Free time, playing outside, daydreaming and what adults may call “doing nothing” is an essential ingredient to a healthy childhood.
This is good news for parents who feel the pressure to keep youngsters constantly occupied.
Reflecting over my time as a Kindergarten teacher, I recall the busyness of the young beings around me, even when not appearing to be outwardly active.
There had been many a time that I offered suggestions for ‘something to do’ and the most common response would be, “I’m busy.” When looked at closely, I would indeed see that the individual was preoccupied.
While Thomas ran his fingers through the sand Amalia would swing back and forth, back and forth. For Divan, sitting close to an adult was important, and at some point, each of them would daydream.
Daydreaming is not boredom; it is a skill that, when nurtured, can assist in developing imagination, the key to conceptualising, comprehension and balanced emotions.
My eight-year-old son, who is an only child, is used to preoccupying himself. I recall one particular day when he sat staring for ages into space.
I found myself asking, “Is he lonely? Should I get something for him to do? What if he’s bored?” Feelings of guilt crept over my skin. A little while later he joined me with a serious look on his face and said, “What if I attached a rocket-stove under my chair do you think it will fly me into space?”
Before I could answer he was off, running through the garden gathering items for his contraption. I eagerly followed him, excited to engage in the conversation of power in motion versus gravity.
My fire waned as I was asked to be quiet. “I’m thinking,” my son explained. And I had thought he was bored!
WHAT IF MY CHILD IS BORED?
Gwynn Dawson, a Waldorf teacher of 37 years, says, “It is not the true nature of children to be bored. Children are ever curious, ever exploring, touching, tasting and looking.”
Children who wander around aimlessly, can’t concentrate or struggle to get themselves going in an activity may appear bored but the reality is something different.
In our world of seemingly never ending choices, children easily become dependant on outside stimuli.
Dawson says, “Bored children are MADE by anxious adults giving them more and more STUFF – it overstimulates their senses and addicts them to continual input from the ‘outside’.They sadly can come to depend on this stimulus and then lose their innate ability to be with and in their world.”
Dr Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, co-author of Einstein never used flashcards, explains that free time provides an opportunity to process information, establish comprehension and build the intellect.
Such is the case when children build a fort outside, play dress up or just sit staring into space.
“During empty hours, kids explore the world at their own pace, develop their own unique set of interests and indulge in the sort of fantasy play that will help them to figure out how to create their own happiness, handle problems on their own, and sensibly manage their own time. That’s a critical life skill,” says Dr Hirsh-Pasek.
Some children who are so used to being busy may require time to adjust to the new way of being. The best way to introduce a new habit into the family is to lead by example.
Let your loved ones see you relaxed and in a pleasurable state of chilling out, without using a digital device during this time. Feeling fully relaxed in a state of just being is an art.
The good news is it is possible to learn this through practice. The bonus is that it’s healing too.
Children who are prone to anger or irritability may benefit from down time as their body relaxes and balance is restored. Likewise, minor health concerns may be remedied with a dose of nothingness.
For a young person, who does not fully understand themselves, empty moments carry the opportunity to turn inward and nurture themselves. So, it’s time get busy; busy doing nothing.
HOW CAN BOREDOM BE BENEFICIAL?
During the time of doing nothing, otherwise know as boredom, the body is being recharged in the following ways:
– Breathing stabilises, equilibrating emotions and aiding composure.
– Immunity levels rise as internal organs function at higher capacity.
– The brain is letting go and making space for the next important download.
– Listening improves as the sense becomes cleared from clutter.
– Creativity heightens through daydreaming.
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