Posted by: Alex Borders | February 6, 2011

Boredom: The Cauldron of Creativity

Sunday 6th February

“Mum!  I’m bored.  What can I do?”   Parents everywhere have heard this from their child, maybe just a few (hundred) times.  This morning I was the one who was bored. I began surfing the internet where I stumbled across Nancy Blakey’s article in Mothering Magazine about the very thing.

When we respond to boredom’s invitation, something magical happens. Passions are born. Interests are developed. An inner fund of resources evolves-the same personal resources that guide and prompt us into a meaningful life. Without this fund, boredom can push our children into self-destruction: drugs, violence, and random pranks that eat up their young lives and spit them out. We are left to pick up the pieces and wonder what went wrong.

We are rightfully fearful of boredom and its negative consequences. Too much time and money, little purpose, and boredom are a lethal combination. In an attempt to save our children, we sign them up for sports and classes. We let them watch a crazy amount of television and spend days at the computer.

I want to allow my children to be bored while they are young and under my watchful eye. To measure it into their bones and muscles like a rare fuel to propel them forward. To preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first-a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS-it cannot be.

Life is bound by what we can envision. I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty. If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.

Nancy H. Blakey lives on an island in Puget Sound, Washington, with her husband, Greg, and their children Jenna (21), Ben (19), Nick (15), and Daniel (7). She is the author of Mudpies: Recipes for Invention; 101 Alternatives to Television; Lotions, Potions and Slime; and Boredom Busters, all from Tricycle Press. She is currently working on a book of outdoor activities and welcomes boredom whenever possible.



  1. I can honestly say our children haven’t said they were bored for years: no electronics, loads of open-ended things to play with and hours to explore everything. It’s magical. Now that our eldest son is in a Waldorf school it’s stopping the magic each morning to get to the bus on time, which is the problem. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading our blog and for leaving a comment. Glad you dropped by!

  2. Matt is only 2.5 and says this occasionally. The other day he said “I have nothing to do.” I said “find something” and he did. I walked into the living room with an entire city created from his toys… amazing. He said “I found a city in here!”

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