The value of doing nothing

If you were born before 1985, you likely spent many screen-free hours of your childhood sitting in the upper branches of a good climbing tree, lying in a patch of cool summer grass, rounding up fireflies, watching clouds drift by, or getting just the right wind speed on a paper airplane.

To the casual observer, you weren’t doing much – maybe nothing at all. But actually… you were accomplishing something great – even necessary – to all human beings. In that nothing-ness, you were allowing yourself periods of uninterrupted, unregulated thought.

That blank canvas is exactly where personal growth, insight, and creativity emerge. For children, that’s where they decide how they view the world, how they view themselves, and how they are connected to all that exists around them.

That’s deep right? And you know what deep thought needs to flourish? Space, time, openness… Sitting at the top of a good climbing tree… Watching a hummingbird… Drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. Whether you’re a child or adult, that’s where you (try to) figure it all out.

In today’s digital culture, children are less and less likely to fill their time with open-ended, unstructured exploration. Our society promotes the idea of being constantly busy, constantly occupied – often by a screen. I have often heard children (including my own) claim that they are bored when they cannot fill time with digital entertainment – but that boredom is what presses the “activate” button on our brain’s rich, creative juices. That open time also allows for reflection – a critical process to true learning.

That’s the beauty of life at 1870 Farm – it’s a time machine that kids can hop on and travel back to an era before PS4’s and I-Pads were a speck of an idea. Amazingly, within minutes of this time travel, 21st century children visiting 1870 for preschool, camp, or a birthday party behave just as generations of children did before them: looking for arrowheads, petting the woolly head of an animal, watching ripples form in the pond.

And in these small, soft, natural behaviors – it may seem like they aren’t doing that much, but they are… they are doing huge things. They are learning, growing, reflecting, and discovering in a way only possible where a bit of non-busy nothing-ness exists.

"If we want to preserve the health of our brains, we will carve out a peaceful spot where contemplativeness can work its restorative magic." ~ Nicholas Carr, Author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ― Winnie the Pooh

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