8 Reasons to Encourage Your Child’s Daydreaming
- Sarah Hamaker Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2015 30 Oct
I was a daydreaming child (and, I freely admit, I’m still a daydreamer as an adult). While daydreaming, I built castles and fought dragons, won horse races (as both horse and jockey) and gold medals, became a princess and a heroine, and had grand journeys and escapades. Daydreaming fueled an active imagination, one that has been of enormous help in my profession as a writer.
But today, daydreaming has lost its luster. In our increasingly impatient society, we don’t have the time or patience for kids who inhabit their own little world, often staring off into space instead of putting on their shoes. We also don’t see the “need” for daydreaming, attributing a lackluster life to those who dare to dream while awake.
One example is found in the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The title character spends much of his time daydreaming about performing heroic feats (rescuing pets, evacuating burning buildings, for instance). These preposterous daydreams are Walter’s way of escaping from the repetitious and mundane life he leads. However, Walter eventually has adventures of his own, thus leaving behind his need to daydream.
Many of us have a similar view of daydreaming, that it’s not something we should cultivate even in childhood. What we fail to realize is that daydreaming has real benefits to our children (and even for adults!). Here are eight reasons to encourage your child’s daydreaming.
1. Daydreaming rejuvenates the mind. Cognitive psychologist—and what some call the father of daydreaming—Jerome L. Singer labeled daydreaming as necessary to our intellectual and emotional health. Daydreaming allows our mind to wander, which provides rest and relief from more draining tasks.
2. Daydreaming isn’t idleness. We often think of daydreamers as those who are not engaged in the world--and often it’s true that children who daydream do forget to do chores, homework or pay attention in class. But to demand our children never daydream is the wrong answer. Instead, we should encourage daydreaming but provide specific parameters in which daydreaming is permitted.
3. Daydreaming reduces anxiety. Those who daydream often imagine themselves doing something specific, such as speaking in front of an audience or catching the winning touchdown on the football field. By playing various scenarios through their mind, children actually lower their fears or concerns about that activity or a similar situation.
4. Daydreaming increases creativity. Unfortunately, creativity isn’t encouraged as much as it should be at home or at school. Daydreaming can let a child’s imagination soar into realms unknown and can spark a creativity that spills over into the more mundane aspects of life. Healthy daydreaming waters the seeds of creativity already planted in our brains at birth. If we don’t water those seeds, that creativity will wither.
5. Daydreaming inspires imagination. In our success-driven society, we don’t value imagination as much as we used to. Children who are allowed time to think without distractions develop vivid and entertaining imaginations. And lest some parents think this trait doesn’t translate into the school setting, students have ample opportunities to write about their summer vacation, their hopes and dreams, and, of course, their response to a particular essay question on a test. A good imagination is essential to this part of their scholastic development.
6. Daydreaming helps kids solve problems. By imagining what might happen or possible outcomes to a problem, kids learn how to work through dilemmas as a sort of practice run. Thus, daydreaming provides a safe environment in which children can run through various scenarios, discarding and modifying solutions along the way.
7. Daydreaming enriches us. While daydreaming entertains the child himself, it also can entertain classmates, siblings and a wider world. What are authors, composers, artists, actors, musicians and others like them but daydreamers who share their dreams with the world at large? The world would be a much poorer place without the rich fruit of daydreamers.
8. Daydreaming builds the foundation for the future. Children who daydream are the future inventors and entrepreneurs of the world. If you ask those who have started companies or invented something, many of them would likely say that the seeds of that idea was rooted in the daydreams of their childhood. “Einstein gave a lot of examples of his own fantasies and imagery, and how he then got curious about a particular area in physics, which he would then explore using his more systematic, rational approach to thinking,” pointed out Jerome Singer in a 2013 interview with Scientific American.
Don’t be like many, who view daydreaming with suspicion and think those who daydream are failures in some way. Daydreaming can be a very positive experience for children—and even adults—in the way it helps solve problems and sparks new ideas, enriches and inspires us, and renews the mind and reduces anxiety.
If you have a child who daydreams, encourage that part of him while guiding him to indulge in daydreaming in the proper place and time, such as not during class but instead after school, for example. If your child doesn’t daydream, urge him to take up the habit. As Singer reminds us, “Creativity is enhanced when you begin to recognize that many of your fantasies may have relevance to some of the kinds of things that you are interested in doing.”
For six ways to cultivate daydreaming, visit www.parentcoachnova.com.
A certified Leadership Parenting Coach,™ Sarah Hamaker has written Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace. Her blogs on parenting have appeared in The Washington Post’s On Parenting, and she’s a frequent contributor to Crosswalk.com. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.parentcoachnova.com and follow her on Twitter @parentcoachnova.
Publication date: October 30, 2015