As the school year approaches and you or your children are figuring out schedules it might be a good idea to step back and schedule some time to goof off. This article from the Atlantic discusses how free form activity might be just as valuable as a structured work/learning time:
Good goofing off happens when the person participating is competent enough at the activity that he or she does not have to focus closely on the process or the techniques. It happens when reading, cooking a familiar recipe, shooting baskets, or simply daydreaming.
Good goofing off acts as a bridge between directed attention, when people are laser focused on something specific, and mindfulness, when people actively notice the thoughts that arise during free-form attention.
When parents seek my advice about what activities their child should be doing, they’re often surprised when I pare down their proposed list and prescribe free time during the week for good goofing off. It’s not that kids aren’t paying attention during this time, it’s that their attention has shifted within. Important things are going on in there. Even adults can only pay attention for about 20 minutes at a time before getting less effective.
What constitutes good goofing off for kids? Anything that allows them to have softly focused inward attention. The key is that it’s not about performance. Good goofing off is not texting or talking on the phone, which pulls a child into the external world (one study found reduced empathic responses after just asking study participants—teens and young adults—to describe and draw an image of their cell phone!). It’s about giving a child’s brain the chance to reboot and come back sharper and more attentive when the time arrives.
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