We've been conditioned to think that part of raising kids is to entertain them. To make them happy, to set up activities for them, to entertain them, lest they feel unloved or learn nothing.
It's no wonder parents feel guilty when they're unable to engage with their kids the whole day or when they can't set up insta-worthy "educational" activities for their kids.
The truth is, children are MADE to be naturally curious and have the ability to explore the world around them, no matter how old they are. That includes babies, toddlers and older kids.
Children don't need us to entertain them.
Some may say:
"But my poor child looks like he’s bored and doing nothing constructive. I want to engage him so he learns something."
What we need to remember is that real learning can only happen when the one learning is interested and engaged. How much effort do you need to put in to constantly be pushing and pulling your child to learn this and that? It’s just… tiring! And honestly not a strategy that fosters self-initiated learning in the long run.
If we want kids to be motivated to seek out interests and explorations to learn on their own, we need to foster that ability and give them opportunities to practice that.
Here are a few tips on helping your kids develop self-initiated learning:
1. Don't be afraid of boredom
Allowing children to sit with their boredom and not fixing it for them allows creative juices to flow. It might be hard for them at first to think of something to do, but they’ll eventually find something to explore and get better at it if consistently allowed to practice this skill.
2. Allow time for free play
Consistently schedule in time for play everyday for your child where he just does whatever he's interested in. No agenda, no curriculum, just child-led wonder!
3. Offer resources without pressure
Having resources like books, children podcasts, open-ended toys, art materials available and accessible can empower them to be curious and start exploring. Setting up the environment in a way where it's conducive and inviting for self-directed play sets them up for independent play success!
4. Have a limit on screen time
Kids and even us adults will naturally gravitate towards the TV or gadgets when we’re bored. It entertains but doesn’t really lets children exercise creativity. I’m not saying you should never allow screen time or that screen time is bad, but having a limit on it will help children find things to do outside of the TV or Ipad.