Do only boring people get bored?

“Only boring people get bored,” my Gran used to tell me.

This is now my stock response to Belle whenever the TV gets switched off.

“What am I supposed to do NOW?!” she wails, as though we don’t have a house full of Sylvanian Families, novelty stationery sets and ‘decorate your own fairy mirror’ kits.

“I’m sure you’ll find something,” I say.

“Can I go on the laptop?” Belle asks.

“No” I reply in my best authoritative parent voice. “Do something that means you actually have to use your own imagination, not something involving a screen.”

“Oh great!” she replies, practically leaving a puddle of sarcasm on the floor, “well that’s NOTHING then isn’t it?! You just want me to be bored do you?”

“You know what Great-Gran…” I begin, but my much recycled quote is cut short.

“YES I KNOW!” she shouts, her eyes wide with rage over what is, as far as I can see, nothing at all. She turns and stomps off upstairs, making angry growling noises under her breath. It’s times like these where I can quite sympathise with the half of the population who believe children are turning into animals.

I often think about boredom, and what a different experience it must be for children nowadays. I try to explain to Belle that we only had three TV channels when I was her age, but she can’t seem to get her head around the idea that there wouldn’t be at least one channel playing back to back Disney.

Sometimes I tell her about how excited my sister and I used to be when our dad, a primary school teacher, would bring the school’s one computer home for the holidays, and we’d play Malory Towers – a murder mystery computer game consisting of just text, where you had to type in ‘go to the study’, to discover ‘the gardener is there, do you want to talk to him?’

Apparently though children nowadays expect more.

My sister and I used to have hours of fun playing ‘offices’, writing magazines and recording our own radio shows on cassette. Why isn’t it enough for kids nowadays* to create their own Estate Agents’ firm by collecting details from local agents, tippexing out the logos, and drawing in their own? What child wouldn’t enjoy setting up their own pretend appointment diary? Or perhaps that was just us.

Belle though seems oftentimes incapable of entertaining herself, or showing any initiative when it comes to independent play. Is this normal? Is it just the result of a childhood crammed with technology? Or is it something else?

Personally, I blame the parents.

*I do appreciate that the use of the expression ‘kids nowadays’ means I am properly old and will probably soon start reading the Daily Mail.



  1. Supersinglemum
    7 November, 2011 / 4:54 pm

    I do believe that there is too much technology for kids. When I was b’s age (8), I still played with dolls and all I had was a cassette radio which used mains electric! Over the years more has become normal and that’s great but I do try and protect my girls from it. They are restricted on tv, b is banned from watching American kids stuff like wizards of Waverley place and Hannah Montana because the attitude she has after watching is not good! I restrict the time on games consoles and so far it’s working as she is still able to entertain herself but I know the day will come where I can’t stop technology being part of her life!!

    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:09 pm

      I’m totally with you on the American stuff like Hannah Montana. I had to ban Belle from it completely and now we don’t even have Sky, because she really did start to develop an appalling attitude – the kids in those programmes are so disrespectful! Now it’s CBBC all the way for us. It’s so difficult isn’t it because technology is now such a massive part of our lives that if we DON’T let them get involved there’s the danger they’ll lose out skills wise and fall behind. Tough balance.

      • Alex
        17 February, 2012 / 3:40 pm

        Surely educating the kid on why a particular attitude is ‘bad’ is more effective? Talk to her about why she likes US shows, and why you find them disgusting. A quick five or ten minutes. Instead, a taboo is created of the programme, that will be fun to break as she gets older, or something that she will be inevitably teased about on the playground – “your mother never LET you watch that?” When she grows up she will no-doubt witness some HannahMontanaesque snotnose get their own way by demanding something from someone weak-willed, or perhaps encounter a boss that achieves success through lying. Due to the education you provide, she’ll understand the negatives of that attitude – a constant insecurity, a continuing lack of satisfaction – and she’ll understand the positives of another attitude – self-confidence and a belief that she can ‘rise above’ such behaviour. She won’t see the attitude as the ‘tantalising forbidden way’ that others are winning through, but something that she can laugh at and distance herself from. After all, those who earn our respect are most often those who do not care for our respect in the first place, or, if you want to put it in a catchy pseudo-zenism, those that fly are those that aren’t getting bogged down in the mud. Or, if you’re getting close to reading the Daily Mail: bullish toe-rags don’t get employed.

  2. 7 November, 2011 / 5:06 pm

    “When I was young…” never works, but boredom is certainly good for kids though it may need a distracting starting point (the cardboard box the fridge was delivered in, a bag of oddments, a box of old photos etc). As Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” I suspect he included women and girls, too.

    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:11 pm

      That’s a really good quote Nick, and pretty sure it applies to women and girls too :-)

      I almost feel sometimes like we’ve become afraid of being bored, and feel the need to fill every single minute – sending texts at traffic lights, checking emails in the toilet – it’s like everything is speeding up and everyone is scared that if they don’t keep up they’re going to miss something.

  3. 7 November, 2011 / 5:08 pm

    I loved text adventures. Admittedly I was older than your daughter during their great “era” though. Sadly they’ve died a death and classics like Pirate Adventure, Sorcerer of Claymorgue Castle etc are considered “dull” by adults and children alike these days.

    Not heard of Malory Towers, was that a Commodore Pet/64 game?

    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:13 pm

      I tried to google it before I published the post so I could link to something about it, but couldn’t find anything apart from the Enid Blyton books. It was very basic, and just seemed to be something that was there on the computer my dad bought home. It would have been late eighties?? My sister might read this and be able to shed more light…

        • 9 November, 2011 / 4:57 pm

          We played it on a PC – we never had a games console of any kind. It might have been a BBC?? *knows nothing about old computers*

  4. 7 November, 2011 / 8:01 pm

    My mum used to always say that being bored was good for children .I do believe that. Entertaining them all day long makes them passive. There again, my children watch hours and hours of tv a day. problem is, as much as i believe in imaginative play, i find it far too boring. ho hum.


    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:15 pm

      Playing with children IS dull, no doubt about it, which is why mine watch their fair share of TV too. What I really want is for Belle to be able to play imaginatively, but ALONE. I can’t be doing with all that pretending to visit her shop. *shudders*

  5. 7 November, 2011 / 8:49 pm

    my grandkids are the same, have no attention span that lasts longer then 2 minutes on anything. I personally blame the fact that children are indulged far to much, monday night they go here and tuesday night they go there etc etc…never have time to have to amuse themselves. send them out to play in the mud in the park and get filthy

    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:16 pm

      More and more children do seem to have a lot of activities ‘laid on’ nowadays don’t they? Perhaps that does mean that they get lazy when it comes to entertaining themselves. One of my earliest memories is of drawing treasure maps in the dry mud with a stick. I remember how exciting and mysterious it felt at the time. I’m not sure my kids would get the same thrill from that now!

  6. 8 November, 2011 / 7:41 am

    Hmm, been having lots of discussions on this recently, my 21 month old glazes over like a zombie and doesn’t even acknowledge me when CBeebies is on (the only channel I’ll let her watch). However, I’m also aware CBeebies, unlike a lot of programming for older kids from what I can tell, seems quite educational. So I have tried to include it in the mix of things we do and have days when we manage to not have it at all But I have started to notice she is increasingly asking to watch it, which really concerns me.

    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:17 pm

      I think you’re right that balance is the key – a little bit of everything and you can’t go wrong can you? Plus I will stand by the fact that TV DOES have educational value, whatever the anti-tv people may say. Either that or I’d just be consumed with guilt every day :-)

  7. 8 November, 2011 / 10:15 am

    We work from home and are always on the go especially on Saturdays which is changeover. Our kids are used to amusing themselves and happy to go off and play on the farm, in the woods or out with the animals. Saying “I’m bored” results in a list of chores to help Mum and Dad so unless they really are after some pocket money they do amuse themselves….. to be fair helped by there being 6 of them and having a play farm as a garden! I think mine would be hell in a town where they couldn’t just take themselves off to play outside and sympathize with any parent struggling to keep them off the technology. I can remember as an only child myself endlessly saying “I’m bored”

    • 8 November, 2011 / 5:06 pm

      I definitely think the outside space helps, as does having all those siblings – your kids sound like they lead a lovely life! I think Belle suffers from only having one 16 year old sister who, quite reasonably, doesn’t really enjoy hanging out playing games with a nine year old. We do have a girl the same age as Belle a few doors down from us in our new house, and she really likes being able to play with her after school. They can keep each others amused for hours!

  8. 8 November, 2011 / 5:39 pm

    My son is almost 5 and will probably end up hating me. There is NOW WAY on this planet that I will allow him to have his own mobile phone, LIKE SOME OF HIS SCHOOLFRIENDS ALREADY HAVE, ( for gawds sake, shouldn’;t they always have a parent/carer around at that age?)
    And he sure won’t be getting anything resembling a gaming device untill he is at least 14!
    They do seem to grow up way too fast these days, and I intend to be the worst mommy in the world by slowing mine down a little !

    • 9 November, 2011 / 4:53 pm

      Oh my goodness, some of your son’s FIVE YEAR OLD friends have mobile phones?? That’s bonkers!!

  9. 22 July, 2012 / 10:39 pm

    I just came across this because I was googling ‘Malory Towers’ – my step-mother was a primary school teacher and use to bring it home in the summer, along with ‘chuckie egg.’ Oh, and ‘Granny’s Garden!’ I can’t find any info on it either. Anyway, this made me laugh. I now have a 9 year old boy, and I can’t count the number of times I say ‘no you cannot play on the xbox / wii / DS / ipod / my iphone / watch tv… do something that DOESN’T INVOLVE A SCREEN.’ Despite limiting his ‘tech’ time, he seems to have a chronic lack of imagination. I’m kind of relieved to know it’s not just him. I used to play for hours about being a secretary, or a teacher, or a song-writer. Times have changed, and not necessarily for the better (I too am now old.)

    • 23 July, 2012 / 9:23 am

      I’m so glad you used to pay Malory Towers too!! After searching in vain for information on it, I was beginning to thing my sister and I had completely imagined it!

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