i Editor's Letter: Keeping the kids entertained


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In praise of boredom. Parents need to stop filling up kids’ time and teach them how to cope with occasional boredom, according to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan. She’s probably right.

Parents fret about keeping their children entertained, dashing from sport clubs to music lessons to play dates, trying to stimulate developing minds. Add homework and long hours of screen time – the cornucopia of amusements available to us all today – and there’s little truly free time left for kids.

As the eldest child, I tried to help my youngest brother appreciate this. Sometimes, if he was lucky, I would let him sit on the other side of the bedroom and watch me play Lego. He loved it so much he even brought it up in his best man speech when my wife and I married last summer.

From time to time Ms Morgan imposes a gadget ban on her seven-year-old son, Alex. Plenty of adults could benefit from the same.

I’m not talking about long-term chronic boredom, which can prompt despair and anxiety – the Pompeii graffiti artist who scribbled, “Wall! I wonder that you haven’t fallen down in ruin, when you have to support all the boredom of your inscribers” – but situational boredom. That thwarted desire for satisfying activity – quite different to apathy – which compels the brain to search for tangents, encourages resourcefulness, sparks the imagination to creativity, bringing with it great mental, social, cultural and economic riches. Inventors, artists and writers swear by it.

Boredom needs defending from the onslaught of 21st-century diversions. There’s no need to turn back the clocks, but to search for balance. If you have already stopped reading then my work is done...


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