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[dupe] Let Children Get Bored Again (nytimes.com)
399 points by paulpauper on Sept 15, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 240 comments

We do quiet time in my home where my kids go to their rooms with a small activity box for acouple hours. They hated it at first because they were “bored”, now they love it.

The amazing things they come up with when I come back to the room to let them know it’s over. I’ve never seen them play the same way twice. They get bored at first, and then get creative, which turns into a ton of fun for them as they imagine new ways to use a toy.

It’s common now for them to hang out for another 30-40 minutes to finish their play scenario they built over that two hours.

It’s an investment in creativity, making more with less, there is no technology involved, just wood blocks, a few figures maybe, puzzles, or books, and I’m constantly impressed now with what they are doing with their time.

The constant feeling that parents need to have non stop activity, education, and entertainment for their kids I think is one of the biggest detriments to their development.

Let kids be kids, let them play, let them screw up, and let them figure it out themselves.

We are raising future adults, not just biologically older children.

>> Let kids be kids, let them play, let them screw up, and let them figure it out themselves.

I don't think that is what the author is promoting.

"Of course, it’s not really the boredom itself that’s important; it’s what we do with it. When you reach your breaking point, boredom teaches you to respond constructively, to make something happen for yourself. But unless we are faced with a steady diet of stultifying boredom, we never learn how."

I think they are arguing for actual boredom. Not an activity book, not an open acre on which to roam. Not a puzzle game. They are saying that being locked in the back seat of a car on a long trip with literally nothing to do, can be good. They are not saying that parents should allow unstructured play. They are saying that letting kids get actually bored, without any sort of play options, is not an evil to be avoided at all costs.

Isn’t that exactly what parent comment’s promoting? His kids were bored with a relatively unstimulating toy, but they reached their breaking point and learned how to have fun with it.

Nope. I think the article is about not finding fun on your own. It is not about overcoming boredom but instead actually letting them be bored.

Children are only bored for so long before their imagination and natural instinct for curiosity and play takes over. Supervising and forcing boredom onto them at all cost as they find ways around it is not something I believe is the intention of the article.

I think the point is addressing the urge to endlessly entertain and busy up children constantly instead of letting them just sit and figure it out on their own.

Is it possible to not overcome boredom? Eventually you start imagining something entertaining or you fall asleep.

Quote from the lede: "More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

Parent of a toddler here, and always looking for best practices.

Can you give any more detail about how this works? At what age did you start doing it, what's in the boxes, and how did you introduce the idea to your kids?

2 and 4 year old.

The activity boxes can be whatever you wish honestly. I have 6 I rotate currently.

My two year old is sensory and loves tactile things to play with. My 4 year old is highly imaginative and I can give him sticks and he builds a hockey rink and plays the game out in his mind with sound effects and everything.

I don’t think there is a wrong way to do it, I just avoid technology and putting too much in them.

A nice side effect is I buy them less toys because by the time they get to the last box, it feels brand new to them even if they played with those toys 20 times prior.

That bit of it shocked me, we spoil kids too much with new stuff, just make them use what they have in a way that feels new.

How much do you monitor them? If I tried to leave my twin 2 year olds alone for an hour, one would probably strip naked and play with whatever is in his diaper, and the other would do her best to destroy whatever she could find in the room. She especially loves to dismantle books.

The first couple times are tough, like toilet training. Sometimes to learn you gotta pee on the rug. And when you (the parent) aren't there to react, the novelty of their disaster-play goes away - surprisingly fast. Little brains work faster than I think we give them credit for. Their bodies are not strong but that brain is some kind of magic sponge.

He's never done this while we're there. Only in the middle of the night. He wakes up, doesn't cry, and plays. Sometimes when we come in in the morning it's a literal shit show.

With the two year old I stay nearby in the other room working and have a monitor. The 4 year old does whatever. My two year old verbalizes before things get destructive, but I only had to deal with it a few times before he settled into it.

You can honestly find a ton of good resources with local or national home schooling organizations or parents.

I intend to homeschool my kids, and I’ve never met a more intense group of parents when it comes to their childrens upbringing and development than when I went to the Arizona homeschooling conference the last couple of years.

Even if you have no intent to homeschool your toddlers, the resources and ideas for activities and at home development is pure gold in my opinion.

Can you share a picture of a box or two? Do you fill them up with new stuff or mix them every time?

I haven't changed the stuff in the boxes in a while.

One box is literally the bottom of a wooden puzzle board, missing the puzzle pieces naturally, because God knows where they went a year ago, about 8 small wood blocks, and a matchbox car.

Currently my 4 year old makes that a hockey rink and the blocks are players. The car is the zamboni. Last month it was a destruction derby with towers.

Use whatever is at hand, many of the boxes don't have much else than some cotton balls, sticks, and rocks, and others are more involved.

The point is to rotate them through every once in awhile and it becomes new again. They invent new things to do with it each time it comes through.

On the occasion I've looked in on the play, you can see them fight it initially, my two year old will shuffle around the room for a while or take a quick nap, my 4 year old will lay on the bed or fuss for a bit, and within 30 minutes they'll gravitate to the box and start working it out.

This sounds amazing, but (conjecturing here) only works if you have more than one child. Ours will stay in a setting like this for an hour or two, but usually reading, being alone is not that fun.

My children are each alone during quiet time, so I wouldn’t worry.

I do two hours typically, sometimes one hour, there really isn’t a set rule, you simply feel it out with your own children.

We do quiet time too, but each by themselves. Putting them together is a recipe for yelling and conflict.

> Putting them together is a recipe for yelling and conflict.

Unfortunately that reflects more on the parents than it does on the children.

Siblings fight, it's part of their play and social development.

I don't know if you have kids, and if you do and have the one in a million golden children, congratulations, but in my experience, conflict exists.

If you believe that, then we have three in a million. I don't believe it's a coincidence.

I disagree with this. Put any two toddlers together with "one of something" and there will be fights.

Only if you accept them. Sharing, and cooperative play are best learned early.

have you considered not being so worried about their fun levels? I feel like the point is to allow them to grow beyond instant gratification.


This is cool I guess, but why not send the outside instead?

I do, all the time. I live on an acre and they roam it. Quiet time is a supplement to everything else.

Saw the ages. Makes more sense. My point was just that nature is an "activity box" all to itself.

I'm taking a guess that you don't have kids. Yes, nature is a great activity, but no matter how free-range you are, at GP's kids ages it means supervision is required. There's times in the day where you need to do dishes, laundry etc. or even just getting a quick break. There's ways to deal with that, but getting a bit of time each day where supervision isn't constant is a great luxury to have.


Since I've raised my children, I find many problems with children are rooted in adults. So when I hear children parenting advice, I switch it to adult. That yields a lot of interesting insights.

"Let Adults Get Bored Again"

Parenting is also about adult self-discipline.

Best parenting is simply being a good example.

So if you want your kids to be truthful, disciplined and respectful .. try to start with yourself.

I know too many parents, who sneak out to smoke their bad habit cigarette or joint, while preaching their children to never smoke .. and I suspect all their children find out about that at some point.

Yes. And the parents who sneak out to smoke aren't just teaching their kids to smoke: they're teaching them to be sneaky. It would be better to smoke openly and say, 'Please don't follow my example. I regret having started.'


Admitting to have faults as well, is very important, but especially hard for many, as they think their authority will suffer. Humans are not perfect. Also not parents. Children can handle that.

On the other hand, my parents never snuck around at all, and I was very sneaky as a child/teen.

Yet authority figures set a standard, whether one is able to meet it or not. If they had been sneaky, then I might sneak around sociopathically for the rest of my life, without a twinge of guilt. This could easily mar both my life and others.

That sounds nice but is a superficial and facile simplification that pretends children are not individuals with their own tendencies and influences. There have been good people raised by literal serial killers.

Of course there have been. It also doesn't change the fact that children raised by good parents tend to turn out better. It's a numbers game just like most things in life.

In the long term maybe, but it may take years. If your kid has bullying tendencies now and you let it on just being good example, it may take years of other kids being bullied.

Being a good example for me also means, to stop bullying and in general exploiting of weaker ones.

I also do martial arts with kids. It teaches them how to fight, but more importantly, not needing to fight, especially not weaker ones, to feel superior. If you know you are strong, you don't have to show off. People with low self esteem does that.

Yes, but stopping is not enough. It will just move beyond your back. It is also important to actively teach positive problem solving, deal with underlying reasons for bullying etc.

The same for victim or maybe even more importantly. You have to actively teach the kid behaviors that makes it less likely bullied, in situation when the kid is not bullied right now. Even if you are naturally assertive, the kid may not be and you gotta actively work with it.

Doing things and explaining them if needed, are going together for me.

And didn't I say I do martial arts and it is much more about fighting? If done right, the agressor stops doing so as he don't need it anymore to feel confident and the victim walks upright and does not have written "victim" on their head anymore.

When I need to teach the small kid to hold the toy while the other is trying to take it away, I wont be able to teach that just by explaining while role-modeling. The same when I need to teach a bit older kid to relax and swear back.

Second, no, one intervention is not enough, for neither kid. It takes repeated interventions as behavior goes away and comes back sometimes in different form. It is not just about walking upright either.

These are strong habits in both children when talking about repeated issues. And aggressors motivation are more complicated then just confidence (situation in family that wont go away, parents who encourage aggression etc). In martial club, you need to stop the behavior while in club (not accepted here), in home you deal with it repeatedly and need to change it in situations you don't control at all and know only half of.

I also believe that if you as a parent is going to force your kids into boredom. Reading books or whatever. You as a parent should also join in and read your own book at the same time.

Be a good example.

It makes me terribly sad that reading a book could be considered boring!

Ever read any Melville?

Yes and I wouldn't consider Melivlle to be boring!

Tell that to his wife! /joke

Heck, read a book together occasionally! I remember doing this with my father and sister. I think we all enjoyed it as much as each other!

Edit: spelling

A year or so ago, I started reading a Cormac McCarthy book (The Crossing, I think) to my 4-5 yo. We got 100 pages in before life got in the way. I'd modify sequences on the fly if they were inappropriate, but the main thing was stopping after each sentence or two to define words or act out the action. e.g., if a horse had been hobbled, or the wolf was being tied up in a certain way, we'd get ribbon and pretend to tie something up. Sounds tediously slow but it wasn't too bad.

He was enthralled but I think at some point the story becomes more grim. Plus, it'd be hard to resume now because he's old enough to read over my shoulder and there'd be no way of hiding violent bits then.

yeah, exactly this. you don't need to force boredom on kids. simply set an example. the kids are merely a reflection of what the parents are doing. like how many parents "force" themselves to be alone and be creative for a couple of hours everyday? most of my fellow friends are just binge watching or playing video games in their free time. kids are following their footsteps.

We have this thing at our house called "no screens" or "turn off your screens". I yell it out, and my kids from ages 10-18 turn it off. (The 18 year old is off to college, but he used to as well).

There IS an exception. If the thing they choose to do with their time has online instructions or they will be learning from a tutorial, etc, then the screen can be used to a degree.

They start off bored. They may get ahead on some homework. The littlest one takes the longest to figure out what to do. Often times I ask if they want to play a board game, or go somewhere with me, walk the dog, etc. But if I'm in the middle of something else, it's up to them.

It takes a few minutes, but, before you know it, they're on the floor in their bedroom drawing, or building something elaborate out of cardboard, the LEGOs come out, or nerf darts start flying through the house.

And for the older kids, they will get out of the house, reach out to a friend, read a book, or study a new topic.

Being bored doesn't last long when you don't have a choice. The hardest part is getting started with that "something new".

As someone who grew up with the internet and rules like this I can tell you that the only thing it taught me was how to game the system and use electronics without getting caught. It gives me anxiety just to think about it honestly.

If you didn’t grow up with it you can’t understand how stressful it is to maintain friendships when your parents will randomly take away your phone. Its like being randomly grounded over and over for years.

The fact that people sometimes break rules doesn't necessarily make them ineffective.

Parents are not encouraged to give children unlimited access to alcohol or tobacco or hard drugs. Sure, they might find ways to break the rules, but are those rules then completely useless? Plenty of teenagers will claim that the rules just caused them to rebel, when in reality the rules were mostly effective and the teenagers are criticising a system from a sample size of 1 with no control.

This "rules are bad" is just silly. Kids aren't perfect and not every flaw is due to the parents making an egregious mistake - often the actions of parents are ones that make children into better people. It's also telling that the archetypal advocate progressive "child-centered" education (where natural consequences are good but authority is bad) was Rousseau, who never raised children himself.

I don’t think it’s fair to compare alcohol and tobacco to computer/phone usage. Some rules make more sense to break, and have fewer consequences.

My friend who is the dad of teenagers told me that his son's friend was caught waking up at 3am every morning, playing Fortnite until 5am and then going back to sleep before his parents woke up.

I ruined my college years playing video games 3 hrs a night in my dorm for the entire year. The addiction is real.

How in the world would 3 hrs of gaming a night ruin college? That’s less than many people spend watching tv/movies.

I went to both a very demanding college (after a transfer) and a very undemanding college. 3 hours at the easier school was nothing. I developed habits where I would spend the minimum amount of effort to get good grades, but the rest of my time was wasted.

Transferring, this wasn't maintainable, and it was honestly my saving grace for entering the workforce. I developed the self discipline necessary to meet the requirements, and 3 hours a day was way more "free time" than I had to actually network, expose myself to new ideas, and handle coursework.

At the easier school, I realize in retrospect that the extra time should've been used building things, making connections, or getting involved in extracurricular work.

Even now, a bit later in life with a family and a career, 3 hours is far more time than I have to waste on a game and still maintain connections with my family, handle household responsibilities, and develop interests that might help me grow as an engineer in the long term.

So you are a very responsible adult now, but do you really enjoy it? Your username implies otherwise ...

Maybe you just had fun, gaming? Then I don't think it was wasted time. I would consider it only wasted, if you did it out of bad habit and no better plans.

Yeah, being a responsible adult with a good life outlook and interesting work is honestly pretty fun.

Having fun has diminishing returns. At some point, like with any addictive behavior, it becomes a matter of habit. Tons of people are in this rut and don't realize.

There are tons of other fun activities that come with positive side effects like physical fitness or an in-person social group

Depending on the level of work required by the college, it would get in the way of said work. 3 hours a night is a lot of time spent not doing homework and not being social.

College was useful (at least for me) for those two aspects, neither of which I would have been able to really do well with 3 hours a night of gaming.

Post-college? Do whatever you’d like. In-college, you’re paying for time you won’t get back. :)

I wasted 3hr a day on my computer in college and it caused me huge amounts of stress and deprived me of real opportunities for connection and growth.

I deeply regret it.

As a parent, I’m still going to try to instill good habits and behavior even if my kids attempt to subvert them (similar to financial responsibility, manners, or safe sex). Once you’re an adult, how you behave is up to you, but before then it’s still my job to help them understand how to be decent, functioning humans.

Being a parent is hard, and mistakes are going to be made. Positive intent is important.

The point of the comment you are replying to is that plenty of parents, under the guise of "instilling good habits," simply issue a blanket ban and the threat of further punishment to discourage the use of whatever they are trying to teach their children to avoid rather than teaching their children responsible use, and that this is counter-productive, extremely damaging, and basically the opposite of good parenting.

In my experience my parents issued blanket bans and the threat of punishment for eating sugary foods, using the internet and watching TV. All this did was cause me to binge on all three whenever I had the opportunity at a friend's house, and that behavior extended into my adulthood until I was able to break free of my parents and seek the advice of reasonable adults to help curb my addictive behaviors.

When I discussed this with my parents they doubled down on their behavior, washed their hands of responsibility and blamed me. They used the same tired "how you behave when you are an adult is up to you" line. I hope you aren't doing the same to your children.

> simply issue a blanket ban and the threat of further punishment to discourage the use of whatever they are trying to teach their children to avoid rather than teaching their children responsible use

I take the somewhat contrarian view: kids (at some age) need to learn to cope with absolute limits that are strictly enforced. How else will they cope with living in real society? Not paying your rent will get you kicked out. Driving over the speed limit will get you a ticket, or worse. Not showing up to an exam in college means you fail the class.

Not saying you should have draconian rules on everything. But some rules need to be enforced with (reasonable) consequences. Otherwise you are doing your children a disservice, IMHO.

Driving over the speed limit will usually get you nothing. Failing to show up to an exam in college got me an opportunity to retake it with no penalty. Failing to pay your rent - maybe, but if you just paid it late, or if you were moving out anyway and make things enough of a pain for the landlord...

Where do you live that driving over the speed limit is strictly enforced???

What's missing in this behavior is the setting of expectations. Nobody likes surprises, least of all kids.

My kid has limited screen time that is strictly enforced, roughly 30 minutes a day. They're well aware of this fact and when it will happen.

We occasionally make exceptions for things like movies or what have you on the weekends.

Our kids earn their screen time, it’s not a given. Note we don’t include tv, but it’s rarely on anyway.

No TV here, which means that if the kid wants to watch something it's part of their screen time.

> Once you’re an adult, how you behave is up to you

This is not binary. As they grow older, kids should be able to take control of their lives more and more. Probably much more than the average parent thinks they should.

Edit: To clarify, I don't mean kids should become more skillful in controlling themselves according to their parents wishes. I mean the parents should gradually micromanage their kids less and less as they get older.

This is not binary. As they grow older, kids should be able to take control of their lives more and more.

Indeed. It's strange to me that people try to do things any other way. At the start, you have a tiny person who has no idea how to function in the world and is entirely dependent on others. Somewhere around two decades later, you have someone who needs to be ready to go out into the world on their own and operate independently. How else could you possibly get them from one to the other effectively if not by introducing more freedom and more responsibility over time as they become mature enough to handle them?

Probably the biggest complaint when I've spoken about childhoods with friends of my own generation, and the thing we pretty much all agree we want to avoid with our own generation of children, is strict and arbitrary-seeming rules that remain in place for far too long. Obviously no five-year-old is ready to make their own fully informed decisions about everything. But a fifteen-year-old? Hopefully by then they'll be making most decisions for themselves and relying on their parents more as advisers and a safety net than as figures of authority.

Backing this.

I've read stories of folks successfully getting their kids to manage their own screen time.

Impulse control is a spectrum. All kids are different.

Totally agreed.

The parents who forbid their kids to listen to Beatles or Metallica were also trying to instill good habits.

I'm not entirely sure what your point is here. Yes, some parents did that. Did it wreck their kids lives? Or did those kids go over to a friends house and listen to it anyway?

Positive intent is irrelevant when it comes to psychological damage.

Hyperbole is also unhelpful. Kids need boundaries.

Random rules or enforcement or punishment or whatever sounds very stressful. I had such a situation growing up pre-internet. It’s not really a rule then, it’s the whim of the authority figure.

It still encourages creative thinking and thinking outside the box. You might even be able to turn it into a game with your kid.

Yeah, I played that game with my parents when I was a kid. It was exhilarating and made me enjoy my time on the computer even more. It's very rewarding to be denied something but find a way to get it anyway.

Also the question I have is what are we fighting against? This is the world we created and we want our lids to live in a different world? Without online games, social networks etc?

Yes, I honestly do. Social media is generally pretty toxic as a kid and I regret the thousands of hours I poured into gaming immeasurably.

There are ways to get interested in things other than hobbies that give you a surface level exposure to hardware and software.

Counterpoint: I played tons of games in my adolescence and I cherish every second I did and I regret nothing. I loved video games and I got a lot of joy out of them. I also made great friendships. I am very glad I spent that time on games back when I had time, and I am sad I can no longer play like this and be part of these communities as it is too time consuming.

My parents took away my computer when I was young and locked it in their office. They found me at 2am in the morning having broken into the office using a screw driver to take the door knob off and pull the bolt lock back manually.

Hah! I remember my father had split the TV cable and could only enable it with a connector. He'd done it to make sure our (the kids) TV time was limited to after he got home from work. I learned that I could get a signal if I fashioned a connector out of tin foil. Not a great one but good enough to get a snowy analogue signal.

It was actually fun and felt like an achievement.

I turned the router off earlier (continuing online play at mealtime ...), I forgot to switch it on again and was upset that the older kids didn't "fix" it. At least you showed some initiative.

Oh man, the pointless challenge of setting up rules and then unpredictably being OK with them being broken or not. Not considered to be best practice for any position of authority, including parenting, but widely modeled I guess.

Because, "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." ... Sometimes teenagers do know where their own limits should be better than parents. In real life, there are times you break the rules, sometimes its' okay, sometimes it isn't. It's an important lesson to learn.

In the end, totalitarian views are what got us into the current political climate. Being able to negotiate, and sometimes push boundaries and break rules are important life skills.

That's not pointless at all. Teens especially need to break rules, so make some that you are OK with them breaking.

But don't tell them that.

FWIW I wouldn't be OK with them breaking the rules, but I'd appreciate the character trait that leads to someone who when challenged will look for a workaround.

In this situation the rule had been fulfilled, the meal was finished, and so finding a way to get back online was perfectly "lawful".

I'm pretty legalistic in a rational way with domestic rules for my kids - they can't flout the rules but they can provide a logical challenge and change the rules.

This situation was poor time management on my child's behalf.

My mom took the keyboard and hid it in her room. I found one in a dumpster, and used it when she wasn't home. I kept my keyboard hidden in my room as well.

How in the world do your kids get together with friends without screens? Do they have prior notice?

Serious question. I'm 40 and couldn't do that without a screen. I go off and play board games with some folks and we usually (but not always) use facebook to plan. A couple of folks don't have social media (by choice), but those folks aren't exactly taking phone calls nor does anyone really appreciate unexpected visitors. (I personally won't answer the door if I don't expect a visitor).

My teenager calls friends on her phone. My younger kids walk to their friends' houses and knock on their doors.

The idea that "nor does anyone really appreciate unexpected visitors." is a recent concept. When I was growing up, that is just how it worked - you knocked on a door. If they were busy or could not play, you respected that and left. If they really didn't have time for you, they just wouldn't answer the door. Obviously, you'd make plans if you didn't live near each other, but kids running around the local neighborhood pulling each other out of homes to play outside was literally an every day experience.

It is truly a difference in generations at this point. I find it disturbing and annoying to get texts and phone calls, but friendly and welcome for friends to stop by and say hello.

-Not the OP, but living in a Norwegian small town (population 5,000), my two oldest kids (aged 5 and 10) are just sent outside to find someone to play with - they have several friends living within a few minutes' walk, and what sparse traffic there is is moving at less than 20mph.

While there sometimes is some parental organisation by phone or text, for the most part, local kids just have to go out to see who's available, then be home by whatever time we decide to be the latest.

I realise this will not work across all locations, but out here in the boonies it works a charm.

If some kid comes by asking for my kids and they are not in, (s)he just walks to the next house or playground trying their luck. If I expect my kids back soon, I just invite the kid at the door in to wait for them.

My nephews, during no-screen time (which, for them, is usually a light punishment for something; my sister and I have not reached the level of practice that GP discussed), usually just go to their friends' houses. Their furthest friend lives about a mile away. The rest are nearby.

For some reason, when this happens, they usually don't end up just doing screen stuff with their friends. No idea why. Maybe exercising to bike/walk to their friends' houses gets them in a play-outside mood?

I admit it would be trickier for more remote kids, but in that situation asking a parent to set up a play-date (or making a no-screen exception for calling friends on the phone to schedule) would likely work well.

Most of the other answers to this comment are at least a little bit ignoring the “… which only works if the other kids in the neighborhood haven't already tuned their habits to the popular chat app and won't bother dealing with the weird kid who uses anything else” part. Which is in turn its own mirror of the adult world…

I still organize with family via phonecalls, and friends via group text - which can be done on flip phones. I won't label that cruel mockery of an LCD - that flip phones have - a "screen" ;)

I’m less than 40, and I grew up without screens. It wasn’t a problem. Phone calls work just fine.

For that, you need a phone without a screen.

Not impossible, but likely it'd be a purpose-bought feature phone.

Do you yell it out randomly? If so, do you feel good about your power, to disrupt any digital activity of your children? How would you feel, anybody doing this to you?

I would agree that is really a display of power, and not a good one.

They are learning to manage this kind of situation, for sure: that is, random disruption.

I see them learning peculiar time management strategies that they will have to unlearn as adults.

I see them learning that their efforts on medium-difficulty tasks are often going to be randomly wasted and are therefore not worth bothering with.

What exactly are you imagining these kids doing on these screens that are A. "medium difficulty" B. previous effort will immediately be wasted if they turn it off?

What kind of logic is this?

I don't like it when someone tells me what to do, but I'll be damned if I let my kids run wild and do whatever they want.

> board game

> drawing

> cardboard


> nerf darts

> book

Sometimes I wonder if people don't realize prep - actually having something to interact with - is needed for this to work.

Sticks, mud pies, trees, roof tops, yards, roads, sidewalks. All fun too, thanks nature and society.

Absolutely. I am blown away by how my 6 y/o daughter, raised so far w/ no "screens" and minimal exposure to video, can figure out how to make almost any natural material into a toy. It has been a challenge to keep rocks and plant matter from filling up our house.

You are making the presumption that a modern parent would permit their child to go outside and play without going with them. The primary reason most kids don't want to play outside is because their parent goes with them and kills every single opportunity for fun.

> parent goes with them and kills every single opportunity for fun

Sad but true. I'm super self-conscious of dancing because when I was little my mom would always chaperone these events and watch me. Now I always feel like there's somebody standing around with nothing better to do but analyze my every move, judging who I'm talking to, saying, etc. When my friends come over I hate even talking to them in the house because I know she's listening. Same thing with phone calls in the house. I always need to go for a walk for that.

I would love to do this, but cannot in my location. Both because it would be too easy to step into fast moving traffic (age specific issue), and because people have been known to have CPS called on them for letting their child play unattended.

Opposite problem with my kiddo. He is nine and doesn't want to go outside unless a parent goes with him.

We've raised both our kids with "no-screens" (now 5 and 9 yrs old). They don't have their own devices and may not use ours. An exception is for the 9 yr old to use the laptop when learning to code at scratch.mit.edu. If they need to watch something - its a movie on the big screen in the evening only on if the next day is a school holiday.

Yes - they turn almost anything into a toy. They have access to all sorts of stuff to build things - lego, clay (and clay sculpting tools), scissors and paper, plenty of board games, and outdoors even when cold and/or rainy.

Holding my child back developmentally to own the libs

I know right?

I doubt Socrates would've developed into such an intellectual powerhouse without his iPad as a young lad.

> 9 yr old to use the laptop when learning to code at scratch.mit.edu

Wouldn't it just feel like a chore or homework at that point and not something you enjoy ?

Not really. We don't push her to do it. It's not something that is scheduled or something. If she thinks of something with animals she likes to create an animation out of it on scratch.

This is where I'm hoping to end up.

People don't realize that a lot of people with large tech exposure severely restrict access to things like phones/laptops. Gates and Jobs come to mind iirc.

There's tons of research showing that exposure to toys decreases creativity and the ability to play on your own with improvised toys. Learning how to use an operating system is trivial with the help of google. All of the arguments for letting your kids have unfettered access to electronics rest on the faulty assumption that familiarity is the important part of learning how to solve technical problems or to gain interest in technical subjects when there's just no consistent evidence to show this.

Don't they read?

Yeah. They read and we read to them as well. The 9 yr old also has extra work apart from regular school homework. Nothing on a screen though.

Having nothing to interact with is also fine: one can play games like tag, hide-and-seek, "20 questions", etc. One time my oldest decided he'd like to go outside and make note of all the flowers he found for a while. He just kept track in his head and told us all about it after he came in.

I am not sure if this is indeed get bored. When I read the title and remembered my childhood, get bored meant that I would find a rock or watch ants. But mostly, get anything that resemble a sphere and play soccer

I'd argue that preparation for downtime is in fact the key lesson.

A few hundred years ago people said the same things about books. The drop in prices because of printing meant some well-off kids were reading too many books. The founder of Homeopathy famously forbade chess as it was "too stimulating". My father told me that if I watched too much TV my eyes would go square. Now he and I both work jobs that require us to stare at multiple screens for 10+ hours a day.

My point: in every generation the parents complain that kids are spending too much time with the new form media. What they really want is for their kids to do what they did at the same age. Time moves forwards.

Rather than pretend it is still the 1980s, parents should be more worried about their kids not being able to keep up with modern media. Can't bounce between multiple windows, researching this and that while answering emails and composing a policy document on the fly? Can't create a policy document from scratch, along with all necessary citations and formatting, in under an hour? Then you won't be doing my job. "Screen time" can be wasteful, but it is increasingly a necessary skill.

I agree, I heard the same thing about comic books and D&D.

Except the problem these days is that algorithms are preying on human weaknesses and taking advantage of addictive characteristics. Things like video games and youtube videos are purposefully making themselves so addictive that it's different from before. I'm not one to say "this time it's different" but this time it really is.

I remember many such things said about TV also. Many of the complaints sound similar in my head. Including things like 'using psychologists to make more addictive TV', or 'subliminal messaging in advertising' will hypnotise you buy shit.

Basically apply the best practices that you had 25 years ago for TV (not too much, make sure it's not too much for their age, etc) and you'll probably be fine too.

Books are much more varied and information dense than TV. Why watch TV when you can read a book?

I don't think comic book companies had teams of PhDs using all sorts of techniques to extract every bit of attention from people and kids, just to increase engagement metrics even slightly.

Harry Potter. There are all sorts of similar tricks in there. They might not be in there deliberately, but the most popular books (aka "beach books") contain the same trickery.

In literature, such tricks can include a short episodic narrative that negates any need for long-term retention of information (short chapters). Reward centers of the brain are triggered by predictable plots. The reader feels smart when they are able to predict what it coming. Banal subject matter also helps get the product into the hands of kids (a book about a wizard school, or a game about farming rather than a casino). Then you wrap a community around the product. You give people the opportunity to advertise their participation and success with the product. You sell the knickknacks to display to their friends. Then you ensure the product has no end. You spread everything out over years so that, no matter how much they pay today, there will always be another purchase to make in the future.

Star Trek has been described as addictive, I think that can be extended to Harry Potter. I'd bet good money that Disney has people working to keep Star Wars as addictive as possible.

This is probably true to some extent, but the kind of real time retargeting, A/B testing etc is miles beyond most adults ability to fight. If I have kids I don’t know what I’ll do, but I expect leading them in the direction of a healthy relationship with technology will be a challenge.

So let your kids enjoy things, but don't let them become a stan.

I'll give you LEGO and cardboard, but in what sense are nerf darts or boardgames meaningfully different or better from a skill-based videogame?

I’d say physical activity and face-to-face interaction.

They are not. It’s just that neoludditism seems to run pretty strong in certain communities. Makes people feel different and special

Nerf darts are different in that they require physical movement and better hand-eye coordination.

Board-games are just substandard video games.

Because you use your full body for it. More with nerf, less with board games, but still a different body sensation.

I hate screens, constant connectivity, but could not live in today's world without them.

So much of the world is fixated on our addictive devices and trying to find ways to live without them are difficult, even damaging in some ways.

I really do miss those days I could leave the house with just keys and wallet, and had the world around me to provide my entertainment. Today, I am constantly pulling out my phone at the first inkling of boredom.

Finding balance is crucial for all aspects in life, our devices are the same, and developing enough discipline to shed our serotonin inducing toys for a few hours a day is a challenge we will all have to face. Otherwise we will be hollow and hunched over glowing screens for the rest of our lives.

> I really do miss those days I could leave the house with just keys and wallet, and had the world around me to provide my entertainment. Today, I am constantly pulling out my phone at the first inkling of boredom.

This is such an idyllic revisionist take.

I remember having to take wallet, keys, extra cash and coins for things you couldn't pay with card or with the phone, street guide (cause there's no way I'm remembering the dozens of bus lines that run in my city), pocket calendar, pencil, random paper scribbles, and a book or two.

For the things you needs keys and wallet things are exactly the same. For everything else, the amount of crap I need to lug around has dropped dramatically. Hell nowadays I can travel to foreign countries and not even go through the hassle of going to an exchange rate, getting maps, asking for directions and getting lost going the wrong way, etc.

Exactly - not to mention the anxiety: is there a phone booth? Do I have coins? Will anyone let me use a regular phone? Where can they pick me up, I don’t know this part of town! Did I lose my travel pass? Where is my ticket? Did I tell my parents where I was going? Etc etc...

Back in the ‘90s, you had to prepare to hang out in the city centre with a few friends. Nowadays you can literally improvise your life by the hour and everything will be alright. It’s incredibly liberating.

A problem for city kids maybe? My parents were smart enough to raise me somewhere more suited for children. All I ever took out with me was a wallet, house key and my bike - I never even used to lock my bike up, I'd just throw it in a bush or behind a wall so nobody could see it.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything as patronising (and wrong) as this comment.

Cities can be great places for kids - you get tons of social skills very early, build knowledge, and make connections that can help you tremendously later in life. There is a reason “country boy” is typically used as a slur. If I could go back in time, I’d force my parents to live even closer to the city centre as possible.

I live in suburbia now and I fear my kids are not going to pick up enough street-smarts.

No idea what a country boy is.

I don't understand how you built social skills quicker than me? how did you build more connections than me and how did they help you later in life?

I lived in a medium sized village near a large town. I went to school like you, I was socialised like you, I left to work in London when I was 19 and now at 36 run the pre-sales practice for one of the worlds largest software vendors.

I can't imagine having to live in the city, can't ride anywhere, have to deal with too many people, no space of my own to grow up, no massive garden with a pool, nowhere near the beach. How can you ride your bike to the lakes with your friends and fishing rods if all you have access to is the underground and trams? How could bike anywhere? How could you just play ball in the street?

I take my 4 year old boy surfing every morning, he plays on my 1 acre property and loves the animals, we swim in our pool most days. I know people from London that didn't even learn to swim and have never seen an animal that wasn't a pet. My 7 year old girl goes to one of the best private schools in the state and is a straight A student, she has many friends and is part of many societies. Some of these things you can recreate in the city, most you cannot.

We moved to Australia and we live in the hinterland / country. I can't imagine a better for for my kids to grow up. What 'street smarts' are they not getting? What street smarts can they not get when I send them to a university in a city?

I see kids heading to the beach to surf with each other all the time, you don't get that in the city. Imagine subjecting your kids to city pollution so they can make some imaginary Connections .

My kids have a cinema room built for computer games, they have a music room where they can make as much noise as they want. They have learnt responsibility due to being in charge of the chickens that live in my garden. You learnt to ride the bus... my kids learnt to ride the bus too..

Maybe things are different in America? Maybe your country boys are not like our. Maybe your countryside is different?

Holy crap, mate, your arrogance is barely matched by your ignorance. If you are trying to demonstrate that being wealthy and being happy (or likeable) are not necessarily correlated, you are doing a sterling job. You’re doing great also in the “horrible salespeople stereotypes are rooted in truth” department.

Hint: there are places in the world where cities are (shocking!) not like London. They have beaches, they have amenities, and the upper classes live there rather than in little villages like the depressing London belt. Chances are you go there on holiday, because the weather in your corner of the world is significantly worse. (Well, maybe not now you’re in Oz, which is almost entirely countryside. I’m sure you know the stereotypes for Oz people too - or rather you’ll never learn them, like with country boy, because they’ll just whisper them to your back).

I am sorry you associate cities with misery because London sucks. You might want to splash some of your massive moolah on seeing the world. I hope your kids won’t grow up to be insecure pricks, god knows we have enough of those.

Sounds like you're the one that needs to travel.

You've made a lot of assumptions about me that simply are not true - hope you enjoy giving your kids asthma and cancer. Hope Trump let's teachers carry guns, might stop one of your brethren from blasting your kids away during morning classes.

Maybe piss off with your ignorance on Australia too. You know fuck all.

Dude, google me. You're way, way off base, and honestly, off your rocker too. I don't know what triggered you but you're clearly not in a happy place at the moment.

So you grew up in Italy - yeah I can see why you'd not want to be in the country side. I grew up in a town around Manchester and according to you that makes me some sort of country idiot? I had a great childhood and clearly ended up less bigoted than you.

Dude, you clearly carry a humongous chip over your shoulder, and you feel compelled to be very aggressive for reasons only you and your therapist will ever know. You started out patronising and snobbish, and have gone downhill from there, literally telling me to get cancer - and I'm the bigoted one?

If this is the effect of growing up around here (I live in Cheadle, btw, since you're familiar with the area), I'll ship out my kids to the Beautiful Country as soon as I can, fuck me.

>A problem for city kids maybe? My parents were smart enough to raise me somewhere more suited for children.

Implying that the only reason people with kids live in a city is because they're stupid? What in the world are you on about? I've read the below thread, and this is one of the most bizarre takes I've seen in a long time.

> I remember having to take wallet, keys, extra cash and coins for things you couldn't pay with card or with the phone, street guide (cause there's no way I'm remembering the dozens of bus lines that run in my city), pocket calendar, pencil, random paper scribbles, and a book or two.

Everyone has a different every-day-carry. I didn't take the bus or carry books daily, so I was less burdened than you.

The conveniences and benefits our devices provide are apparent. But the pervasiveness of our devices have conditioned us to rely on them for much more than these daily conveniences.

I remember driving around with a giant pile of maps in my glove box.

These days, it feels pretty liberating that I could pack a few changes of clothes, jump in a lyft, head to the airport booking a flight along the way to a city I've never been and being able to explore with little effort or preparation.

Hell, when I was in India last, I was surprised at how easily I was able to make my way around Bangalore.

Things have changed for certain, some for the better, others for the worse. As a society, I'm sure we'll adapt.

You don't still have those maps? My phones have malfunctioned or lost service often enough that I still own paper maps and have even sometimes used them. I'd hate to be without paper maps as a fallback (and they're hardly an inconvenience, the only reason they leave my passenger seat pocket is if I need them.)

I have them, and I download a region on my phone for offline use too.

Despite navigation being very good, I still will invest a couple hours just driving around a new city. Worth it. Having done that, the map is gold.

Over time, I've gotten good by doing that too. I can drop into a city, roam around a bit and get a good feel for the place.

The maps are long gone.

My phone is important enough to my vocation that if it malfunctioned, I'd replace it immediately. I also use an ipad mini as a navigation tool. One makes a great backup for the other.

> I remember having to take wallet, keys, extra cash and coins for things you couldn't pay with card or with the phone

Today you take your extra cash and coins and throw it away because nobody accepts it anymore. Digital payments only. That’s how it works in Sweden.

Sweden is atypical in that regard, most places are not nearly so cash-hostile.

I never stopped carrying and using cash. I'm even a bit perplexed that carrying cash is seen as a a hassle... it goes into my wallet, which I carry around anyway for my ID,etc. It's just a bit of paper, it takes up virtually no space and weighs virtually nothing.

My ideal wallet would be no wallet. Cash makes my wallet too thick. I keep some non-daily cards in there (like debit card, Rx card) because I’m too forgetful to manage continually adding and removing cards. There are phone based solutions but I don’t want to be reliant on a charged battery for absolute essentials. Cash is funny because I am super hesitant to break a large bill, and then very eager to get rid of the smaller ones, and where I live, it’s generally a good idea to carry one larger bill as a fallback.

That’s exactly how I do it. Small plastic sleeve as a wallet for grouping cards together and a single larger bill as a fallback.

In some cities here in the U.S., it's common practice to keep cash on-hand so that in the event of a robbery, you can avoid giving your phone/other valuables or having to say "I don't have anything" and getting shaken down further or shot

Is this gokd or bad, I mean what is your stand? In Austria pocket money is ubiquitous and everywhere acdepted.

I would detaste living in a digicash only world

I like it. My wallet today is a plastic sleeve for a few cards, visa, ID etc. weighs like 25g in total.

It also fits a single folded high value banknote. Never to be used but is there in case of emergency.

The problem with screen is that they improve productivity even though they are somewhat hurtful to human-beings... maybe we won't need them anymore when robots finally take over.

I heard an interview with Steven Spielberg years ago. I wish I could find it for reference.

He said in the interview that anytime he drives in his car, he would not talk on his phone or listen to the radio. It was complete silence for the duration of the drive. And most of his best work and ideas came from these "silent drives" because he was forced to be creative and use his imagination to keep himself entertained.

> ideas came from these "silent drives" because he was forced to be creative and use his imagination to keep himself entertained.

Driving is the classic 'zone' activity. As such I question if it's even a good idea to attempt to think and be creative when driving or if that's (if what Spielberg is saying is true even 'best worked because forced to'). Not that having a phone call isn't distracting from driving either. It is. But when you drive I just am not sure it's when you want to go back and forth in your head with some heavy thoughts which might make you less alert (and by less alert I mean even less than with a phone call).

The reason for taking phone calls in the car is because it's typically very time effective and a great (and effortless) way to pass the time.

There could also be other reasons why he didn't take phone calls. For example I don't like to take business calls because I can't take notes or note things I need to do. Talking to a relative that's another story. In that case it's great a way to pass the time and let's say fulfill an obligation. Or he might have almost gotten into an accident once and swore off any future calls. Or the main reason is 'I want down time but I need a way to explain to others why I don't talk in the car and this sounds better'. After all Spielberg is a creative person so why not a creative spin to something he does.

The story and the reason people say what they do often differs from the real reason (which would sound less impressive). Possible this is just a spin he put on it.

I design board games for a hobby, maybe sometime soon as more of a profession. A silent car does wonders for me to come up with ideas for coming up with ideas for my game designs. Walking the dogs and a long shower also work well. Between all three of them, they're probably responsible for at least 50% of all the creative ideas I've had over the years.

Really quiet or electronic music can work too though. It's people talking or singing lyrics that makes thinking difficult for me.

Pretty similar to coding, actually, except you're mostly stuck in front of a computer for that.

The challenge is everything that was analog in the 90s (music, phones, etc) now requires a screen. “Screentime” is treated as this black and white thing, but when the iPhone becomes the uber-tool-that-does-everything you have to focus on how it’s being used, not screetime writ large.

One of the things that digital intermediation devours from social interactions is partial visibility (especially transitive visibility) outside the digital space (and often within it, but that's dependent on the social software and the impact is much more varied).

Glancing passively toward someone reading a book, versus watching a movie, versus chatting with someone else, all give quite different impressions. Glancing passively toward someone reading with the Kindle app, versus watching Netflix, versus chatting on WhatsApp, all on the same handset—you don't get nearly the same level of cues. And those cues help shape the social interactions around them.

Do measurements of 'screentime' normally include talking on the phone or passively listening to music? Or are you implying something different?

Screen time might encompass video chatting with a relative, reading a book on the Kindle app, watching a 2 hour long documentary, watching a 10 minute long tutorial on YouTube, writing an email, editing pictures of one’s vacation, managing one’s finances through a webpage or spreadsheet, etc etc etc.

Sure, there are always things you can do on a screen that are productive. But you need to way the difficulty of managing these activities with the potential upsides that only a screen can provide.

Funny how you say that, but I've got a dumbphone in my pocket and an MP3 player sitting in front of me.

None of this requires a screen. It's a choice you've made.

> "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

Realistically, children aren't the only ones with an aversion to boredom problem. Adults - especially those dependent on creativity to solve problems - would benefit for generous doses to boredom as well.

a classic of pious parenting is making the lives of your own children especially difficult to teach them some kind of life lesson. this one especially gets to me.

though I didn't know it at the time, I grew up with adhd and depression. an interesting facet of that is that people with adhd get to skip on some of the most important effects of the frontal lobe development that happens between the ages of 18 and 22 as a human matures. this gets interpreted as being 'lazy' 'energetic', 'childish' and -- easily bored.

This kind of parent has a conviction that the reverse hallmarks of adulthood -- being quiet, controlled and focused are not something as neurological as we know it to be, but something that has to be instilled by force, and as someone who feels the same boredom every day a kid does, that lack of knowledge and empathy makes me deeply, deeply sad on a personal level.

It's absolutely correct that kids not given something to do will find themselves something to do. Kids are natural explorers and learners. But is that boredom and thirst for new things something that has to be learned out of a child? I'd like to think that at least some of us embrace that stage of a child's neurology and help them find things that they find exciting, new and interesting instead of trying to teach them to stop complaining and sate themselves with busywork.

The moment you suggest an activity, you’ve taken all the fun out of it. True for adults as well as children.

Only if you do it in a pushing way, or suggest something boring.

Today with my nephew: hey lets fight with larp swords ... "yeah!!"

Such an interesting topic.

The famed Andrea Camilleri [0], one of the most prolific and well-known Italian contemporary writer (also author of "Commissario Montalbano", known worldwide in both print and TV form), in a TV interview recounted how "boredom" was so important in his youth.

He specifically remembered how he and his teenager friends would sit in a field or on the beach, take a metal coin, spit on it, and just wait, in circle, until a fly would get entangled by the spit. Whomever owned that coin would be the winner, and this "game" would usually take several hours, during which they would chat, sit in silence, fall asleep, etc. - "bored", you might say.

I found this story fascinating.

I can't point you to the actual documentary describing this, as it's in Italian and it's also not freely available online. Please believe me, there would be no reason for me to have invented this.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Camilleri

YES!! In our family, we call these "stupid little games" and we made up a ton of them.

You look at where you are, what you got, and you play. Those memories are some of my very best.

Ok, we got this can. Who can kick it the farthest! Awesome.

This intersects well with another NYT post from a few years back about unstructured play https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/23/magazine/the-anti-helicop.... Would be fascinating if we're seeing the beginning of a larger cultural trend back towards kids being allowed to experience more disorganized, self-directed activity.

Sometimes I go to events that I know will be boring just so I can let my mind wander and be creative

This sounds really interesting! Do you mind sharing examples of such events? Thank you!

I'm an academic so I go to boring talks :)

Church, college lectures.

It's not just about screens. It's about the societal pressure to keep kids engaged in some activity at all times.

Whenever I have a child, I will not allow him or her to have internet access at home, until they're teenagers.

I don't like the idea of setting time limits—I feel like I spent too much of my childhood waiting for the next opportunity to use a computer. Tools are not inherently good or bad, and my child should have the opportunity to explore them as he or she sees fit. However, I very much want to keep my child away from exploitative media, and I don't know how to control that other than just cutting off the internet.

If they play games, I want them to be games that teach something. Zelda teaches you problem solving skills, and Celeste at least teaches something about humanity. Neither attempts to suck you in for infinite lengths of time.

LOL. Unless you're homeschooling them in the wilderness this is a pipedream. Your children will literally have no friends and won't be able to do their homework.

I very strongly suggest you consider an alternative, and that is to use the Internet with them.

You are very significantly underestimating peer pressure for them to be relevant to their peers.

Left unchecked? Very serious rebellion will be breeding.

No joke. Went through it. Won't again.

I had many ideas similar to yours before I had children.

Like Mike Tyson said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." After having childre, you realize how sometimes you have to do things just to survive.

Internet is great for learning anything. But you can also find the absolutely worst brain damaging crap ever on it.

My little brother learned to both speak and write English all by himself. We live in Sweden so it doesn’t come naturally.

He used to watch a lot of educational videos on YouTube about animals, the universe and everything. But sadly, today he chooses to watch more of the 5 second attention span decreasing "entertaining" videos.

You can keep a kid away from exploitative media without cutting off internet access. My daughter (11) has full and unrestricted access to the internet except social media services and streaming video. Problem solved.

Good luck. Even schools are pushing that crap now. They'll need to be online to do homework not later than middle school—and that's the state of things now, may well be worse in a few years.

What about needing internet for school work?

Putting this here for the argument's sake: I think children do get bored with all the distractions from internet, screens and what not. If you've ever seen a teenager mindlessly scroll Instagram on their iPhone, that look is pure boredom.

Notice that for an activity such as looking at your friends' photos online, allocating your last 15 minutes before hitting the pillow and allocating what's seemingly every hour of every day won't have the same effect.

No, New York Times. If you don’t allow private mode browsing, I won’t consume your contents.

Maybe respect others privacy before using the ‘democracy and freedom is at stake’ rhetoric.

I broke my leg a few weeks ago, tibial plateau fracture due to skateboarding if you want the details, but I have been laid up. I also have fairly major research projects underway (yes, you can skateboard and lead multi-million-dollar research projects).

I have found that when I first sit down, I dread starting the work. Whether I'm working through an algorithm, a project proposal, a hiring process, reading a paper reviewing a grant application, whatever. But I just sit there, because my knee has made all other options even worse. Give it about 30 seconds, maybe a couple minutes, and I've gotten over the dread and just start doing. That's the only thing left to do.

This is the same experience I had as a child, on that long road trip, in the back seat, that far back, rear-facing seat in the Buick station wagon, with the red vinyl seats. On I70, on the way from Omaha to Denver. You're just stuck there. You have to do so something. You start staring out the window, imagining what must be happening in the corn fields, the streams that must be in the veins of trees that occasionally interrupt the fields. The fish in the stream. The dirt at the bottom of the stream. How come that dirt hasn't all been washed away? How does that work? what's this little bit of dirt right here on the floor? It looks like the dirt in my shoe. I wonder if I play with this dirt maybe I'll understand dirt.

Dirt. Miles of dirt out here. How much of life is dirt? Ow. There's a rock in this dirt. Is the rock part of the dirt? How much of dirt is just rocks? How small is a rock before it's dirt? What else is in dirt?


Nothing, not even boredom, can suppress the mind. Not as long as there is dirt.

In the sense of nurturing that, "start something fun" part of childhood, yes!

But, if one does that, it requires also being empowering and participatory to a large degree.

The latter is a LOT OF FUN. If you do it, for a time, that old spark of childhood comes back, and you just play. Playing with them, leaving a little of the adult behind, is worth it for everyone.

I get to do it again as I am raising a granddaughter now, due to a son getting involved with the wrong people, hard fall. It's ugly, but she's great.

Know what? I have a much harder time returning there. I can, and each time it's easier, but damn! We do get old when we are not playing as much. Don't do it.


Participation was the best medicine. Yes, it takes your time, but only for a while. Soon, they will be acting on their own, and will invite you (best accept some of those to remain relevant), and will learn to play, explore, build, do more on their own, not just placating themselves in front of a screen.

Visited relatives, their kids watched PBS kids in the morning, I was appalled with how frantic the majority of the shows were.

The idea seems to be if it's not non-stop yelling kids will tune out. Lso the voice actors were mostly pitching their voices much higher than actual childrens' voices.

A handful of gems exist, though I'm not aware of any being produced now. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was really something special. Still is. Long (incredibly long, sometimes) takes, slow tracking, few cuts, lots of Mister Rogers talking directly to the viewing kids in his special, amazing way. So was pre-Elmoization Sesame Street, for that matter.

I really miss good nonfiction channels. The History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic. TLC (it wasn't always house shows!). All gone to hell. It's a shame. I picked up a ton from those as a kid, even though I rarely got to watch them (we didn't have cable except for a couple years) but now they're all reality shows and ancient aliens and other sensationalized junk.

Incidentally, I'm kinda worried about what all the auto-tune's gonna do to kids' sense of what good singing is. Check out Daniel Tiger for what I'm talking about, but it's everywhere in kids' programming (among other places, obviously). I suppose it saves money, but it sucks.

I remember really well being bored as a kid, and as a teen. It always resulted, without fail, in a sudden and deep drive to explore--our home, our school, our town; wherever we were at the time--, in creative spurts--painting, drawing, doing something with play dough--, and in an urge to engage in physical activities, such as going for a walk or practicing some sport. Great conversations with our parents and other relatives or friends also took place; we got into some sort of inquisitive, proactive mindset.

We should get used to get bored again, indeed, but I'd call it something else: not "getting bored", but "escaping our own lives at any chance we have".

If you fully adopt this attitude, the funny thing is that the kids don't see it as boredom most of the time. They don't expect a constant stream of novelty.

My daughter attended a Waldorf school (in Europe called a Steiner school), K-12. There are some great things about it and some drawbacks too, and I'm sure the experience depends widely on which particular Waldorf school you attend.

When we signed up our daughter we had to sign a pledge: no TV, no radio, no movies, and no computer (until high school). We were strongly encouraged to eschew typical toys for a certain kind of toy: one with heft and texture, and one that left room for creativity.

The rational behind it was multi-fold. Most media is tailored for and fosters a very short attention span and conditions children to expect constant stimulation. When you grow up hearing polished songs where the top 0.01% of singers take dozens of takes, then are autotuned, then spliced into perfection by highly skilled producers, when a child raises their voice to sing they think their own singing is terrible instead of joyful. By having a set of wooden blocks, a bored child will use them to create dozens of things, whereas if you give them a plastic fire truck with flashing lights it can only be a firetruck.

By and large I think their goals work in that regard, but it also ends up isolating the families to interact with only other Waldorf families. If your child plays with non-Waldorf kids, they get dazzled by the neighbors x-box and resent that they can't have one.

The biggest downside, though, is the type of parent drawn to Waldorf also tends towards homeopathic hoo-hah and anti-vax tendencies. In our case we kept our rationality and politely accepted but ignored other parents' referrals to "energy workers" and offers of homeopathic tinctures.

I went to such a school and, while I don't believe we had to sign a pledge, no TV was certainly ingrained into our culture. Plastic toys, clothes with large prints, and the color black was to be avoided.

I always felt it was unfortunate because these schools were on the forefront in other areas such as lesson scheduling, teaching methodology and a curriculum that contained a good mix of art, language and science.

Growing up I had access to cable TV and because of that I was always light-years ahead of my class in English.

I went to a normal school. We didn't have TV but everyone else did. Like you I was top of my class. I thought it was all the reading I did but it seems we're both wrong.

My kids love to play with things like the left over cardboard from deliveries that became a 'cubby house'. I used to love playing with some left over carpet strips that became roads. I think children naturally like 'toys' where you imagine them into existence, although I am not sure how they'd like only to have those toys and nothing modern.

What exactly is "bored" though. I read the article and it wasn't clear. Are they just referring to digital devices, video games, etc? Or books and doing crafts etc? Because those probably have the same level of stimulation as digital devices, in the absence of digital devices.

Or do they mean we should force our kids to do mundane work?

Don’t force your kids to do anything for a time. Don’t provide the work or entertainment.

You can give them a few limited options to work with if they choose, but it will surprise you to see the level of play they come up with a bit of time to think on it and limited resources to do it with.

> Or do they mean we should force our kids to do mundane work?

Definitely this.

Is this comparable to accelerated learning through apps/media ?

I mean is their a validated study that new age learning tablets/apps are detrimental versus letting someone get bored ?

Would a daily session of yoga+breathing exercises for an hour achieve the same thing as in this article...but without eliminating the value that modern tech might bring ?

Doing nothing sparks creativity in kids. It makes them think rather than be told what they need to do to keep their mind occupied

I'd say that the best way to spark creativity is if "doing nothing" is directed, or that there are available activities to do.

I've spent a lot of my childhood isolated with not much to do, and the best periods where when there was something that I could do that didn't involve spacing out or reading the same books over and over again. Like when there was a guitar or a piano available and I was able to start learning on my own.

But you don't have to do nothing to be creative. Not even with children.

Learning helps creativity. So does doing low-attention sorts of things. For example, going on a quiet walk or cleaning house. And seriously, going on a walk is a good habit for kids to have. Anything that might make a kid curious is also something that helps with creativity.

Additionally, an adult simply asking curiosity-invoking questions aloud helps develop those sorts of thoughts. Same thing for explaining why you do whatever hobby you do. If you don't have an offline hobby, start one just to be the good example.

But then what if they think the wrong things?

I sure hope you’re kidding, but it’s hard to tell. Time and space to think might as well be a human right.

Like for example, pick on younger sibling to amuse oneself out of boredom. And again and again and again.

I think "let kids think for themselves" and "encourage good/discourage bad behavior" are correlated in a way that is opposite what you implied: being able to come to your own conclusions means that whatever behaviors you end up practicing (in a healthy environment, good ones, encouraged by parents/others) are your own choices, rather than things you'll slavishly repeat for fear of punishment/desire for praise later on in your life.

Tl;dr parents can encourage/punish their kids and let them think for themselves. This is healthy and good.

Also, to loop back to the larger discussion, using screens definitely doesn't discourage bullying behavior. For evidence I present . . . the internet, give or take.

What I got from the article was that this is the wrong question to ask. Even if there are "right things" to be thinking, always feeding children the "right things" means they don't learn to deal with anything else.

> Of course, it’s not really the boredom itself that’s important; it’s what we do with it. When you reach your breaking point, boredom teaches you to respond constructively, to make something happen for yourself. But unless we are faced with a steady diet of stultifying boredom, we never learn how.

Thinking the wrong thing is part of being human.

Doing the wrong thing can be corrected. Worry about actions, not thoughts.

Yell "be careful!"

The key technique is to yell it after you hear the loud thump, but before you hear the crying.

And the time to start worrying is when you hear the loud thump... and then there's just silence.

(Speaking from experience -- it was scary, but he recovered.)

Oy, yeah—that is scary. I'm glad he got better :-(

Occasionally monitor them to make sure that they are not engaging in activities such as burning the house down?

how else is one to explore the parameter space?

Let adults get bored again!

I grew up with a bonafide, diagnosed sociopath running my family. This didn't happen till I was 10 so prior to that I was your average spoiled upper-middle-class kid.

Being 10 and moving in with said sociopath coincided with my family being poor. This was 91, so off-hand I don't know what 12K a year would be in today money, but it was below the 13.1K poverty line I last remember seeing for 91.

The result? Well, said sociopath threw away 75% of the toys my sister and I accumulated over our brief lifetimes ("children don't need that many toys"), so we learned to make our own fun.

I retained one of those Lego-brand briefcases of, well, Legos. Buying my sister and I a set of that clay (I don't remember the name, so I appreciate any help on this) that came in different colors and you could bake to hardness in the oven was a staple of our Christmases; prior to us being poor, we'd make one or two things and ignore the rest of the set. Post the family debacle, we made anything we could.

Without the promise of eternal external stimuli, I designed scores of video games, and for my favorite series I made action figures out of the aforementioned clay along with entire Lego worlds for them to do things in. I measured the difference between the volume of some of my figures before being baked versus the volume after, and used the average to make their magically-powered hats or suits or whatnot, so that such could be put on or removed as the story I (and occasionally my sister) were creating demanded.

I don't at all miss the rampant abuse from that period. There were constant room searches. "Popular music" was utterly verboten; my sister bought a Mariah Carey album at 11 and the amount of horrifying verbal abuse leveled at my mother was legendary. Trying to avoid that, I wound up storing Pretty Hate Machine in a cabinet within a box within a Dungeons and Dragons box, as the latter was in a moral grey area as per said sociopath. Buying that tape (which, yes, dates me...) was a 16-mile bike ride.

All that said... sometimes even today I try to impose arbitrary constraints on myself to recreate the creativity and just overall fun of that period. There was abject misery then. There was also a lot of fun.

Children should be allowed to be bored, but as others have said, so should adults. "If you're bored, you're boring!!!!" is commonly leveled at adults, but.. perhaps not? Perhaps it's simply a result of our "if you're not producing anything RIGHT NOW you are an abject failure of a human" culture.

It's not good to make your life revolve around anything, really. That seems obvious in terms of drugs or alcohol or video games or internet addiction in general. But I worry about people who make even supposedly-benign things like exercise or veganism or activism or even the much-vaunted "family" thing their sole reason for being. Sometimes we need to not be 100% fulfilled.


The difference is that now we have teams of people specifically trying to make unengaging and unfulfilling activities as addictive as possible. Where before you were glued to the screen because it was actually interesting, now you are glued to the screen because we know exactly which buttons to press to make you come back, even if you don't really enjoy it.

Also, I downvoted you because you complained about downvotes, FYI.

> Where before you were glued to the screen because it was actually interesting

Rose-tinted glasses. Watching videos is as passive as it ever was, even if social media is a very new phenomenon.

If endless-scrollathons and click bait are specifically the problem, they can be culled away from kids without doing away with screens entirely no?

> Also, I downvoted you because you complained about downvotes, FYI.

Then I wasn't talking about you.

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