boats out of craft sticks.
And he’s gone ga-ga for instructables. He made this super Lego Candy Dispenser. He’s into projects that he can sink his teeth into that take hours or days to accomplish. This took a few hours because he had to dig for pieces. He was so proud of himself when he was done.
He’s also decided to earn a little money doing chores so he can buy lego guys off eBay. It is actually a win-win for both of us. He gets lego guys and I get the windows washed. **He has regular family chores he does not get paid for. I am not an ATM.**
In the process of finding project ideas for him, we’ve copied pages from library books and we are making a common place book, of sorts– a notebook of things that he can come back to. In the digital age we live in, sometimes we need something concrete to hold. Flipping through pages of what we’ve done and what we want to remember to do grounds us. He has really enjoyed going back through the projects he’s done.
Funny, I used to keep ideas this way before you could make a visual notebook on the internet and now that there is so much info out there, I am coming back to making notebooks of info as well.
So that is how we’ve tamed the Boredom Monster.
We gave it a structure.
We stuck to what we know.
We found some cool things to keep it busy.
We made it a project book.
And we did not die from Boredom.