There are no bored three year olds.
They don't exist. Three year olds want to know everything: they explore the worlds through their eyes, hands, and mouths. Have you ever been around a child in the presence of a strong odor, like fresh cookies or dog poo, or a loud sound, like fireworks or bird chatter? They go off like alarm clocks set for "NOW!" The five senses are a party.
The world is a whirling carousel of interesting things to a child, shimmering with possibility and purpose. Three year olds NEED to know everything.
So why don't thirteen year olds? Or thirty or forty or fifty year olds, for that matter?
I don't know. I suspect it has to do with the hidden cost of experience.
We celebrate our ability to see patterns in things; we reward those with the most correct answers.
As we grow and learn, we get energized by what is fresh and novel. Things happen that we don't expect. It's a ride. We experience something, we are thrilled/horrified/seduced/shocked by it, then expect to experience it again. By the very nature of learning, we use past experience to shape our present experiences.
We know the world through the comparison between what happened yesterday and today. We feel wise when we recognize what's about to happen. We celebrate our ability to see the patterns in things; we reward those with the most correct answers.
Our lives become safer and more stable as we become more steeped in the “causes and effects” of the world.
But something happens: as we grow, these expectations begin to erode our ability to experience something on its own terms. We experience fewer things that surprise us. We are constantly predicting what's going to happen-- and, often, we are right.
Life is scary. Predicting what's going to happen makes it bearable. Sometimes, it's the only difference between safety and danger, anxiety and relaxation.
The cost is that we often don't see everything that's there. We begin see ONLY the patterns that we've seen before; we focus on what's predictable and then miss the things that we don't expect.
As Sherlock Holmes as told us, we see what we expect to see.
And then we learn to stop learning.
Here’s my definition of “boredom:” the result of when we displace the wildness of curiosity with the stability of predictability.
Let’s return to the three year old. Driven by curiosity, a child has no room for boredom. She wants to learn everything. As she grows, the preponderance of experience wears down her interest in the world, like the ocean lapping at an enormous stone on the beach. The sharp edges of curiosity, through predictability and experience, become the smooth contours of boredom.
How do we stop this erosion? In a world of accountability and liability, a world of safety and repetition, do we even want to?
We begin to see only the patterns we've seen before.