Monday, 20 May 2013

Boredom is vital for creativity, expert says

Children should be allowed to get bored so they have the chance to develop their creativity, an education expert has asserted. 

Dr Teresa Belton says that constant activity and stimulation could hamper the development of children’s imagination. She acknowledges that boredom may be an “uncomfortable feeling”, but claims modern society has “developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated”. 

The senior researcher at the University of East Anglia’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Dr Belton interviewed a number of authors, artists and scientists about how boredom aided their creativity as children. Speaking of the writer Meera Syal, Dr Belton says: “Lack of things to do spurred her to talk to people she would not otherwise have engaged with and to try activities she would not, under other circumstances, have experienced, such as talking to elderly neighbours and learning to bake cakes…Boredom made her write. She kept a diary from a young age, filling it with observations, short stories, poems and diatribe. And she attributes these early beginnings to becoming a writer late in life.”

Today though, children are more likely to turn to technology when bored. “When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen.The time they spend on these things has increased.” 

But this means they miss out on opportunities to be creative, to develop and grow, Dr Belton’s research has shown. “Children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.” It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she continued, while the screen “tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity”.

Children who fail to develop this creative capacity are more likely to encounter problems and display antisocial behaviour later in life. “Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride.” 

Dr Belton concluded: “For the sake of creativity, perhaps we need to slow down and stay offline from time to time.”

What do you think? Let us know below.

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