Especially for Parents: When Boredom Strikes, Embrace It

by Angie Williams

“Even though they don’t realize it, kids need us to make the space for them to be drawn in by the world around them. If we never let them get bored, they never discover how interesting the world really is.” — Suzanne Bouffard

I recently had the opportunity to take our daughters (ages 8 and 10) on a weekend excursion that went (mostly) smoothly, until our return flight was cancelled, and we made a pivot to get home faster by driving. It was a long day full of waiting in lines and moving slowly from one place to the next. Once in the car, the girls fell asleep, and I had an extended stretch of miles to cover and time to fill. Frankly, the whole thing was rather boring.
As I let my mind unwind and wander during those hours of waiting and driving, however, I was reminded of how rare it is that many of us allow ourselves, and our children, the chance to experience boredom. Our devices, our work, and our activities mean that we can be distracted by, or engaged in, something nearly all of the time. In doing so, we can miss out on the benefits of boredom for our brains and our overall well-being.
Child psychologist Suzanne Bouffard outlines some of these benefits of boredom for children in a PBS Kids article ( These include:
• Being present
• Taking brain breaks to ease stress and anxiety
• Being creative
• Fostering independence
When we are bored, we give our brains a chance to observe in new ways, solve problems, discover what truly interests us, find gratitude, or just relax. I think of how much children can absorb on a long walk in a stroller simply by watching people and nature, listening to the sounds around them, and feeling the sensations of sun or wind on their skin.
As an adult, I also find that boredom spurs my mind to remember different points in life and past experiences, which for me creates a sense of meaning and connection.
It is easy to appreciate the concept of boredom as an important factor in development and well-being, but it may be harder to put it into practice when entertainment is so readily available. And yet the research is showing us what may be lost if we do not allow ourselves and our children those moments devoid of noise and distraction. With practice, the temporary discomfort of boredom can be merely a pathway to enriched minds, fuller experiences, and a greater sense of peace.