“I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!” If I only had a nickel for the times I’ve heard these words, especially this past year. My first instinct as a mom is to fill that space. If they are bored, I must have failed in my effort to provide meaningful activities for them, right? In these times of physical isolation from friends, schoolmates, and family, the temptation is definitely there to hand them a craft, game, or screen to fill the time. I certainly have given in to the request for “one more episode” more than I’d like to admit.
I have learned (I’m embarrassed to admit it has been fairly recently) that it is absolutely not necessary or even healthy to provide activities for my girls for every waking moment. It is vitally important to provide and allow empty space. They can use their own imaginations for how to fill that space. Allowing time has helped foster their creativity and imagination. Without the constraint of scheduled activities or guidance from me, they have traveled to outer space, created a new country (with its own language!), written, produced, and starred in multi-act plays, built forts in the woods, invented games, picked wild blackberries, and the list goes on and on. None of these activities required any special toy or battery-operated device. Giving them the space they need and free time to create develops more than just their imaginations. It helps them develop time management skills, independence, and a sense of confidence and accomplishment.
My daughters frequently will spend time creating with nothing but some sticks and flowers, but I do try to have some open-ended materials on hand. Crayons made for tiny hands along with any type of paper (taped to the table for stability) can bring out the artist in the littlest kiddos. Erasable crayons or markers can teach a valuable lesson; it’s okay to make a mistake. Simple blocks can become anything from a castle to a rocket ship. And don’t forget the all-important large cardboard box.
When I ask my girls in ten years what they remembered from the pandemic, I know, without a doubt, they will tell me about sleeping in a tent in the backyard, decorating their stick fort with flowers, making chalk obstacle courses on the driveway, and turning cardboard boxes into spaceships. More than anything, I hope I can continue to provide that time and space for my girls (and myself!) to “be bored.” An empty schedule and an open mind can lead to the most wonderful things.