Rest: Why Children Need It

As we approach the new school term here in Hertfordshire there is something I see happening amongst parents and professionals, and that is we’re building up to this sense of getting ready to go out and do things full-steam, hard-hitting with as many different activities as we possibly can, squeezing all them into one academic week.

Let me give you an example, I received a letter from the bank saying that I’ve got some financial paperwork that I need to get done. Let’s imagine that it is a little light reading and maybe some English textbooks that I want to commit to doing on a Wednesday evening, I’ve then got some language learning and notes to read over at the moment. I’ve got art lessons which I need to attend but I’ve also got my to-do list of things that I need to do when I get back in the office. I also have some invitations for some parties coming up and I also want to start going to the gym and being healthy.

You will notice that it’s starting to look a little bit chaotic and a little bit messy, but why is that important. It is important because of what we end up doing to the brains of the children and young people that we care about. We’re so keen to give them access to a variety of different learning experiences and opportunities that sometimes it just gets a little bit too much and it can get overwhelming. What we need to remember is that these young people are learning every single day – they are learning on the days when we don’t send them to school because their brains are figuring out the world, figuring out society, communication, interpersonal relationships, all sorts of different aspects of their brains are developing every single day. As well as giving them access to these great opportunities that are available to them, we also have to remember to give them space to process it all because otherwise, it starts to stack up and get a little bit chaotic and a bit too messy in their minds.

In order for me to not feel completely overwhelmed by all of those different things that I just put in front of myself I need to start figuring out where things need to go and I’m going to need time to do that. I’m going to need a free evening to be able to process that stuff and put it away.

Very often for children and young people they’ll do that processing and putting away of information whilst they are playing or doing other things such as playing outside in nature or interacting with their friends; it’s really important that we give them the time and space to be able to use their brain in that way so that as well as stacking it up with good stuff they also get the time to be able to then file it in the right compartments.

If this time isn’t being made available to them what we can see happening is, on a low level, things like tiredness and disengagement or, on a more severe level, they may even start to exhibit signs of anger and frustration or they may become disengaged with things that you know they really love and enjoy. They’re just feeling overwhelmed and it’s all a little bit too much.

Yes – if you can afford to – give your children access to so many different experiences that they’re going to have a rich learning time throughout their lives and lots of enjoyable learning. That is fantastic but remember too that sometimes they just want to watch the TV, snuggled up on the sofa or do a little bit of light colouring.

Sometimes we need to give them that little bit of headspace so that they’re able to process and take the learning from all of the opportunities that we are providing for them not just in the day to day activities that we provide but actually just from being in life itself and everything that they’re observing and absorbing from it on their daily basis.

By Gemma Bailey

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2 comments on “Rest: Why Children Need It

  1. Faja Newman on said:

    I really relate to this, having worked in a private school, which is run by a chain organization, children from 4yrs onwards are put through a gruelling daily timetable of 30 minute lessons, with change of subject at the end of a single or double period, sometimes change of teacher [e.g. music, PE, language]. Due to pressure of time to ‘learn’, there was little opportunity to interact with peers, everything was rushed, ten minute break to eat twice a day/toilet/ walk to the play area. Often sat in lines in the break, to come back in with extensive talking via a michrophone about behavioural issues and punishment being to sit on, in line, until ‘quiet’……leading to children being overwhelmed on a grand scale, behaviour deteriorating, anger issues, need for fun dominating the ability to listen. Parental pressure in order to ‘keep up’ with homework demands. Children had no time to process learning, would try to take the ‘space’ for processing, doing something fun, at all costs, resulting in getting into trouble. All based on lack of time for socialisation, fun activity, time to think and express themselves creatively as part of the process of understanding and reflecting on what they have experienced. During Lockdown, teaching was via Teams in live sessions which attempted to follow an equally gruelling daily timetable, with significant homework to be uploeaded, saw children develop rocking movements, dark cirles under eyes, sleep problems. This is because they were confined to a small space in the home with a laptop/computer, often surrounded by clutter, animals, small brothers and sisters for long periods without movement. There was no separation between night and day, leisure and work, no boundaries, with parents supporting learning as best they could, but being stressed to keep up with the school curriculum, difficult for them – resulting in the needs of the parents to comply, becoming more important than the child’s needs in learning. Equally stressful for the teaches planning, delivering, and recoding data resulting in 24/7 planning, preparation, marking uploeaded work and implementation.
    Sitting in a chair for hours in front of a computer, either planning or teaching with little break, followed by team meetings, led to physical effects of numbness and aches and pains in the body, plus eye strain.
    This article fits completely with why all of this is so wong, just to get scores on a competative schools league. If the content was halved, then the children would have benefitted by an otherwise steller effort to provide live teaching sessions and good educational content.