REFLECTIONS ON EARLY CHILDHOOD-Benefits of Boredom

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A recent Exchange Everyday Online Article that I received, titled “Benefits of Boredom” says that “These days, we rarely reach the point of boredom, thanks to gadgets and anytime, anywhere entertainment. Occupying our brains is too easy — and that’s killing our creativity” and I have to fully agree. Electronics are taking away young children’s fun childhoods. Gone are the days of playing outside all day til dark, riding bikes all around town and building forts.

Now days kids are electronic everything. I am guilty of this with my own children. At age 6 (current age, he received some of this gifts prior to age 6) my youngest son has his own tv, dvd player, ipod and Nintendo 3DS. These are just the products he owns himself, we still have other devices in the house (a few tablets, a few laptops, a few games systems, a few more tv’s etc…). Now, we have hard guidelines set for him, with the exception of his tv that he can watch for a few minutes before bed each night (but he usually chooses to read) these devices are not used on school nights and on weekends have a time limit. Even with these limits, I still notice a drastic decline each year in the amount of free play he does and I fear he is loosing his creativity. I feel like he isn’t doing as much free play because he really truly is bored with it because he just doesn’t know how to just play anymore without having a tv to zone out in front of or a game telling him what to do. He can’t just get started on his own. Now it’s not like this everyday, he doesn’t just sit there everyday like a bump on a log, but his creativity has definitely gone downhill…and this is even reflecting in school. When he has to write stories or do artwork, he is having problems getting it done because he can’t think of anything to write or draw.

Over the years, children’s schedules have drastically filled up with things like dance practice, soccer games, music lessons, etc. We are starting to fill up their schedules at earlier and earlier ages. When we are home, most of us aren’t spending as much time with our children and are just letting them watch tv or play video games as a way to keep them occupied. Children are never having enough free time that they can experience boredom and learn how to deal with it (by using their imagination…).

Media time doesn’t just decrease a child’s creativity, but also “Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.” (Amercian Academy of Pediatrics). I see this within my child care also. The current group of children range in age from 17 months to to age 6, with the majority being age 4. These children should be full of ideas and creativity and have large imaginations, but at even age 4 I have one that all he wants to talk about each day lately is the current level he completed in his video game or how he got to play video games before coming to my house and this child used to ask wonderful questions all the time that caused us to do little research projects to find out the answers and those questions could turn into a whole day of activities. Now I’m lucky if he has the attention span to listen to me read a book before he is completely bored. Another is very involved with tv and movies and can relate to anything he has seen in a movie but beyond that he is sort of lost. When did kids loose their grand imaginations and what can we do to help get them back!

For your own children, if you can do without electronic items for them at all, this would be the most ideal, but if you must have them, limit them to only a few times a week and for only a few minutes a day. Even though I didn’t do it with my own children, in my child care after hearing it at many training’s (and especially finding out how many more children are having to see optometrists for eye issues now than previous years due to using electronics so much…) I got rid of all electronics. We no longer have a laptop to do learning games on, I just get more creative in how I teach them, we no longer have the Leapfrog and Vtech toys (the readers, the computers, etc…). A toy that only requires a child to flip a button to turn it on and off and punch a few buttons to move their player or to answer questions is a very closed ended toy and that is what is limiting their creativity. If you can only make you guy go straight in the game of he falls off the wall how are you having any choices or making any decisions in what you are doing? Now…give a child a set of blocks and how many different things will those blocks become? They can build with them, the can use other toys with them, I have seen the blocks be cell phones (so they turn into dramatic play props) or just today I had a child using one as a hammer.

So aside from avoiding electronics for your child, or giving them very little time with them, supplying them with open ended toys and lots of free play opportunities is what is going to help foster those little minds! Let them be kids and play!

To view the article I mention above, go to: http://www.childcareexchange.com/eed/issue/3550/
To view the American Academy of Pediatrics views on Media and Children, go to:
http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx

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