Are children scheduled to the max these days? Are there any waking moments that give children the freedom to express themselves in unstructured environments? Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says.
Deschoolers maintain that a child's learning should be curiosity-driven rather than dictated by teachers and textbooks, and that forcing kids to adhere to curricula quashes their natural inclination to explore and ask questions because children think differently.
Dr Teresa Belton says cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.
The senior researcher at the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong Learning interviewed a number of authors, artists and scientists in her exploration of the effects of boredom.
There are activities and summer camps galore to fill children's time and supply much needed childcare when kids are out of school. But psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.
We tend to listen to the social mechanisms and drug children to make them more alert, somehow, believing that boredom is internal wronging of chemistry; some cerebral misstep that is somehow affecting the masses. But it's not that at all. The real reason is why millions upon millions of kids love fantasy is because it instills the hero mindset not cowards and infantilized beings; initiates co-creative magicians suffuse with wonder, not glazed-over, programmed subjects.
"Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy," says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. "If parents spend all their time filling up their child's spare time, then the child's never going to learn to do this for themselves."
Fry is not the only one to point out the benefits of boredom. Dr. Belton, visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia with a focus on the connection between boredom and imagination, stated that boredom is crucial for developing "internal stimulus," which then allows true creativity.
And though our capacity for boredom may well have diminished with all the attractions of the internet, experts have been discussing the importance of doing nothing for decades.
Dr Belton said: "Lack of things to do spurred her to talk to people she would not otherwise have engaged with and to try activities she would not, under other circumstances, have experienced, such as talking to elderly neighbours and learning to bake cakes.
"Boredom is often associated with solitude and Syal spent hours of her early life staring out of the window across fields and woods, watching the changing weather and seasons.
"But importantly boredom made her write. She kept a diary from a young age, filling it with observations, short stories, poems, and diatribe. And she attributes these early beginnings to becoming a writer late in life."
In 1993, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the "capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child." Boredom is a chance to contemplate life, rather than rushing through it, he said in his book "On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life". "It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one's time," added Phillips.
Fry suggests that at the the start of the summer, parents sit down with their kids--at least those above the age of four--and collectively write down a list of everything their children might enjoy doing during their break. These can be basic activities, such as playing cards, reading a book, or going for a bicycle ride. They could also be more elaborate ideas such as cooking a fancy dinner, putting on a play, or practicing photography.
Then, if your child comes to you throughout the summer complaining of boredom, tell them to go and look at the list.
"It puts the onus on them to say, 'This is what I'd like to do'," says Fry.
While there's a good chance children might mope around for a while and be bored, it's important to realize that this isn't wasted time.
"There's no problem with being bored," says Fry. "It's not a sin, is it? I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant."
This same theory was put forward in 1930 by philosopher Bertrand Russell, who devoted a chapter of his book 'The Conquest of Happiness' to the potential value of boredom. Imagination and capacity to cope with boredom must be learnt as a child, he wrote:
"A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony."
When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.
But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them."
It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen "tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity".