The most serious misdemeanour a child can be guilty of in the eyes of a parent or teacher is to sit around doing nothing.
Teachers in particular insist that children should be fully engaged at all times and so for anyone to take a breather is out of the question.
The day is packed solid for most children but the idea of just resting is not anything the system respects.
But it should be.
For most children break times and lunchtimes are not times for recovery. They still go at 100 mph, especially if they have a lunchtime club to attend.
Building in some rest time during the day is important. Well-rested children do better at school and it can’t just be down to turning up to school refreshed. The refreshing needs to happen at school as well. The benefits of napping are huge.
According to new research by Liu et al (2019), children who nap 30 to 60 minutes midday at least three times a week are happier, have more self-control and grit, and showcase fewer behavioral problems. They also do better at school and their grades are better.
The researchers found that in places like the United States and the UK napping tends to stop altogether as children get older but in some countries like China, the practice is embedded into daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood.
A midday nap can help children remember what they learned in the morning and get ready for the afternoon. Not resting can lead to students getting tired, frustrated and quitting.
The problem is, school isn’t designed to bring out the best in children but to tire them out. Children need to nap or sit in nothingness for a while to recharge and to allow their brains time to breathe. We aren’t talking about sitting in a room flicking elastic bands for an hour but giving children a portion of unstructured time in the day that is their own to unwind. It is quiet time that can stimulate a child’s creativity. Imagination, creativity and ideas come about from having time to think, to ponder and reflect, or just let the mind go.
Frantically chasing productivity is a waste of time because this isn’t good for children’s well being. They need time to think for themselves because in this downtime of ‘doing nothing’ they invent their own activities and find their own strengths, passions and interests. Self-chosen and self-directed time helps divergent thinking.
So let’s build in some nap time for children. It doesn’t have to stop when they get older either. If napping is off the agenda, at least give them time to breathe. We need to give them opportunities to stop, pause and rest.