The Great Importance of Goofing Off

They’re never doing nothing.

goofing off

Where we live, goofing off is required of kids in the summer. The only camp is $900 a month — nononono — and so we’re on our own. And that’s just fine with me, if a little logistically challenging for us.

FD’s been studying for a high-school placement thing. SD has been taking swimming lessons an hour a day. But beyond that, it’s Legos, playing outside, and iOS devices. And we went to Seattle to visit Doc’s mom for a few days. Beyond that, it’s been a formless existence. Just what kids need from time to time.

In a few weeks, we’ll be back to our over-scheduled, frantic school year. Up earlier, and with every minute of the day mapped out in advance. The treadmill all parents know.

Child psychologists are talking these days about the value of down time for kids. A break for a kid needn’t be July and August. It can be just an hour here and there for goofing off.

One thing I’ve learned in my own life is that breaks give things a chance to sink in. Otherwise, you barely have time to register what’s occurred before something else happens. Imagine what that must be like for a new person with so much to learn?

It’s also in hiatuses (“hiati?”) that children have a chance to be creative. They’re opportunities to synthesize what they’ve absorbed into imaginative play or, I dunno, art. “Creativity is making something out of nothing, and it takes time for that to happen,” says Dr. Diane Ehrensaft in the Herald-Tribune.

Third, and maybe most important, is that children need to chance to discover on their own who they are. We all seem to be born with baked-in interests, and by over-enrolling kids in activities, we risk producing what Ehrenhaft calls “T-shaped children.” That is, kids with a narrow breadth of interests with and just one area of deep knowledge.

When we don’t build in time for goofing off, our daughters and sons don’t have the time to explore whatever happens to cross their minds. It’s in these moments of, well, nothing to do, that they find out what interesting places their worlds really are.

Eyecatcher by liz west

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