Busy, busy, busy! No, that’s not just adults, it’s the ‘normal’ lives of many of today’s very small children. Many are exhausted, not simply due to insufficient sleep/sleep deprivation that in itself significantly decreases academic achievement, impacts physical growth, curbs imagination and creativity, creates irritability and exacerbates symptoms of conditions such as ADHD. This is a different kind of exhaustion, requiring a different form of rest and relaxation that is severely underestimated and yet essential to children’s academic, emotional, and creative lives: daydreaming.
Rather than being counter-productive and indiacting to the observing adult as a lack of focus, engagement or concentration, daydreaming may well be the ‘mindspring’ of creativity and learning.This is the mind-wandering that happens when children’s brains are free of interruption and allowed to meander through the random memories, thoughts and ideas that are woven throughout consciousness. Research suggests that television, video games, and other electronic distractions prevent this kind of mental wandering because they interrupt the flow of thoughts, steer the direction of brain travel and prevent the wonderings that are the foundation of positive, productive daydreaming.
The cognitive psychologist Jerome L. Singer identifies daydreaming as the human default mental state. In book, ‘Daydreaming: an Introduction to the Experimental Study of Inner Experience’ he explores two key brain functions, working memory and daydreaming. He suggests that the two cannot operate simultaneously, are mutually exclusive and that both are critical for children’s mental health and well-being. However, he notes that when humans engage working memory, we close off our daydreaming network and our access to self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, future planning, retrieval of personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, amongst other key functions.