Children should be allowed to get bored, expert says

 
Child in Dr Belton said children needed time to stand and stare

Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says.

Dr Teresa Belton told the BBC cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination

She quizzed author Meera Syal and artist Grayson Perry about how boredom had aided their creativity as children.

Syal said boredom made her write, while Perry said it was a "creative state".

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.

She heard Syal's memories of the small mining village, with few distractions, where she grew up.

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."

'Reflection'

The comedienne turned writer said: "Enforced solitude alone with a blank page is a wonderful spur."

While Perry said boredom was also beneficial for adults: "As I get older, I appreciate reflection and boredom. Boredom is a very creative state."

And neuroscientist and expert on brain deterioration Prof Susan Greenfield, who also spoke to the academic, recalled a childhood in a family with little money and no siblings until she was 13.

"She happily entertained herself with making up stories, drawing pictures of her stories and going to the library."

Dr Belton, who is an expert in the impact of emotions on behaviour and learning, said boredom could be an "uncomfortable feeling" and that society had "developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated".

But she warned that being creative "involves being able to develop internal stimulus".

"Nature abhors a vacuum and we try to fill it," she said. "Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride."

'Short circuit'

The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children's writing, said: "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".

Syal adds: "You begin to write because there is nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing else to do.

"It's very freeing being creative for no other reason other than you freewheel and fill time."

Dr Belton concluded: "For the sake of creativity perhaps we need to slow down and stay offline from time to time."

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 253.

    I don't remember being bored as a child. I loved time on my own and playing with my friends and my sister. Now I get frustrated that the world does not want me , or anyone else, to just spend time staring into space and letting my mind wander. I remedy this by waking up early and having 2 hours a day of peace and 'boredom' that way.
    My son has a similar attitude.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 252.

    233; couldn't agree more, told in recent observations a 25 min activity for 18 year olds was "unstructured" despite them all working, engaging with me and other students and asking questions. Too much "edutainment" stifles creaticity and concentration.

    Boredom not necc but down time, reading and ability to converse are essential in social skils .... and even enjoyable!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 251.

    I find it incredible that any free person in a developed country can get bored, yet I hear children complaining about boredom so frequently.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 250.

    Boredom, as a child, led me to investigate my sister's bedroom and find her copy of The Hobbit, which I read. Boredom also led me to throw things at passing trains (not proud).

    Boredom is a catalyst for kids to do creative & destructive things, and as such should be channeled. Parents need to instill values in their kids so they don't need to be monitored 24 hours a day. That's what's missing.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 249.

    As a Child I didn't have many friends and had no Brothers or Sisters so there were many times when I was bored.

    I then discovered Agatha Christie at the local library, along with HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle.

    That boredom did me a lot of good!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 248.

    246.Steerpike
    Is it ironic that you're not aware of what an FPS is and proceed to make some sort of link I can't begin to fathom? See my point at 241. QED.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 247.

    Think we should take ResCyn's advice as he seems correct, but not only that, there is to much prejudice against video games to have a worthwhile debate about them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 246.

    242.
    Golgotha
    Hi, Re: communication skills - I think your phrase 'Take first person shooters as an example.' speaks volumes.
    If only we taught irony in schools instead of IT.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 245.

    I totally agree with this! We can entertain and 'busy' our children to the point that they have no time for their own thoughts and ideas. There has to be a balance. The word NURTURE as opposed to NEGLECT springs to mind. We all need 'down time' - whether it's an hour when we get home from work or quiet time at the start or end of the day.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 244.

    I'm 25 now and I can honestly say it wasn't too long ago when kids would be outside 24/7. When I was growing up we still didn't have camera phones etc. this online generation has only really kicked off in the last 6/7 years.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 243.

    240.
    Livealittle

    Sorry, wandered off there for a minute. You were saying? Oh yes, boredom. I agree, time to think - a very underrated commodity.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 242.

    238.Steerpike

    If you're playing with other people, why can't a video game help with social and communication skills? Take first person shooters as an example, they require a lot of effective communication and social skills to organise your team and achieve your objective. Even playing on your own can do that but it depends on the game.
    .

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 241.

    239.Golgotha
    Depends what game you're playing. But let's not get on to video games as there are too many people ignorant of the topic - in particular vast swathes of parents who seem incapable of controlling access.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 240.

    238.Steerpike
    Yes, I take your point but one of life's essential skills is to be able to be creative and go 'against the tide' and think independently.This is often fostered by being given time and space to be 'bored' and to think.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 239.

    237.P J Proudhon

    Not sure, but if you think about it, why not? I don't see why a game is different just becuase of the media on which it is presented. Just as playing say, board games helps build, logic and forward planning skills why can't a video game can't do the same?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 238.

    232.
    Golgotha
    This does seem to be the case, yes, but video games don't appear to help with social and communication skills. These are also vital life-skills, ones that are required but sadly seem to be being lost recently.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 237.

    232. Golgotha
    ===

    Was the research undertaken by a foundation financially supported by the relevant digital industries perhaps? Do forgive my scepticism but research can be skewed to prove whatever the funding body requires.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 236.

    As always it is about balance. But whatever the activity children need to be encouraged and taught by parents. Some do this extremely well, unfortunately some do not, probably due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of the importance of key life skills at an early age. Helping educate parents in child development would help many more children to grow up as well rounded citizens of the future.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 235.

    Growing up 47 years ago the word 'bored' never existed in my vocabulary. We were creative and never relied on TV etc.The sad part is we have become too much of a consuming society at the expense of children while the likes of Apple etc are making profits and parents working hard than ever or borrowing more

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 234.

    To those who say the kids hanging round being bored, throwing bricks etc., they probably weren't encouraged to do other things when younger. Boredom can be overcome by doing other things - such as reading. There are too few books (even electronic ones) in houses today. Encourage reading - you can learn things even from trashy novels!

 

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