Equip children to pursue their own interests

                        

Mommy, I’m bored.

Now that the pandemic and the corresponding requirements to stay home have stretched into weeks, how often are your children complaining of boredom? Are you suffering as well?

Are you finding it hard to come up with new ways to keep your children entertained? Here’s my advice. Stop trying.

When our sons were very young, I taught them that when they said they were bored, my ears heard, “I need a job to do.”

Any active household has myriad age-appropriate jobs. Little ones can be required to pick up and put away three toys. By kindergarten most kids should be able to handle a load of laundry or at least fold a stack of towels. Sweeping the floor fits most ages. Dishes always need attention. Older kids can make dinner. You get the idea.

To start, you can get a number of tasks done quickly. The kids can learn new skills or move to greater mastery.

As time moves on, you’ll find you will hear I’m bored far less often as the children learn a job awaits. This is where the real benefit begins. Kids will start developing interests on their own.

Sometimes a bit of equipping will help but don’t get elaborate. When our son was little, he loved to gather paper towel rolls, scrap paper, bits of this and that. He could happily spend hours using them in his creations. You don’t need to give them a pattern or specific instructions. Just give them some miscellaneous bits to work with.

While we were building our house several years ago, the boys learned to make things from the scrap materials lying around. They started with wood bits. Then they moved on to elaborate creations from wire.

They did their share of helping on the house when they could, but they also learned valuable lessons about using their time to develop interests instead of expecting someone else to provide amusement.

During their lifetimes we have never had television service to our house. Now that it is possible to stream things, we do have a few watching opportunities. However, they are limited to having something to watch while using the treadmill, feeling too sick to do anything or when we have worked so hard all day more movement is out of the question. Even at that, other than my time on the treadmill, the family often goes weeks, even months, without watching any prepared entertainment.

Consequently we have all had time to develop our interests.

For example we raise chickens, ducks, sheep and cows. Any one species presents a wide variety of learning, caring and building opportunities.

We each dabble in some sort of creative endeavor. The current list includes, but is not limited to, knitting, blacksmithing, spinning, photography, writing and woodworking.

We lean toward fun that includes action such as hiking, biking, kayaking and fishing.

Lots of things that have a do-it-yourself aspect have been part of our lives. We completely gutted and rebuilt a duplex years ago. We did the majority of work in building our current home and free standing garage. When they are not free ranging, our ducks and chickens reside in coops that we built.

We fix our own vehicles including replacing engines and transmissions. We have rebuilt several tractors.

Although we have more to build, we have put up all our own fences for livestock.

We eat the majority of our meals at home and make most things from scratch. We make our own yogurt, bread and kombucha. I look forward to mastering cheese making.

I have often said that once I work out all the things I’m interested in now, I have another list waiting to try.

By not entertaining them, our kids have had the time and opportunity to develop and pursue interests of their own. They actively find, research and take on projects independently.

So even though the current situation may have you feeling strained, resist the urge and the extra burden of keeping your kids entertained. Equip them to pursue their own interests. Allow them to see you working on yours.


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