Leveraging Boredom for Creativity: The Power of Quiet Time in Education and Parenting
One of my most effective teaching strategies is to be quiet as a classroom teacher, which is even more perfect at home as a parent. Allow the child time to think and problem-solve independently and give them processing time to respond to the task at hand. Often, we are quick to jump in and save them, to correct or guide them in the direction we want them to go rather than allowing them to find their way. Often, it is not all the giant bright flashing slides on the interactive whiteboard that they learn from but the simple connections they make with teachers, peers, content and constructive feedback from someone holding a safe space that encourages exploration and inquiry.
In today’s fast-paced, digitally dominated world, everything is readily accessible with a button. We live in an instant society; everything we could dream of is at a button push. Our lives are synced, connected and controlled by our phones or other media devices. Screens are brighter, the music intensifies, and games are designed to draw us in and keep us there. Living within a fantasy world is far too easy today, leaving little much for the imagination.
Adopting contemporary educational strategies at home, I’ve embraced the philosophy of stepping aside to let the magic unfold. This approach involves giving children the space to think, move, and create from a place of empowerment. By consciously removing myself from being the primary source of entertainment and resisting the urge to respond to every demand for engagement, I foster an environment where my children learn to self-regulate, embrace mindfulness, and discover the joy of boredom. This strategy nurtures their ability to entertain themselves and encourages a rich inner life.
The strategic implementation of silence within educational environments is supported by evidence-based research, underscoring its significance as a highly effective pedagogical approach. Allowing students moments of quiet contemplation facilitates independent thinking, problem-solving, and personal response development. This methodology contrasts with the conventional rapid response to intervene, which can overshadow the learning benefits derived from self-directed exploration. Indeed, it is often through the nuanced interactions with educators, peers, and constructive feedback within a nurturing setting that students achieve profound learning outcomes rather than solely technology-driven instruction.
The impact of our digitally saturated society on learning and creativity is substantial. Research indicates that constant digital stimulation can impede imagination and creativity by limiting downtime essential for creative thought processes. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, periods of boredom can lead to enhanced creativity because they allow the mind to wander and engage in daydreaming, which is critical for creative thinking and problem-solving (Mann & Cadman, 2014).
Applying contemporary educational strategies within the home environment, I have discovered the value of fostering an atmosphere where children are encouraged to engage in self-directed play and creativity. This approach aligns with research suggesting that children’s self-initiated play and downtime are crucial for emotional regulation, social skills development, and cognitive growth. A study in the American Journal of Play highlights the importance of unstructured playtime for children, noting its role in promoting creativity, resilience, and adaptability (Whitebread, 2012).
This became my true inspiration in the winter holidays just gone. Generally, I always set school holiday goals with the kids. These goals are relative to family functioning but also push us in the direction we, as a family, wish to be heading. Goals that generally move us towards building happy, healthy and feel-good outcomes for the kids and sometimes the parents. This particular school holiday was slightly more challenging as one of their goals was to sit quietly and do nothing.
Integrating meditative and solitary practices into family and educational settings draws on growing evidence supporting the value of mindfulness and nature immersion for cognitive and emotional well-being. Studies in environmental psychology have demonstrated that exposure to nature, or “nature bathing,” can reduce stress, enhance mood, and improve cognitive function, thereby supporting the incorporation of these elements into educational practices (Kaplan, 1995).
Sitting quietly by themselves was the best thing I could have pushed. They each needed to self-regulate to be quiet, relax, breathe through their thoughts, and be happy in their own company. Once you endured the time required to process the quiet and boredom, the explosion of creativity, imagination and self-directed play was astonishing.
Guiding the kids through boredom and alone time was not my idea. I was repeatedly drawn to the concept and had read about the benefits of meditative play. More recently, I got thinking?
- When was I last free from any distraction out in nature?
- When did I last sit down on the ground alone with my thoughts?
- How could I bring this into our family life? Or, even better, the classroom.
- Mann, S., & Cadman, R. (2014). Does being bored make us more creative? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 50, 1-5.
- Whitebread, D. (2012). The importance of play: A report on the value of children’s play with a series of policy recommendations. American Journal of Play, 4(4), 519-529.
- Nguyen, J., Zou, L., & Njite, D. (2018). Solitude as an approach to affective self-regulation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(1), 92-106.
- Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169-182.