Five years ago I saw that this image and quote going round facebook and at the moment, my social media feed is sharing this article by New York Times "Let Children get Bored Again" ... but is it boredom that creates creativity or is it that we as adults should not be afraid of the phrase "I'm bored" ? Because, when I have given myself the time to think, and rethink... really they are two very different things...
Being bored is not the most creative state to be in - but having unscheduled time and space to allow children (people in general really) to get creative is different - and maybe we should start thinking more about the word "BORED" and what does it mean.
If I am a child at school and I am bored and I have to sit through boring lessons, and I am expected to listen and pay attention... I hardly think that it is going to increase my creativity... in fact there is the HUGE risk that it is going to have the opposite effect... it will demotivate. Of course if you are arguing that, as the New York Times article does that you have to suck it up because school is boring and life is boring then what we are doing is saying it is OK for schools to continue as they are... I find that children who are curious about their learning, who find the learning meaningful, etc are seldom bored by school... so if a child is bored by school maybe the school has failed to motivate why their teaching is meaningful or to establish a sense of curiosity... this does not mean teachers need to edutain... it means teachers are aware of how their students learn.
AND - if we are forcing academic learning on ever younger children, which is not age appropriate, then of course it is going to be harder for children and teachers to find the meaningfulness in the learning when play should still be the main medium of learning.
Summer "boredom" might be a different phenomena - by emptying the days of activities, decided and lead by adults, it gives the time to the children to GET CREATIVE - to start thinking about what THEY can do... the potential of the things around them... and in the beginning when children are not used to thinking for themselves, when they are used to having their time filled by others (school, afterschool activities, clubs etc etc) then at first there is the risk of the children saying "I'm bored". And that parents might feel guilty.
I don't think they are really bored... they just don't know what to do, or how to get started... and maybe what we as adults need to do is not interpret the children as bored like the children express in words, but that these children need more space to practice filling their own time.
I like rest time for children... not only does it allow children the time to sleep if their body and minds need it.. but it gives children (all people) the time to feel comfortable with their own thoughts... to explore their own thoughts - to develop their creativity... I do not think you should force a child to sleep that does not sleep, but to encourage young children to relax for 30 minutes and to get comfortable with their inner voice is a great first step in allowing children control over how to fill their time.
While I was in Canada I got talking with Diane Kashin and some others about "Provocations" -
are they really provoking thought in the children - or are they filling time? Are they an opportunity for creativity or are they the product of teacher creativity on the children's behalf? I have no answers, I am just thinking and rethinking... have some provocations become a glorified template where the activity is pre-selected by the teacher (the colours, the resources, the material, the topic etc etc) and all the children need to do is sit down and do it as they would have if colouring in a pre-made picture, or filling in a worksheet? How is the balance of thinking... are the children doing enough? Is there scope for the children to develop the provocation - to be creative - and is there documentation as to why that provocation has been put out... what is it that is being provoked - and afterwards was it successful as that kind of provocation... or did it provoke something else?
Instead of provocations on the table etc... could children be provoked by emptying their schedule...
I did that with a group of 24 seven to eight year olds once... we sat together at the start of the session and I let them know that for the whole afternoon no toys or equipment was to be used in their play. That was all that I said. They sat there "bored" not moving for ten minutes, at least, just complaining... then one got up and asked if some others wanted to play - and they started role-play games, chase games in the outdoor area (as they could freely move in and outside) and the following 3-4 hours were filled with amazing collaborative play - and the children went home happy - some even saying it was the best day ever...
I had to be prepared that the children would just sit there in silence and whine for the whole afternoon... and some sat there longer than others until the laughter and play drew them off the sofas and into the creative play. I was not afraid of the children having nothing to do, I was not afraid of them going home and saying they had been bored - because in the end I knew - I knew, I believed in their competence - that they would be able to fill time with their imaginations... either sitting or playing together.
I handed over TIME to the children, something I think children seldom get to have power over, for one reason or another...
So no, I don't think boredom is essential but I do think TIME - unfilled time for the children to fill themselves is. I also believe that when children exclaim "I'm bored" it often means that they have not been given enough time to think through the possibilities... or enough practice at filling their own time
This is something that I have been thinking even more about in the last few days as I see my now 18 year old twin daughters successfully navigate their lives... we emptied their childhood of many of the must-do's, we did not do lots of extra-curricular activities as I felt a 6 hours day at preschool and then school was busy enough... they needed time to be themselves. They did not watch TV, except for a film or documentary on Fridays (mostly David Attenborough nature programmes, to the extent that I think at one stage they thought he was part of the family) until they were almost 7 when they struggled with conversations in school which was heavily focussed on TV amongst friends. No smart phones until they were 13, despite almost all their friends having them.
My aim was to give them space.
Sometimes I felt pangs of guilt, sometimes I looked at other families and the amazing thing their children were doing and wondered if I was putting my three children at a disadvantage... but I see my daughters now, one has qualified to the semi-finals of Young Scientist of the Year and also is trainer for Under Water Rugby Team as well as playing for the national junior team in Sweden, and has been asked to play for the women's England NationalTeam (she has dual nationality) - my other daughter is active in the #FridaysForFuture movement, writes articles, gets interviewed, talks on panels, manages the Swedish and National #FridaysForFuture (Greta Thunberg) social media. Both of them have found their OWN voice and their own paths. Of course we have supported them the whole way... but we have tried to give them the space and time they need to work this out for themselves. They are successful not because I filled their time with a whole load of extra activities, but because they had the imagination and power to dare to dream of their own path to take.
I am proud - you better believe it. Proud that they have achieved this - they put in the work, they put in the time... I did not carve out the path for them to make it easy... but have been there to "carry equipment" and moral support when they have needed it.
I cannot express more the need for TIME... not boredom, but time for the children to fill themselves
my post about Momo also refers to this
Time to just sit and look up and think, daydream, be
Time to watch the water drip
Time is essential for creativity...
without a shadow of a doubt, TIME is an essential part of Original Learning. Time to weave play and learning, time to gain new experiences, time to reflect and connect experiences and learning...