Children need time to be bored, ex-head says

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Boredom can be more beneficial for children’s development than participation in clubs and extra-curricular activities, a leader of prep schools has said.


Boredom should not be feared, former prep school head Julie Robinson said

Julie Robinson, education and training director of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) warned parents and teachers that providing too many distractions for children with ‘an exhausting programme of endless after-school activities’ could reduce young people’s independence and social development.

Writing in IAPS magazine Attain, Ms Robinson said more emphasis should be placed on meditation and calm.

‘It is all too easy for parents to be sucked into a competitive busyness, ensuring that children are constantly occupied and stimulated,’ she said. ‘We should not fear boredom however. Quiet, reflective time is just as important as purposeful activity.’

The former head teacher also cautioned parents against being ‘accidentally drawn into “overbearing parenting” by pre-planning each minute. Children should be given space and time to take their own risks and make their own decisions, she said.

Ms Robinson recommends that children should be allowed to learn how to form their own relationships and understand human emotions to stay ahead in the world of further education and work.

‘Through making friends and suffering occasional unkindness we develop an understanding of the motives of others and by trial and error we learn effective communication skills,’ she said. ‘These soft skills are what future employers will look for, and by encouraging explicit analysis of social interaction we will serve today’s children.’

Ms Robinson added that while technology has provided young children with many new skills, excessive computer use from an early age should be discouraged, and should in particular never be viewed as a replacement for staged development, which ought instead to be encouraged through tactile play and movement, or face-to-face social interaction.

You can view the full article here:

  • Read our feature on boredom by Dr Natasha Kirkham from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, in the next issue of Nursery World out on Monday and on our website (accessible for subscribers).
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