A child is sitting at his desk. The teacher is in front of the class talking about past participles and gerunds when the student’s eyes gloss over. His mind is wandering, going to the beach where his family just took a vacation. He sees himself walking in the sand, feels the warm breeze on his face and senses the water lapping against his feet. Birds are circling overhead as a man tosses crackers into the air. Suddenly, he hears, “Snap out of it!” The startled child is abruptly pulled from his daydream and back into a reality that has no patience for such behavior.
But wouldn’t it be nice if the attitudes towards daydreaming were different? It looks like research is starting to catch up to what we humans seem to naturally understand.
In her article in The Atlantic, Jessica Lahey suggests that daydreaming is not a waste of time:
“Daydreaming has been found to be anything but counter-productive. It may just be the hidden wellspring of creativity and learning in the guise of idleness.”
Personally, I think our society’s infatuation with schedules and timed events has led to an increase in problematic behaviors in children. Adults put so much pressure on children to produce something tangible or fret over educational pursuits, that they overlook a huge piece of the development puzzle—down time. As Lahey explains, there is a real need to support the wandering mind and give kids space to mull things over.
“In other words, daydreaming only appears lazy from the outside, but viewed from the inside—or from the perspective of a psychologist, such as Kaufman, or a neuroscientist, such as Mary Helen Immordino-Yang—a complicated and extremely productive neurological process is taking place. Viewed from the inside, our children are exploring the only space where they truly have autonomy: their own minds.”