As school begins across the country, you may remember back on your own days as a student. I bet many of us recall sitting in class and our mind began to wander or “day dream.” Or maybe it wasn’t you, but a classmate you (or the teacher) could tell was “day dreaming” and not focused on the task at hand. Well, at the time, this may have garnered some disapproving looks from the teacher, but it turns out that a certain about of “day dreaming” can be quite useful for the brain.
In recent years, researchers have begun to look into what the brain does during these times of “day dreaming” or what they call “inward attention.” They are beginning to see how time spent focused inward may actually help students focus better on outward tasks. Some research has shown that when times of inward reflection were incorporated into the school day, students often became less anxious, performed better on tests, and were able to plan more effectively.
This makes so much sense to me. In our fast-paced, over-stimulating world, it is becoming rare to have a moment of inward reflection. To find this time, you really do have to plan it into your day. For someone with a more introverted personality, such as myself, I find this “down time” to be crucial to my mental health and well-being. I think the same must be true for children. Children are learning and absorbing information almost constantly, especially at school. It’s great to be able to allow them some time to just day dream or let their mind wander without having to worry about the end product. I have noticed this even with my 3-year-old. After playing for awhile, he will often just lay down and drink something or hold a toy, seemingly “doing nothing.” After a few minutes, however, he will perk up and say something clever or begin playing in a new way. It seems that, given the opportunity, kids will carve out this “day dreaming” time for themselves.
We all know the importance of children learning to focus their attention on outward tasks. In fact, this is one of the key skills of childhood. Focus and attention are consistently linked to all sorts of positive outcomes for kids. An inward focus, however, may be equally important for children to develop intellectually, as well as socially and morally.