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Do Toddlers Get Bored? A Therapist Explains Their Interests

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I have spent an inordinate amount of time watching my children do a whole lot of nothing, even though by all appearances, they're having the time of their lives. As parents, we often lament that we buy our children these big, expensive toys only for our kids to be more enamored with the box it was shipped in. It seems as though everything in their world fascinates them beyond all measure, even if it bores us to tears. But what is it that constantly holds their interest? Do toddlers get bored?

It is difficult for us as parents to understand what true boredom is nowadays. We never let ourselves feel it, because we're always scrolling through our phones, reading Facebook, tweeting, or checking out Instagram. That means that recognizing boredom behaviors in our children, especially our young toddlers, might be more difficult. Just because a child is engaging in activities that you may think are an action to alleviate boredom, doesn't mean that is what it is. For toddlers, everything is new, from the sound of ripping paper to the feel of carpet beneath their little fingers, so true boredom is hard to fathom in the face of all of the novelty of their experience.

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When I allow myself to be truly bored — honestly, it usually happens when I accompany my kids to the park and it's so busy I can't read because I have to watch them — I fidget. If I don't fidget, I snack or sip at my iced coffee. It is very apparent that I am bored out of my mind. My toddlers didn't have any tells like this. I could never suss out if they were banging on the floor with their toys because they were bored, or because they were trying to tunnel through the ground to the other side of the world. Truly, it could have gone either way.

Courtesy of Cat Bowen

I spoke with therapist Dr. Jan Harrell, PhD, and asked her if toddlers get bored. She tells Romper that the simple answer is "No." Because "life is an exuberant of mystery and wonder." It is apparent in all that they do. Have you ever seen a toddler just break out in uncontrollable laughter? Sure, it's creepy AF, but it's also a testament to the complete joy of being new. Harrell says that you can "just take them outside and let them walk around and look," and that alone is enough to intuit just how they are taking everything in, and have no room for boredom.

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Imagine yourself in a new country, one where you've never been, and you've always wanted to visit. Spain, Kenya, the coast of Italy. How much would you long to see? Would you take in every little moment, every nuance of the cobblestone streets and the old stone buildings? Would you be enthralled by all of the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings? Of course you would be. That's what the whole world is like for your toddler. Everything can be something new and interesting for them.

Harrell says that while toddlers may not get bored, parents do get exhausted. This might mean you're not taking in cues like you normally would. Harrell says this is the point in time where most of us are willing to shove a screen at our kids, and honestly, it's understandable. Being a parent is exhausting. We know how to rest and take time to decompress — toddlers do not. They have two speeds, and both of them make me want to take a nap. So do toddlers get bored? Not really, but we certainly do, and it can be a lot.