We recently had academic testing done on our daughter.
Our family has moved around bunch and, as a result, we’re trying to tease apart what could be a learning challenge versus what’s a gap in her education.
Following one of the testing sessions I met with school support specialists (love her school. love the teachers.).
Could this be ADHD? one asked.
Definitely not, another said. She has a fantastic ability to focus.
She really does, another added. She’s great at maintaining focus.
In the moment all I thought about was how eliminating anything sounded great (We know it’s not XX. Let’s look at other possibilities).
Later that night, however, as I watched her struggle with homework yet do so without distraction I reflected on the conversation.
When did the ability to focus become a celebrated skill?
When did we cease encouraging kids–at appropriate times–to detach, relax and zone out?
It dawned on me how, for this generation of success at all costs and screens at all times, daydreaming is quickly becoming a lost art.
A lost art which, although it may not initially appear it on the surface, is crucial to life success.
fantastic daydreaming backdrop.
Daydreaming provides the same benefits as allowing ourselves to be bored.
Our brains need daydreaming/turning inward in order to refresh our creative juices.
I know at least I require an inner life not rooted in reality or I’d exist in a continual state of writer’s block.
We big people often make remarks like: I get my best ideas in the shower!
I’d venture to say it’s because we allow ourselves to daydream there!
As a parent I’m aware it’s important to focus when
school life demands, yet daydreaming suddenly felt like a pivotal way for her brain to rest, UNfocus and grow creative.
Our child is one of the most under-scheduled nine year olds I know.
Every after-school minute isn’t accounted for. She plays no sports.
Whether these are choices you agree with or not—they weren’t made in haste but design.
We wanted to give her space.
We wanted her to live with margins.
I’d not been able to put it into words before, but we wanted her to have time to daydream.
We choose to gift her to be free to seize unfilled moments, think about her day and lazily ponder different outcomes to interactions or challenges she’s experienced.
Studies indicate when children have ample time to
reflect internally daydream it enhances their ability to sustain external focus.
very very shiny object!
I’ve decided to attempt to weave daydreaming into our days.
I’ve chosen to encourage the habit of “unfocusing” each morning as my daughter & I walk the GoldenDoodle before school.
If I’m yammering away and your mind wanders–that’s OK! Our walk is perfect for that sort of thing.
If I ask a question and you were daydreaming-distracted just say SHINY OBJECT! I’ll know to back up and start again.
She laughed, but she’s clearly grasped what I’d said.
We adults talk about mindfulness all the time.
I talk about mindfulness all the time.
Perhaps, in doing so, we’ve forgotten the importance of unfocusing.
- When was the last time you allowed yourself to UNfocus and daydream?
cheryl saysOctober 5, 2015 at 4:02 am
I daydream when I run in the dark under the stars, or while meditating through lap swimming in the pool, and at times on the trails on my mountain bike, although it requires a bit more mindfulness than the first two-rocks and roots and antelope and things. I call it “active meditation” and have come up with some pretty neat ideas ( educational materials to make for kids, a design for my Holiday cards) while in this state of mind.
Helen saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:07 am
I think I needed to see this. It makes me nuts when the boys aren’t listening and this will help me see it in a positive light
Susie @ Suzlyfe saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:29 am
I was an ADHD kid, and to my detriment (I could be hyper focused, but I could also loose focus from one word to the next in spelling tests and get incredibly frustrated and end up in tears.). I definitely had sufficient time to daydream, but I think that there is a difference between unfocusing and daydreaming. It is one thing to have your mind wander and take you to a place of your imagination and thoughts, and another to not be able to remember the question that was asked directly to you.
AmyC saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:31 am
I love the cue “shiny object” 🙂
I daydream when I’m running and sometimes when I’m tired and with a group of chatty people. Is that bad?
Joy Brown saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:47 am
I need to daydream more! Nature is such a great background for it! Being in the mountains last week gave me the opportunity to actually do some daydreaming again!
Cathy Chester saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:48 am
Our son didn’t play sports either. He was interested in other activities but he still had time to do nothing. Computers were in their infancy (along with their games) so he had time to be mindless by himself or with his friends.
I believe technology can be both good and bad, and for young children they need time to simply “be”.
Great post, Carla.
We all need mindless time!
Laura @ Mommy Run Fast saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:55 am
She is so lucky to have you two for parents… the over-scheduled child thing is way too common. Even adults hardly have time to let our minds wander with the phone constantly begging us to check in and see what we’re missing! I completely agree that we could all use a little more unstructured time (and daydreaming!)
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:58 am
I think we are all SO engaged these days with our devices and there just isn’t room for daydreaming. Parents brag to me about how their little ones love the iPad, love the phone–and I just cringe. I really worry about this generation.
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:12 am
YES! the bragging about that and all the skills their kids have (knowing how to play instruments, other languages etc). It can be hard to stay strong with the “only pursuing her passions” (roller skating etc) but I pray she will be happy and (mentally) healthier because of it.
cheryl saysOctober 6, 2015 at 10:16 am
Which is why we don’t use screen time in the classroom (preschool) at ALL! (and have workshops for parents to do other things with their kids besides screen activities!)
Kelly saysOctober 5, 2015 at 6:02 am
I’m a daydreamer. It’s when I feel most creative and inspired. Encourage this non-screen based “down” time and see what will blossom. 🙂
Sandy saysOctober 5, 2015 at 6:11 am
Followed the link to the the value of boredom. Such a difficult frame of mind (or unmind) for me. I resist boredom, and can’t seem to count more than three sheep before I’m ruminating about my next day’s plans. Interesting posts.
Bonnie saysOctober 5, 2015 at 6:38 am
Interesting connection between daydreaming and margins! …man they are so important. I think that whole concept of being bored is so lost and valuable and it’s interesting how that unstructured thought is important in that mix too. There is such a push to be productive that our down time is often mindLESS time (browsing the internet, watching TV, etc), which is okay for a time but different, I think, that day dreaming. I want more of this time in my day! Thank you for a(nother) thoughtful post, Carla…I don’t always comment but your blog is one that I read often that always makes me think!
Maureen saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:06 am
I try to give myself time to let my mind wander off, but it’s so hard sometimes. I definitely have my best ideas right before falling asleep at night…probably because my mind is allowed to be free for a few moments.
Rachel @ RachelMcMichael.com saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:06 am
This is such a good word! I neglect taking time out to daydream. I schedule a lot of margin in my days, and I think today is a good day to take some of that me-time to just lay down in a comfy chair and daydream!!
Susan Bonifant saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:10 am
“I know at least I require an inner life not rooted in reality or I’d exist in a continual state of writer’s block.”
How I love this. A child’s natural wish to imagine what lies on the borders of what is right in front of them can make their lives full of mystique – and spark the interest to explore.
When we had small kids, the “what-if” questions were endless and I gained new appreciation for the way our own minds can be our best entertainment.
One of my favorite stories: my son urged me to end a call I was on because he had something really important to ask me. I hung up. He said: I need to know what we would do if a dinosaur walked up the street? I said: We’d go to the roof and watch it from behind the chimney.
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:10 am
ohmygoodness. I teared up at your story. For so many reasons. thank you for sharing <3
Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:19 am
As a teacher, I find this view refreshing and as a parent even more so. Great post. Erin
Dr. J saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:25 am
Technological autism is a term I’ve heard.
I learned long ago to find a little vacation time in every day 🙂
cheryl saysOctober 6, 2015 at 10:13 am
Working with kids on the spectrum, technology is often used as an avenue to make connections- through video modeling appropriate social interactions can be taught and practiced. The kiddos really tune into the screen and then model what they saw. It’s truly amazing how it works.
Sagan saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:26 am
UGH. What about instead of “Let’s look at all of the possibilities,” the teachers realized that maybe the education system is the issue? It’s so ridiculous how education is set up with such a specific type of learning in place.
Also: all the daydreaming, all the time 🙂
cherylann saysOctober 6, 2015 at 11:22 am
Teachers DO look at all of the possibilities…we do love kids you know and don’t advocate labeling or medication as many seem to believe. I have never once in my 40 yrs. met an educator who wanted to put a kid on medication versus trying new approaches to learning. I have however met/ worked with many parents who find Drs. to prescribe unneeded meds.
Jess @hellotofit saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:30 am
It’s weird…i feel a sense of guilt sometimes if I’m not DOING something. Need to be okay with unwinding and daydreaming…to take a break! Thanks for this today 🙂
Bri saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:35 am
I was also a big daydreamer and refused to play sports. My parents let me do my thing and I had no structured activities… I didn’t even do after school programs or anything. I went to summer camp once only because I wasn’t old enough to stay at home on my own. I think having that space to understand things and take things in my own way was definitely beneficial to my learning style and my introverted personality type. I found things I wanted to do on my own, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I did great in school, got a bachelor’s degree, corporate job and started my own side businesses. So I love that you’re giving your child the space she needs to breathe!
Leanne@crestingthehill saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:42 am
I think it’s about “being in the moment” and just appreciating what’s going on in the world around you – feeling the sun on your face (or the rain), seeing the colours, smelling the roses and tuning out all the demands – I hope she enjoys chilling out and being at peace for those moments.
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:10 am
oh and you pointed out that duality of being in the moment (which to me means present and mindful) and dreamy SIMULTANEOUSLY. Food for thought…
Michelle saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:44 am
I am a pro at daydreaming. Daydreaming calms me down and sparks ideas.
Pamela Hernandez saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:46 am
When I travel. A plane window is perfect for it. That’s why I am so inspired when I get home.
Tori saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:47 am
This is so true, and I’ve never thought about it this way! I’ve always felt a huge amount of pressure to constantly stay focused, busy, work hard, achieve all the time, and it often becomes so taxing. I also need to remember to take time to daydream- it IS important.
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:09 am
and I really do believe it’s what we bigguns 🙂 see we get our best ideas in the shower. we finally let GO and zone OUT.
Rena McDaniel saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:00 am
What a great idea! It is so very important, but one of the first things that get cut. I have been struggling with the issue of focus lately maybe I just need a little more day dreaming time. I love how you parent Carla and I absolutely love how you always do your own thing and not follow what everyone else is doing. I think it’s working terrifically for you. I’ve missed your posts while I’ve been taking a break to finish my book! You always start off my week with a smile.
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:08 am
THANK YOU SO SO MUCH FOR YOUR KIND WORDS (she shouts). Ive been writing lately and taking a mental hiatus from searching for my tribe. My people. My elevator pitch. All of it. Your words are so appreciated.
Krysten saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:21 am
This is so true! Time to reflect, wander, and daydream is so important. It is one of the reasons that 7/10 times I chose to run alone. That is when I think and daydream. LOVE
Terri Jackson saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:42 am
I love these words, thank you for your insights. I have myself so keyed up, and the thought of daydreaming is so appealing, just time to be and let my brain wander. I think I need to give myself a time out to color.
messymimi saysOctober 5, 2015 at 9:28 am
While scrubbing toilets or mopping floors, it’s a great time to daydream. Any time, in fact, that you have to do a repetative motion that doesn’t take your whole brain. Sometimes it’s good to stay in the moment, and sometimes it’s good to sieze that moment and daydream.
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 12:50 pm
YES!!! I think Ive gone too much toward repetitive stuff (dishes, vacuuming etc) being meditative and NOT zoning out entirely then…
Carol Cassara (@ccassara) saysOctober 5, 2015 at 9:58 am
I couldn’t agree more. Kids today are so damn overscheduled there is no time to really have the experience of being a kid. Of daydreaming. Thinking. Enjoying. Great parenting thoughts today. I hope more parents take your point.
Sharon Greenthal saysOctober 5, 2015 at 10:10 am
My daughter was always happiest when she was in her room, singing Broadway tunes – and that went on until she went to college. It was her way of disconnecting from the real world and daydreaming, I think.
I have to make a conscious effort to disconnect and have down time – walking and listening to music is the best way for me to do it.
Lisa @ RunWiki saysOctober 5, 2015 at 11:19 am
This is why I run! It is a moving daydream. My brain jumps all over the place.. talking to me is like trying to have a conversation with a squirrel, so when I’m running it slows my brain down into one continuous line instead of zig zags. Daydreaming is not unlike meditation– the brain needs to unwind, relax, rest. For me personally if I don’t take the time to do this it causes me to have clinical depression. You are SUCH a great mama! xoxo
Carla saysOctober 5, 2015 at 12:49 pm
I LOVE the notion of running as moving daydream. I try to use walking as moving meditation. It works but it’s also so so focused…
Heather@hungryforbalance saysOctober 5, 2015 at 11:53 am
I feel like having time to daydream and just let your mind wander is a gift we so rarely give to ourselves, let alone our children. My daughter is not quite 2 and she has a great imagination (as most 2 year old’s do), but I wonder at what age she will ‘lose’ that. Hopefully never, if I can help it.
I used to be an English teacher in my ‘former life’ and I would feel so sorry for my students for the hours and hours we forced ‘focus’ on them, with the only breaks being 10 minutes between classes and 20 minutes for lunch. I never felt like that environment was very conducive to learning.
Beverly Diehl saysOctober 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm
It’s hard for me to daydream without something else going on – music, scenery, something. But I do appreciate the value of it, and agree, a very important thing to offer to our children, unstructured time.
Lee Gaitan saysOctober 5, 2015 at 1:12 pm
Yes, yes and yes! I can tell you that when I was teaching middle school, I saw every day the huge toll our constantly plugged in, tuned in way of life is taking on our kids. So many of the kids I had were at a complete loss to generate original ideas, to brainstorm crazy solutions, etc. If it wasn’t a completely guided, spelled-out task, they were at a complete loss to know what to do. They needed constant prompting with cues from me. I started giving them goofy topics to think and write about every day for the first 5-10 minutes. I mean goofy, like “sprinkles” or “dog hair” or “eyebrows.” It was painful at first, but by the end of the year, those kids were writing amazing, clever, often hilarious stuff–making associations and connections that in the most creative ways. Yay for daydreaming and free associating!
Coach Henness saysOctober 5, 2015 at 1:32 pm
Ugh. Thank you! While I love the mindfulness movement as a whole I’m definitely someone who requires times when I don’t have to think about how tasty and healthy my food is (or isn’t) or exercise to have an out-of-body experience instead of being present. Certain seasons of my life are not meant for balance but for extreme pursuits in a very narrow direction. Good stuff.
Anita Irlen saysOctober 5, 2015 at 2:21 pm
I so agree. I don’t have a child, but I think this is all also true for adults. I would also say that you can’t be mindful if your brain isn’t rested, and besides sleeping, a great and creative way to rest is by daydreaming.
Yum Yucky saysOctober 5, 2015 at 2:55 pm
Your question has posed a challenge and is causing my brain to shut down because I can’t remember the last time I daydreamed. Ugh. I will fix this problem for sure!
Ps. About all that ADD stuff. They tried to label my oldest son with that. He was in 3rd grade at the time and they questioned his ability to learn. He’s now a sophomore in college getting excellent grades on his way to becoming a Physical Therapist. Don’t fall for it ADD trap (including the medications). I need to do a video on this to share my story and alert parents to the truth about the ADD “industry”.
liz saysOctober 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm
I agree with all of it. My son plays soccer. I would like for him to learn a musical instrument but that can come a bit later. He is not over scheduled intentionally.
Growing up ADD, I was often criticized for being “daydreamy.” Being “daydreamy” was always the comment on my report cards.
As an adult I am more productive when I have some mental free space. When I force myself to concentrate on a particular task for an extended period, without any breaks, I become irritable and I start making silly mistakes.
For what it’s worth – free play is how children learn early in life. It is how they develop imagination and practice role-playing. My son learns so much more when he is self-directed.
Roxanne Jones saysOctober 5, 2015 at 4:29 pm
This is SUCH a good reminder, Carla. I spend so much time under deadline that it’s hard to unplug. But those moments–in the shower, walking outdoors alone, before falling asleep, even driving–my mind can go where it wants (I do still pay attention while driving, but I seem to get ideas while behind the wheel on the highway). Kudos to you for encouraging daydreaming in your daughter and not cramming her schedule full of activities.
Judy Freedman saysOctober 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm
I know I’m always talking about mindfulness and being focused with my yoga training. I do agree that we also need time to daydream. My son had ADD when he was a child and still does. He is the more creative one for all his daydreaming.
Beth Havey saysOctober 5, 2015 at 7:05 pm
I think I daydream when I write my novels. It’s a dreaming type of process– And I daydream when I walk, I let my mind wander and often I pray.
Carly @ Fine Fit Day saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:24 pm
I remember when I was a kid being excited for long car rides when I could spend hours staring out the window, daydreaming. I would actually look forward to long periods of daydreaming! Sometimes now I do it at a cafe, just zone out by the window. And I do the same as Lisa, as well, daydream while running, no music, just alone time. I think you’re doing some fantastic parenting and you’ve tapped into something I think we’ve begun to forget is important. thanks for this today!
Myra saysOctober 5, 2015 at 8:58 pm
My daughter did dance for a few years and gymnastics too. But as a single mom, I could never afford to get her involved in too many extra curricular things. But we always had time and money for the bookstore. So even today, she needs her alone time with a book.
I’ll take book time over clubs and all that extra.
Sandra Laflamme saysOctober 5, 2015 at 10:16 pm
I definitely daydream on the long run, or on a long bike ride or in the car when I am alone. We try not to over-schedule our kids. Why is there so much pressure to keep them super scheduled and busy? Daydreaming is definitely becoming a lost art as kids are often given no time to just be kids and to play and relax and wander.
GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth saysOctober 5, 2015 at 10:28 pm
I can’t remember the last time I let myself just be and do nothing. And that’s pretty sad.
Christy@ My Dirt Road Anthem saysOctober 6, 2015 at 6:18 am
I love daydreaming, I used to spend a lot of time in a tractor and that is a great place to daydream. so is being on horseback, running, and long road trips, My kids always want to play on something but I tell them look out the windows and use your imaginations!
Abby @ BackAtSquareZero saysOctober 6, 2015 at 11:16 am
My runs are just one long daydream on the trails. I think that is why I love them so much.
She Rocks Fitness saysOctober 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm
I woke up really frazzled this morning after a restless sleep. I’ve been spending too much time watching TV and not journaling or reading. Those 2 things help me daydream and disconnect. It’s time to shut the tube off and allow my daydreams to COME BACK!
Deborah saysOctober 6, 2015 at 7:37 pm
I love daydreaming and it helps pass the time sometimes. I think the only time it gets problematic is when we resort to it in preference of our actual lives. (Kinda like people do in alternative reality video games!)
I started dancing when I was 5 or 6, but wasn’t allowed to play basketball until I was 8. (Not sure why my parents invoked that rule!) But most of my time was spent with neighbourhood kids. Playing, pretending. Just being kids. My bestie and I put on dance shows for our families and friends. We attempted several rockets and hot air balloons, (long story and you’ll be astounded to know none worked). We made a lemonade stand and a group of us even spent many lunch hours in some tree we’d imagined fairies lived (after reading some book which we all loved).
I think playing nonsensical games with friends, make believe and daydreaming should be part of every kid’s life.
Farrah saysOctober 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm
I was a pretty quiet kid, so I definitely spent a lot of time daydreaming–I think it’s important to have time to wind down and just, as you say, unfocus. It helps to take a break from things and just step back to relax a bit before getting back into the swing of things, or else it’s honestly a recipe for total burnout!
Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table saysOctober 6, 2015 at 10:51 pm
This is so funny for me to read because my mom always says if I had been born a few years later I would have been cracked out on ritalin. Thank god! I was just… creative. 😉
Elle saysOctober 6, 2015 at 11:34 pm
Day dreaming… that’s something I don’t think I do enough of. As we get older, I think our schedules often get busier and busier leaving us less time to focus on ourselves.
Too often, we get caught up on focusing on our problems in life and not focusing on relaxing, day dreaming, and zoning out.
I’m so glad you’re letting your daughter focus on what she wants to and not scheduling out her day. She will thank you one day!
Jody - Fit at 57 saysOctober 9, 2015 at 6:57 pm
Sometimes I feel like I am the definition of unfocused in a person. 🙂
I am for daydreaming & bored times!!!
Erica Ortiz saysOctober 10, 2015 at 5:41 pm
This is such good reminder for myself. My kid, absolutely gets time to daydream. But boy do I not allow it for myself. There are always To Do lists to finish, chores left undone, emails to respond to, and people requiring my attention. Thanks for the reminder to set some time out just to DREAM.