Why are Children Bored?
I had a wonderful childhood in the sense that I grew up in a time when kids still had to actually go outside in order to have real fun. The freedom I was allowed as a child to explore and create new adventures partly led us to our adventure here at Our Little House.
The fact that so many of my friends and relatives children have posted that they’re “bored” as their status on their Facebook pages just made me sad this summer. And this article in The Kansas City Star this week, by our own Living Large community member, Kathleen Winn, has had me reflecting on my own magical summer childhood memories and how childhood has changed so drastically in just a little over a generation.
My summers consisted of:
- Catching tadpoles, frogs and turtles in the woods behind the high school. When I wasn’t doing that, I went there to write or read. This involved a walk up that hill and across a cornfield before hitting the woods.
- Discovering a litter of kittens in the alley while walking to the store (a big brick turn of the century ‘general store’ with a meat counter). I boxed them all up and brought them home, but my mom made me take them back!
- Sometimes just marveling at my mother’s expansive gardens watching the butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. We discovered honeysuckles really are sweet, dandelions left that yellow mark on your chin and 4-leaf clovers are very elusive.
- Lying in the grass (preferably the neighbors, which was a much more lush and softer variety than ours) to watch the different shapes of clouds pass. At night, it was sitting on the patio, picking out the different constellations of stars.
- Running and playing in the neighborhood until dusk when we would gather in someone’s front yard to catch fireflies. If our mothers didn’t come out on the stoops to call us home before, we were expected to be in by the time the streetlamps came on.
I know we don’t live in the same world as we did in the 1960s and 70s when I was growing up, or do we? This article in Psychology Today suggests that the chances of a child being abducted by a total stranger is less than 0.02 percent. Maybe it was the same when we were growing up, we just didn’t have the 24-hour news cycle and Amber Alerts.
I’ve wondered how I would handle a child here at Our Little House where the fear is not so much of stranger danger, but of natural dangers. Would I allow them to explore the woods and lake, and at what age?
Those dangers have always been present, and Mark Twain probably couldn’t have given us “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” or Wilson Rawls couldn’t have written “Where the Red Fern Grows” if they had been so sheltered as children (although both novels, even fiction is usually derived at least somewhat from personal experience).
Do we shelter our children unnecessarily and stunt their sense of wonder, imagination, creativity and ability to entertain themselves? Are we responsible for their boredom? What will their memories of their summers of childhood be?
What do you say, readers?