Jackson County 4-H is boring – and that’s just the way we like it.

What?! Our goal is to offer fewer summer activities this year and encourage children to be more creative, use their imaginations and spend time outdoors. We want kids to be bored so they’ll figure out things to do on their own.

How many times have you met with other adults and answered the question of “How are you?” with “Oh my gosh, I’m so busy!” Somehow being busy has gotten confused with having a good life.

And now we’re passing it along to the next generation. We are all, children and adults, bombarded by so much information in the 21st century that many of us are overwhelmed.

Research shows that children need time to let their minds wander in order to get in touch with who they are and what they think. Boredom can actually increase creativity, problem-solving and develop motivational skills in children and research conducted by Wijnand A.P. van Tilburg showed that boredom in children can lead to more prosocial behaviors such as sharing, helping and cooperating.

This isn’t just about bringing back the good ol’ days but about teaching life skills to develop the next leaders and workforce.

We have a tendency to want to fill children’s downtime with programmed activities, turn to an electronic device because it’s easy, or give them a list of things to do when they say “I’m bored.” See what happens if you don’t suggest anything and make electronic games off limits. Will they get into a little mischief? Maybe. Will it be life-threatening? Probably not. What will they do instead? Watch and see what happens (and join our “Boring Summer Program” group).

“When our kids have nothing to do, they exercise their imaginations and that just might be the most important skill they can develop. The workplace our children are going to enter is changing rapidly, and we don’t have the ability to prepare them for that world. It’s going to take a lot of creativity to adapt.” (Mark Oliver, www.mother.ly, 5 Ways Boredom Makes Your Kid More Awesome)

And so, back to Jackson County 4-H. We are focused on greater learning by providing deeper experiences, a sense of belonging in clubs and fewer activities. We are recruiting and training more adult volunteers. And, we invite you to join us in “being bored” this summer.

Contact us to register for our “Boring Summer Program” at 586-4009 or kerri_rayburn@ncsu.edu. You will receive a journal, some ideas for how to implement your unstructured time, a questionnaire at the beginning and end of the summer, an “I Got Bored with 4-H” T-shirt, and an invitation to our family picnic in August. Contact Heather Gordon, 4-H agent, with programmatic questions at heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.

Children are also encouraged to join our 4-H clubs: Cloverbuds (ages 5-8), Explorers Club (ages 9-14), Horse Club (all ages), Livestock Club (all ages), Maker Club (ages 5-10), Hiking Club (ages 5-10), Archery Club (ages 9-18), and a new Coding Club we hope to get started in July (ages 5-12).

Heather Gordon is 4-H agent for Jackson County. Contact her at 586-4009 or heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.