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  • Writer's pictureAzera Rahman

This summer vacation, I plan to let my child get bored. Here's why.

For Mint Lounge

Published in 5 May 2023


School summer vacations are here, and parents are signing up their kids for summer camps so they do not get bored. But is boredom such a bad thing?



Picture: Kelly Sikkema (Unsplash)




I am bored.


As a parent, this is probably one of the most dreaded sentences that a child could declare, complete with a deadpan expression. The subtext to this statement is, ‘Entertain me’. And more often than not, the crutch to this dire situation, which has the potential of soon spiralling out of control, is a gadget.


The only way out of this trap, parents realise, is to keep the kids ‘meaningfully engaged’. In other words, keep them occupied with some supervised activity through the day. So there are badminton or swimming coaching classes to go to right after school, perhaps an art class, music lesson, or a math coaching class soon after, followed by homework, by the end of which it’s dinner and bedtime.


No, W. H. Davis, there is ‘no time to stand and stare’, as you wrote in your poem.

Now that the school summer vacations are nearly upon us—almost two months long in parts of India—parents are gearing up for a slew of summer camps and activities to sign up their kids for. The daylight hours have to be accounted for, like clockwork.


But is boredom such a bad thing? Quite the contrary, say counsellors and various research studies.


“Boredom is not a bad word. Having a moment to spare, to switch off without having anything scheduled to do can actually help you have clarity of thought," says child development psychologist, Dr Aarti Bakshi. "All the eureka moments in the lives of great artistes and scientists have come when they were in a relaxed mode.”


Like Greek mathematician Archimedes who had his eureka moment when in a bath tub, our minds get clarity when in a relaxed state. There are many memes on this now—how the best ideas, the light-bulb ones, often strike when we are in bed or in the shower—but it has good reason.


However, we have become “adrenaline junkies”, says Dr Bakshi, which means that even in a get-together it becomes difficult to focus on one another without peeking into our phones every once in a while. Mindless scrolling on the phone is the quick fix to our lull periods as adults; this naturally extends to our children.


In an article by Gia Miller of the Child Mind Institute, an organisation of psychologists and counsellors specialising in mental health of children, it said that ‘boredom helps children develop valuable skills’ like problem-solving, planning strategies, flexibility and the ability to organise, which highly structured lives may not offer to children.


“We need to rebrand boredom as stillness, and stillness can help creativity flow,” said psychotherapist and parenting coach, Madhu Hisaria. Talking about the pitfalls of constant stimulation without a break for a child’s mind to be idle, she said that sometimes, simply observing the world around can “strengthen the muscle of imagination and prepare a child in facing the challenges of reality of adult life”.


Hisaria adds that “When a child is able to train her mind to sit with her thoughts, she can become more creative and better regulate her emotions. One of the things I ask my clients who suffer from anxiety issues to do, is to sit silence for five minutes. That itself is therapeutic. So, imagine giving that time to a child, to do nothing—of course in a measured amount—rather than constant stimulation.”


Dr Bakshi adds that boredom can have three advantages: enhance self-awareness (an understanding of what I am capable of), develop relationship skills (connect with family, cousins, friends) and create social awareness (encourage interaction with neighbours, take up gardening as an interest).

Additionally, it can also encourage independent thinking, without having to spoon-feed ways of engagement. For instance, whenever my eight-year-old has received just a ‘hmm’ as response to her ‘I am bored’ declaration, I usually find her making craft, using waste like old cardboard boxes and wrapping paper, or playing make-believe with her toys, each with a different voice and character.


Having said that—and as experts also point—this ‘nothing to do’ time must also be measured. For instance, an hour or two of free time, with no agenda and no supervision can be beneficial. They could lie down, read a book, do a DIY project, play with the pet, talk to their cousins—anything at all. “For a teenager, similarly, there could be an hour of ‘me time’,” said Dr Bakshi.


When I was growing up, I remember our afternoons used to be lazy. Tiptoeing away from an ever-insistent parent—usually the mother—who would want us to take a nap, we’d run around in the heat, play and conjure up all the mischief which, under strict supervision, would never be allowed. This summer vacation therefore, I plan to let me child get bored. Maybe it’d take her to her own eureka moment.






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