Maren Schmidt: Brains need lots of quiet time |

Maren Schmidt: Brains need lots of quiet time

Maren Schmidt

A sign in my father’s office read, “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”

Ungrammatical, but it captured the essence of my father. My dad spent a lot of time thinking and planning, but he didn’t hesitate to take the down time of “just” sitting and doing nothing. Dad understood what was good for him, as well as for all the grandchildren that loved to sit on his lap, and just sit.

Children need opportunities simply to sit, rest, observe, quietly explore and be. My dad understood a child’s need for this quiet time. With our children we need to balance activity with tranquil and undisturbed time.

Our children today seem to be bustled off to gym class, to swim, to dance, to lesson after lesson to try to maximize their learning, or, heaven forbid, prevent them from being bored. Instead of trying to cram learning with activity after activity, it is better to have an environment where children can explore, investigate and inquire with help from a guide. If a child is interested in looking at rocks, an adult to offer a bit of information perhaps by pointing out the different structure of the rocks – igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic – and then retreating, offers the child the quiet opportunity to do further exploration, thinking, or simple consolidation of new and old information.

A child’s learning is deeper when it comes from within versus being crammed in by using flash cards, worksheets, questioning and on and on.

If we each look at our individual style of learning, we’ll perhaps see that we learn best when we choose our activity, do it to our satisfaction, and then have a period of rest or contemplation to unify our thoughts. My grandmother resisted numerous attempts to buy her a dishwasher, saying that washing the dishes by hand gave her time to think. My grandmother enjoyed that half hour to reflect on the day’s events and to begin looking forward to the next activities.

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Children’s brains need this time to consolidate new experiences, and then choose what activity to do to create meaningful learning. By the process of selecting what to do, our children reveal to us who they are. With time to choose, learning becomes personal and powerful. Through their choices, our children are telling us their likes, their dislikes, their interests, their passions, their weaknesses, their strengths. It all begins with being quiet and having time that is unencumbered with activities that aren’t evaluated, judged or prioritized by adults.

When we fill up our children’s days with busy work that does not tap into the brain’s powerful way to learn through quiet reflection and choice, we do our children a disservice.

Our children need this valuable unstructured time for contemplation and true learning. The brain for proper development needs quiet time, to sit and think and sometimes to “just sits.” One could say that a child and a child’s brain need time on grandpa’s lap.

Next Week: Why Don’t We Listen Better?

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