Stop trying to sell boredom as a virtue.

Parenting styles come into fashion.

At the moment I keep reading about FREE RANGE PARENTING and letting your children be natural kids, and above all – letting them be bored.

Apparently, being bored is what makes kids creative  and learn to entertain themselves.

Presumably, only bourgeois, small-minded losers like me actually plan things or even – *clasps hands to mouth in horror* – organise entertainment for their kids.

Well, I’m not about to apologise.

I’m a single parent looking down the barrel of a 9 week summer break.

I’m okay with giving Flea a week or two of downtime at home. She enjoys entertaining herself writing stories and playing with her Playmobil figures, and whizzing up and down the street on her bike. It’s great when that happens because I can still do a certain amount of work, and keep business ticking over.

But she’s seven, and an only child, so her ability to entertain herself only goes so far. There are no children of her age on our street, and there comes a point where boredom isn’t a springboard for having fun – it’s just boring. Especially when Mummy is stuck on the computer, again.

So we tend to use the long summer break as an opportunity to have lots of fun together. There are periods where she gets bored, and I work, and the pay-off for that is the other days. When I don’t work, and she isn’t bored.

We travel. We go to theme parks. We go to castles and museums and visit new cities, and catch trains and swim, and spend long days on the beach, making sandcastles. On rainy days we might go to the cinema, or the bowling alley. We might visit friends, or Flea’s grandparents.

It’s not very free range, I know.

But here’s the thing. I’m not sure this whole, “Oh, when I was a kid we just entertained ourselves” thing is true, to begin with.

I remember our summer holidays as being a time when we played out on our bikes and made dens and played in the garden. Of course, it was easier with three brothers and half a dozen friends who lived on the same street. But there were days when we were pretty free range.

But most of our summer wasn’t like that. There were plenty of other days when we went out with our parents. We went to castles and country parks and museums and visited relatives. We went to the cinema, or to the toy shop to spend birthday money on new Playmobil and Star Wars figures. My Mum would pack up a picnic and we’d head off on an adventure to explore some place or other. We didn’t have much spare money, I don’t think, but we were well entertained. One of my favourite days out as a child was visiting Skipton Castle and playing knights around the castles turrets and staircases.

Perhaps kids do need to be bored occasionally to develop the skills they need to entertain themselves. And certainly, kids need time to play independently to build up social skills.

But let’s stop pretending boredom is some fantastically superior moral choice, because it isn’t.

Boredom is boring. For kids and for adults.

I’m unashamedly saying right here, right now, that our summer break is intended to be a break from the routine. I’m planning on stuffing it with as many new activities, games and laughs as is humanly possible – and maybe a bit more besides.

Who’s with me?



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 4th July 2013 / 8:34 pm

    I’m with the best I can :), we have 2 weeks off and in between he gets to spend the time I’m at work with daddy and vice versa, have great summer x
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  2. 4th July 2013 / 8:43 pm

    I’ve just written a post about how much I do plan my my time off with the kids over the Summer and read it back and thought I possibly sounded a bit OCD – Now I know I’m just bourgeois and small minded which I think is an improvement 😉

    Personally I think you need a mix of free range and planning and although I do really want my two to have the sort of Summer that I remember when I was little – playing out with friends all day and making their own entertainment, I only have three weeks off with them out of the six so I’m going to get as much as possible in that time, hence my OCD planning.

    For the three weeks I’m at work and won’t get in until three each day, I’m going to let them do their thing themselves and if they get bored, I’m going to have a few standby activities for them but for the most part, I’ll be sending them on their way to find something to do or someone to play with. They certainly have enough things to do and enough friends that live nearby that they shouldn’t have a reason to get bored!
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  3. 4th July 2013 / 8:43 pm

    I also grew up with siblings, half a dozen friends in the same street and another dozen school friends in neighbouring streets. We were ‘free-range’ but there was always company. My daughter is an only child and too young to go out on the street with friends – it’s a different time and place. We were out on the street at 4 years old but all the front doors were open and the kids were in and out of all our houses. We live in third floor flat and 4yos don’t play out on their own anymore. It’s not that I disagree with the ‘free-range’ philosophy but it’s a bit miserable to make a 4yo do it on her own for hours/days/weeks on end. If I could transport her back to 1960s English suburbia I’d go for it.
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  4. Lindy
    4th July 2013 / 9:14 pm

    I had 3 months off school, parents that worked full time and grandparents who “watched” me during the summer. Even with the street filled w/ friends I got bored- painfully totally completely bored! I am sad that Squidge won’t ever experience that. I want that not because I want her to be bored but because I think having 3 months not having to do anything is amazing.

  5. 5th July 2013 / 9:16 am

    Wow really? I didn’t know this. This makes me small minded too I guess because I’m always obsessed about doing something to stop the boredom. There used a time not long ago when people blamed trouble making youth on them “being bored and having nothing to do”.
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  6. 5th July 2013 / 6:52 pm

    I over plan and my hubby REALLY DOESNT BLOODY WELL WANT TO EVER DO ANYTHING and often the kids have the most creative fun times with him becuse he doesnt take them out or organise stuff with them. I tend try and give them what I didnt have (skating cineam swimming etc) I had a poorly granny who needed care and nwe had no car/spare cash so i try and do it opposite actually thin the kids enjjot most frineds to play playing in garden etc. But a helathy mix is probably best.
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  7. TheBoyandMe
    5th July 2013 / 8:06 pm

    I started reading this over e-mail notification earlier and had to break off but was formulating my comment in my head, and it went along the lines of ‘While I like the idea of him having the freedom to do as he wants, my son is only just four, has no siblings, no friends in the street, and is still learning how to play. Therefore a completely free-range lifestyle isn’t possible.’

    Then I came and read the rest of the post and you say the same thing, almost.

    Also for me? I’m a teacher and so this is my Summer holidays too. I don’t want to waste any time; I want to have chill-out days at home (but I’ll still need to set up activities) but likewise I also want to have outings and days out. I’m all for an outdoor childhood, children learning how to amuse themselves and having some downtime; I just don’t want my four year old son to be lonely.

  8. 6th July 2013 / 7:23 am

    Likeyou I think there is a balance, time where they have to entertain themselves is a given, as all
    Parents have other jobs to get on with some of the time, but that is balanced by days out and fun.
    I do however loathe hearing ‘i’m bored, so I have a white board with ideas on it, and if they ever say it to me I suggest they tidy their rooms, they very quickly find something else to do then!!

  9. 10th July 2013 / 5:25 pm

    Ours are much the same. We are busy visiting places and catching up with friends for as much of the time as possible. Then I need to spend an afternoon in front of the computer working, so he gets bored then. He amuses himself for a bit, then I get things out from the back of the toy cupboard and try to buy a bit more time.
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  10. 17th July 2013 / 9:10 am

    I’m afraid I was left to entertain myself for most of the summer, and boy was I BORED! Of course the things I remember most about the summer holidays are playing tennis in the street, or making up adventures in the woods with my friend and her brother. But I also remember the fact that I never seemed to do anything with my Mum. She did make me a lot of home-made lemonade in recompense, no doubt, for her lack of ability to play with me. Sadly I find I have that trait too, and I hate that about myself. So yes, I do plan activities, where my lack of playful imagination doesn’t matter, and me and my kids can become friends while we discover something new that I’ve organised to entertain us!
    Actually Mummy… recently posted..My dream: a Wot so Funee? postMy Profile

  11. Isobel
    9th August 2013 / 11:55 am

    Your Summers’ sound just like mine! 3 brothers, outings on the train, picnics in the garden/tent/recently made den. Playmobil, football, and a Mum willing to make it as much fun as possible. Many trips to the coast (Cumbrian, so not necessarily hot & sunny) and the Lakes (ditto) and playdates, sleepovers galore.
    Again, not lots of spare money, but we always had a good time.
    I try, on a very small budget to do the same for Fred. It maybe junk modelling, going out on his bike, hiding animals in shaving foam – but I try to make it fun! Like Flea, Fred is an only child – of course he needs entertaining!