For parents, they can be the most terrifying words in a child's vocabulary, and we'll pray to whatever higher power we happen to believe in to ward off those two little words we just can't stand to hear — "I'm bored."

However, it turns out that our parental fears of boredom may be unfounded. According to more than one expert, boredom is actually good for our kids, and can help them develop many of the skills they need to succeed in the world as adults. Here's how:

1. Boredom provides the quiet, unstructured time children need.

The amount of time that children spend engaged in free play has dwindled dramatically over the years, but play — especially play that comes from within and is not directed by adults — is how children learn about the world around them. According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, "play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength."

By allowing our children the opportunity to be bored, we are also allowing them the free time for unstructured play that they desperately need for healthy development.

2. Boredom promotes creativity.

Kim John Payne, founder of the Simplicity Parenting movement and author of Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier Children, suggests in his book that "boredom is often the precursor to creativity." Payne believes that a bored child is one who is on the brink of imagining an amazing and creative new way to entertain himself — if only parents don't rush in with some sort of guided activity first.

3. Boredom teaches autonomy and self-control.

Many of today's kids are overscheduled. Between school, homework, sports teams, and extracurricular activities, most children rarely have a moment in the day to call their own. Their lives are highly structured, with adults always telling them where to be and what to do.

But when kids are left to their own devices and allowed to experience boredom, they are forced to assume responsibility for their own experiences. They have to fill their own time and direct their own activities. And according to Dr. Laura Markham of, it is "essential for children to have the experience of deciding for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time, or they'll never learn to manage it."

As parents, it often seems easier to keep our kids busy with a constant stream of craft projects and playground visits and screen time than it is to listen to them complain about being bored. But boredom itself is nothing to fear. In fact, it may be one of the most priceless gifts we can give.