Children are not born bored. Their eyes and ears are wide
open to explore this wonderful world full of adventures.
Their fingers are into everything, as all mothers know only
too well. This is exploration, it is certainly not boredom.
Some mothers have told me that the word `bored' is not part
of the vocabulary in their house. So how can we prevent this
frequent whine of "What shall I doooo?"
If a mother goes out to work and comes home tired at around
the same time that her children return from school, she has
to make sure that the meal is prepared in advance. Hungry
children whine, and that raises tension in the house. The
child or children sit down to their meal, and mother has a
drink and perhaps feeds the baby at the same time. She is
there to hear the children's experiences from the morning,
and to rejoice or sympathize with them as the occasion
warrants. Ideally, the little ones then go for a nap and the
older children clear the table and then either return to
school or do their homework or otherwise occupy themselves
for an hour, so that Mother can have an hour of peace and
Even if a woman does not go out to work, it is almost
axiomatic that some time between the early hours of the
morning till late in the evening, she will need one hour to
relax, away from all demands [including the phone]. This
will make her a better and calmer mother. However, it is
futile to expect children to occupy themselves without
making sure that each one has an occupation. Some mothers
ask a baby sitter or older sister to take the children out
for an hour or two so that she can sleep in the afternoon.
This is not an `occupation' which is under discussion just
now. I am referring to picture books or crayons and paper.
Nothing where the child can even imagine that it is `hard'
and needs to ask for help! If need be, they can be shown a
clock and told that until the big hand reaches a certain
point, Mommy will be `out.' Many women complain that it just
doesn't work. It works if the mother starts this routine
right from the beginning, when she has just one child.
When Mother has had her rest (it is never enough), it is
time for her to begin the afternoon's activities. Buying
more and ever more toys to occupy the children will not
dissipate boredom. In the end, the best activities which
never pale are connected with pencils, paper and scissors.
Building apparatus such as lego is a very useful commodity.
Board games are excellent if Mother is prepared to
participate. If a mother sits down with the children and
plays games with them each afternoon, she is doing them a
greater service than if her house is spotlessly clean.
People who ask, "But where do you get the time?" have their
priorities wrong. The time is there for the children. Those
children will not complain of being bored.
If there is a toddler who disrupts all games, Mother will
either have to let him `join in' while keeping him on her
knee, or let him do some interesting things on his own, like
emptying the kitchen cabinets, especially the ones with
saucepans, or the basket of clothespins etc.
Bigger children leave the house anyway, and are happy to be
at home when the mother is around. But younger children need
to get out once a day at least. Most children do not enjoy
shopping, or standing while mother chats with friends. It is
inevitable that sometimes, a mother has to take the little
ones to the shops with her. However, if she can make it an
interesting outing for them at the same time, by explaining
things, pointing out, evoking questions and answering them,
playing guessing games etc., all as a learning and fun
experience, both mother and children will feel more
fulfilled when they go home.
It is partly our attitude which aggravates this idea of
boredom. A mother feels she has so much to do but doesn't
consider her children as part of the occupation. If mothers
were to realize that entertaining, stimulating and occupying
children during the day is at least as important as the
ironing, cooking and cleaning, and that it is far from a
waste of time, they wouldn't feel that they `get nothing
done' when the children are around.
Naturally, there are peak times when Mother really has to
leave the children to their own devices. These times should
be the exception and not the norm. The truth is that some
children seem to be born with the power of concentration and
can occupy themselves very well for hours at a time. The
ones who never sit for any length of time and are always
looking for different things to do almost from the time they
learn to walk are much more of a challenge. The mother sends
them out of the house at a very young age, not because they
are bored, but because she doesn't know how to entertain
them. How many mothers use boredom as an excuse to send
their child to playgroup or kindergarten at a very early
age! Furthermore, many send the children out for the
afternoons as well.
Those children who find it difficult to concentrate on a toy
for any length of time, often have one particular toy which
does fascinate them. It could be a small car which will
occupy them for a short while. It might be a nut and bolt.
Each mother knows her own child best and if she can prolong
the concentration, sometimes by sitting by and encouraging
him, she will be doing the child a great service for the
future, when he starts school. Some of these restless
children will not touch a jigsaw puzzle. Some just need a
mother's push and involvement to get them started. Others do
seem to take an interest, as long as they are really simple
and well within their ability. They might do the same puzzle
over and over again. It could be boring for the onlooker,
but the child is not bored.
I am not condemning mothers who send their child out even
when they are not working because they feel s/he is bored.
It is just a pity that they cannot enjoy their own children
and that they give others the pleasure of seeing them
develop. The advantage that children under the age of three
who go to a play group or nursery get, is that they learn
social skills and how to interact with other children a
little earlier than the ones who stay at home longer. Does
it matter? There are various opinions on the matter!