Family and Friends

The Benefits of Boredom for Kids

A Boy Stares Out the Window Bored in His Bedroom

Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.

“I'm bored” are words that every parent dreads. But boredom can be an opportunity for your child’s development. In fact, in a world of constant entertainment, unstructured time can nurture a child’s creativity and hone their problem-solving skills.

Defining Boredom

When people are bored, they feel restless and frustrated. Here are some reasons that boredom develops in children:

  • Children crave novelty: They are naturally curious, and that can make it hard for them to stick to one activity
  • Kids have short attention spans: Children’s brains are still under construction. They can’t easily filter out distractions to focus for long
  • Kids need structure: Free time is important, but too much can leave them restless

When older children are bored, they can communicate through their behaviors. But the younger they are, the less likely it is they’ll be able to describe their feelings. Instead, they may whine, complain, fidget or seek attention.

Understanding the Benefits of Boredom

While boredom is uncomfortable, that can be a good thing. It can benefit your child’s development in a number of ways, including:

  • Boosting creativity: When they’re bored, children seek out novelty. They may invent new games, create elaborate stories or engage in art activities
  • Encouraging problem-solving: Boredom presents a problem – a lack of stimulation. To find a solution, kids may build a fort with pillows or plan a backyard adventure, for example
  • Improving self-directed learning: During free time, kids discover new things on their own. This fosters independence and nurtures their unique interests
  • Increasing frustration tolerance: Dealing with boredom, especially when they can’t come up with an easy solution for it, can leave kiddos frustrated. But these setbacks help kids learn to cope
  • Promoting mental relaxation: Constant stimulation can be draining. Boredom naturally leads to downtime that allows kids to relax and recharge. This quiet time nurtures emotional well-being and focus

Accepting Your Child’s Limitations

It’s important to keep in mind that boredom is beneficial only in moderation. Your child’s tolerance for boredom will vary depending on their age, personality and needs. And if they’re neurodivergent, boredom can be especially challenging.

Two common types of neurodivergence are ADHD and autism.

Understanding the Role ADHD Can Play in Boredom

Lower levels of dopamine are common in children with ADHD. And this brain chemical plays a role in motivation, reward and attention. Kids with ADHD may crave even more novelty and excitement than neurotypical kids. They may also have even more difficulty sustaining attention than their peers.

Understanding the Role Autism Can Play in Boredom

Kids on the autism spectrum frequently have special interests they tend to fixate on like dinosaurs, superheroes, LEGOs or Barbies — and all other activities may seem boring in comparison.

Additionally, social interaction can be challenging. If playtime, for example, lacks clear structure or social cues, they might become easily bored or frustrated.

Children with autism can also often have sensory sensitivities. Some seek sensory inputs, while others may avoid them. If sensory stimulation isn’t “just right,” autistic kids may become bored.

Offering Boredom-Busting Activities

When kids are bored, they often hit a mental block. But helping them create a list of go-to activities can give them some options to choose from when boredom hits. Consider displaying the ideas in an activity jar, on a bulletin board or on a phone app that’s easy for your child to use.

Some possible activities to include:

  • Younger children (3-5 years old): Coloring, blocks, dress-up and picture books
  • Older children (6-10 years old): Drawing, painting, science kits and frisbees

You could even take the list a step further by creating a boredom-buster box with your kids. What’s involved? Simply fill the container with multipurpose items that will spark their imagination.

Helping Your Family Thrive

By understanding boredom and providing your children with tools to combat it, you can help them develop important life skills. But when you need a little extra help, the AdventHealth team is ready with support for your entire family.

Learn more about our Children’s Care services. Our skilled, compassionate child life specialists and other providers can help your family flourish physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Recent Blogs

A Physician Checks a Smiling Baby's Breathing with a Stethoscope
Identifying and Caring for Hernias in Children
A Therapist Speaks to His Patient and Put's his Hand on His Shoulder
What to Talk About in Therapy
Helping Your Child Navigate Unhealthy Relationships
A mother holding and comforting her son.
Dealing with the Loss of a Pet
Find Peace on Mother's Day, Even When You're Grieving
View More Articles