If your children are coming to you saying that they are bored, there are many great things that can be done to foster thinking, problem solving, creativity, imagination and initiative. We can start off by limiting TV and other screen entertainment and encouraging any signs of initiative. We can take our children out and encourage them to have visitors to the home. Providing many different, safe materials for our children to explore, experience and play with, is really good for our kids. They need to have a wide variety of experiences that stimulate all of their senses.
TV and other screen games
TV and screen games have their place if used in moderation. I would suggest not more than 2 hours a day for children over 3, and much less, if any, under that age. Children need a lot more than activities that primarily stimulate the senses of sight and hearing.
Show enthusiasm and encourage effort If your child comes to you to show you something she or he has created, it is smart to comment specifically on the positive aspects of the article. Eg a hat made from paper or a rocket made from a cardboard tube. It is not necessary to tell your child what else he could add to it, unless he asks specifically for that. It is not wise to take over and make a better one. We need to encourage any effort, improvement and strength so that our children feel empowered and confident.
Setting a healthy example
If our children can see us creating, investigating, inquiring, exploring and problem solving, they will be more likely to follow suit.
Taking children out
There are a huge number of excellent places to visit with our children, such as parks, beaches, forests, gardens, museums, zoos, concerts, libraries etc. Children can smell flowers and plants; taste sour, bitter, salty and sweet, spicy foods; run, jump, climb, dig, skip, paddle, build, talk to the animals, learn about the present and past world, listen to and watch musicians in action, and so much more.
Visiting people and inviting them over
Social experiences in and out of the home with friends, relatives and visitors, are very important for our children’s development. They can find out that others are different and similar in many ways; that we need to co-operate and negotiate so that we are all content; that sharing and taking turns and following rules is a positive thing to do. Other people can enrich our children’s lives by showing and telling them things that they might not have already experienced.
Different materials for art and craft
Children need to be exposed to a large variety of age appropriate and safe materials in different combinations so that they can play and experiment and make their own creations. This will develop our children’s intellectual, physical, emotional, social and language skills. We don’t need to spend a fortune. Re-cycled products such as cardboard cylinders, boxes, fabric etc, are great. Garden materials such as leaves, flowers, seeds, seed pods, bark and grasses are terrific. Children naturally love to build, tear, squash, mix, break, cut, decorate, draw, paint, etc.
It’s wise to limit the amount of materials and toys that children are presented with and to gradually increase the number of materials they have access to at one time, as they grow. An older child needs to know the whereabouts, and be able to use different products safely. He or she needs to be expected to put back the items after use, so that others can find these things at a later date.
It is smart to keep dangerous things out of reach of younger children and to teach older children to either keep dangerous items away from siblings, or for them to supervise their brothers and sisters closely. Young children have very short attention spans and will need frequent changes of toys and materials. If we can store these things in an organised manner with labels and appropriate stackable containers, our lives will be made much easier.
Fostering inquiring minds
If your child wants to know the answer to something, it’s a good idea to encourage her or him to think about the answer her or himself. We can ask further questions to foster thinking. Our child can be encouraged to find an answer in a book, on the internet, or by asking someone who is likely to have the answer. If the child is really young, you can do the research together.
We can empower our children and teach them compassion by asking them to think of ways to help others that are less fortunate eg giving clothes and toys, that are no longer being used, to charities, fundraising, etc.
Imagination and Creativity
Construction activities such as lego and blocks, allow our children to build something of their choice and, as they grow, to visualise an idea before they create. These types of activities are great for more than one child or adult, and allow for co-operation, collaboration and sharing of ideas.
Helping children discover their unique interests and talents
I am a strong believer in exposing children to lots of different experiences, and finding out what they are good at, and interested in, fairly early in their lives. In this way children can keep developing their passions and will gain a lot of satisfaction and stimulation. If they can discover their interests and talents early, they will be motivated to learn and do many enriching related activities. We need to allow our children to follow their own interests, not what we wish for them to do.