Allow Kids to Feel Bored to Unleash Their Hidden Genius


Photo by Amanda Sicard – Flickr-Creative Commons

Post by Rain San Martin

Today young children and teens have most of their free-time either booked with extracurricular obligations or they fill up the silence with digital entertainment. The article Dear Kids: It’s OK to Be Bored  states: “Being bored is like sitting in front of a blank canvas. Boredom is infinite possibility. You are the captain of your own ship and before you lies an expanse of dark blue ocean and clear skies.”

When a child says they are bored there may be a temptation to pull out the gaming devices or sign them up for more activities. Yet this unscheduled time is vital soil for cultivating the imagination and manifesting dreams. When their boredom is numbed by the painkillers of continual scheduled activities or entertainment they can never truly awaken the world of possibilities.  In the book iWoz, Steve Wozniak who invented the first Apple computer explains that he learned about electronics by tinkering as a child in his free time.  The same can be said for many great inventors, software developers or musicians.  When kids have unscheduled time and the TV’s and video games are turned off, a window of opportunity has been opened. Kids or teens suddenly may be motivated to practice their guitar, take apart an old cell phone, or learn coding to make a video game of their own. Yet they will need you to shine a light on these possibilities.

Not all “screen time” is created equal.

Allow for the use of developer software without it cutting into your child’s daily screen time. Otherwise they may always prefer to veg-out over creating content and learning new skills. Encourage the use of photo editing software, video editing software, 3D animation software, and of course a word editor for writing books. “Mom can I watch another episode of (fill in the blank) “, they ask?  You respond, “No but you can use Paint on the computer if you like? We can even email it to Grandma.  Or perhaps your teen is upset about having to turn off the their video game. You can offer they explore online coding classes or learn how to create 3D animation with Blender (open source / free) by following some tutorials on YouTube.

Helpful tools to have on hand: 

  • Journals
  • Drawing pencils
  • Art paper
  • Paints
  • Lego’s
  • Science kits
  • Instructional books
  • Sewing tools
  • Drums / musical instruments

Software or hardware developer tools:

  • Paint or Photoshop (Gimp is free)
  • Video editing software
  • Online coding classes, usually free
  • Digital camera (may use phone)
  • Video camera (may use phone)
  • Digital audio recorder / audio editor
  • Keyboard
  • Word Editor such as Microsoft word

Equip them with tools, reading materials and possibly instructional videos. Laying down in the grass practicing the art of doing nothing should also be applauded. When you allow kids to have large chunks of unscheduled time without the hum of gaming devices, you create space for magic.

For more on this subject read my article 5 Ways to Unleash the Genius of Your Child.

Question Conventionality

Owl painting by Nancy Hotz

Owl painting by Nancy Hotz

Post by Rain San Martin

To see how easily society conforms to custom and public expectations one need only to view a few episodes of Turn Back Time. This reality show places several modern day families into historically accurate homes and lifestyles. From the early 1900’s through the 1970’s they live out the lifestyle of five different time eras. What was most remarkable was not the changes due to technology, it was the artificial limitations society placed upon itself due to the social customs of the day.

At a glance we observe these types of changes throughout society as they have morphed over the last 115 years. During the Edwardian Era of the 1900’s children were to be seen yet not heard. Very little family time was present. In the 1920’s an upper-class family would continue to spend just enough money to “keep up appearances” even during financial hardship, nor would they socialize with the lower class.  In the 1940’s it was now considered appropriate to spend more time with the children.  During the 1960’s families gathered around the TV set and teens had very little supervision. 1970’s families found themselves spending money on unhealthy TV dinners, which were all the rage and children could play in the streets for hours.

Changes in Expectations of Children’s Behavior Over the Past 115 Years:

Children are seen yet not heard (1900-1910’s) = Family time is cherished (1940’s-today)  = Children should explore (1970’s) =   Sign them up for as many activities that can be squeezed in, hence no more time to explore (today).

Changes in the View of a Career Homemaker Over the Past 115 Years:

Homemaking is a desirable calling of a women (1900-1950’s) =  She has the right to choose if she works outside of the home (1960’s) = A woman should not be a homemaker  (1980’s – 2000’s) = Homemaking is once again seen as a desirable calling by the next generation (Today)

Food Trends

Eat healthy real food (1900’s – 1950’s) = Eat processed food (1950’s – 2000’s) = Eat real food again (Today). Not to mention health fads and trendy diets which come and go.

Changes in Entertaining Customs Over the Past 115 Years:

Spend endless hours entertaining guests with a dinner party (1900’s – 1950’s) = Serve a simple meal for a couple (1980’s – Today)

Some standards should never change. The timeless truth found in the Bible will hold up to any time era. Yet there are countless customs and fashions that we conform to simply because we believe there is no other way.  Reading historical books and learning about the past will immediately shed a light on the folly that comes with blindly following convention.  It’s simple to go with the masses.  Stand back from the crowd and take in the panoramic view. That which you see as a vital ritual may in fact be a hot trend of the times.

Live outside of time. Pick your traditions, fashion and activities with purpose. Choose your own adventure.

Solo Artist Date – Sweetwater Gear Fest 2014 – Producers Panel

2014-06-07b Bruce Swedien and Rain

Last weekend on June 7th, 2014 I attended the Producers Panel at Sweetwater’s annual Gear Fest.  Mammoth sound engineers and producers shared their wisdom for creating timeless classic hits. I was fortunate to be able to meet Bruce Swedien, the sound engineer for Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Common threads of wisdom shared included:

  • The song itself is the most important element.
  • Don’t over compress the music!
  • Spend your money on sound absorbers, treating a room for recording and mixing, rather than on endless gear.
  • Attending a music college does not mean you will truly learn the art of mixing.
  • Take advantage of internships, be willing to start at the bottom to learn if you would like to work in a major music studio (that is, at the few studios which are still in operation unfortunately).
  • Make a habit out of listening to music, breaking apart it’s elements.
  • Visit the orchestra to learn how recorded music should sound.

2014-06-07 Gear Fest-Producers Panel-cropped

2014-06-07 Gearfest Roland Booth

You can watch the complete Producers Panel here:


Have a Weekly Electronics Free Day

Photo and article by Rain San Martin

The human body needs a break from the digital and electronic realm for renewal.  Extended internet use has been shown to rewire the brain.  When you unplug for a 24 hour period you will restore some of the rewiring that your brain has undergone due to continual interruptions. By implementing this discipline you will clear your mind, feel renewed and allow room for your thoughts to roam free.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Journal, notebooks.
  • Old fashioned yellow-pages phone-book, so you are not tempted to turn on the internet to fetch a phone number.
  • Physical magazines and books, the library offers all you need in this department. I have a subscription to “Fast Company” magazine, the highest quality reading I’ve observed in a publication and sharply cutting edge, “Keyboard”, and a gift subscription to “MidWest Living” (lovely travel magazine).  Occasionally I use the Barnes and Nobles Nook as it functions like a regular hard copy book with the internet connection being optional. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite could fulfill this function as well.
  • If you have a phone data plan and access the net with your smart phone consider turning off your phone temporarily. Having a basic cell phone has it’s advantages in this area,  there is no temptation to walk around while texting or view reality through the prism of  interactive Google maps overlays.
  • Board games, sports
  • Art supplies
  • Walking shoes, backpack, bikes

Good for Kids

Having a weekly electronics free day teaches kids not to rely on entertainment devices. Kids will benefit tremendously when they observe you living your life fully in the moment rather than looking down at your smart phone. Each family will need to decide their personal rules. For me this means no computing, internet, video or radio. One way to intensify this discipline would be to employ the use of candlelight, going before the age of electricity, another life experiment in itself!

Practical Implementation

The best time to practice this discipline is when you are not required to use computing devices due to work which may require you to wait until your off hours. Perhaps your family does not practice this ritual yet you can:

  • abstain from the internet
  • tune out background sounds, if living with a noisy family
  • read print publications such as magazines or books from the library

If doing this discipline for one whole day is impractical chunk out massive slots of time throughout the week for the media fast. Rather than relax you may want to use this day to organize, perform household projects, clean or do other work related tasks which do not depend on an internet connection.

When you clear the atmosphere of this continual chatter you will notice the sounds all around you. In the summer of a suburban neighborhood notice the ambient sounds of birds, wind rustling through leaves, lawn mowers, distant conversations, and child’s play. For motivation read biographies of those who lived before the age of television, radio and computing, pre 20th century. Learn how to live outside of the matrix.

Top 3 Creative Goals for June 2014

Photo and text by Rain San Martin

1) Spend 1 hour per day, M-F studying 3D blender, or 20 hours per month

As a digital artist I am proficient at Photoshop, yet I have always dreamed of creating photorealistic fantastical images with a 3D program. When I had settled down to tackle this medium I was shocked by the steep learning curve. However this has been a lifelong dream of mine to learn.

2) Complete 1 new song.

Last month I completed a piece called Future City Skyline. I am simultaneously working on two new instrumental soundtrack style albums. One album has a fantasy theme, whereas the other is future tech.

3) Begin writing first ebook: Unconventional Creativity.  500 words per day, M-F

Stay True to the Dreams of Thy Youth


Photo by Rain San Martin

Photo by Rain San Martin

You may no longer feel that the world needs your art, or the music of your soul. Perhaps you’ve been harshly criticized or wonder if your work is needed at all. “Why continue”, you ask yourself?    In despair you may cease your daily ritual of returning the canvas, keyboard or empty page. But there is one who awaits your action. When you look back through the corridors of time, you just may see your younger self staring back in hopeful anticipation. Don’t fail them, that person who you were long ago. Stay the course and you may see a harvest when you least expect it.

Stay true to the dreams of thy youth. (-Friedrich Schiller)

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. (-Henry David Thoreau)