“Don, isn’t it a lovely day to do nothing?” This is the question we heard at the pool every day as we vacationed in Barbados a few years ago. The daily question came from a most unlikely source… a tiny, spritely, not quite three year old, who was spending a year on the Island with her family. When an opportunity arose for her parents to look after someone’s empty home for a year, the British couple took it as a sign they needed to slow down and show their three little ones that there is more to life than mummy and daddy working long hours as the children shuffled to school, day care and after hours activities. This opportunity for a chance to take a pause came at exactly the right time for this busy young family. When we met them they were about half way into their year long adventure and they were having a blast. The expression “what a lovely day to do nothing” did not originate from the parents but from this sweet little girl herself and they marveled at it, as did we. Since that vacation we often find ourselves thinking “what a lovely day to do nothing” and our mind always drifts back to the fun times we had getting to know this little girl and her family during our time away.
The Italians have a similar concept for what our new little friend was trying to teach us, “La Dolce Far Niente”, which means the sweetness of doing nothing. It quite literally means that doing nothing is an event in and of itself. It is enjoying where we are in the present moment, completely celebrating and savoring a particular moment and the pleasure that comes from being idle.
As we come to the end of another successful, albeit hectic and busy school year, I couldn’t help but think, what better time to try out this way of life than during our summer break? Just imagine the idea of taking a pause from running on a treadmill of activity – from school to work to clubs and teams, emails, social media, homework and bedtime routines. How different would our quality of life be if we made time this summer to experience La Dolce Far Niente or in other words, make time for lovely days of doing nothing?
Instead of 2.5 months of scheduled camps and lessons how about putting some time aside to just see where each day takes us? Let’s consider lightening our load and our children’s loads and introduce the sweetness of doing nothing into our lives. Worried that unscheduled summer days will create bored children? They will. But that’s okay. Boredom is actually good for children. Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the “capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for a child.” Having no structured plans will inevitably allow your children to use their imaginations and discover the world in a whole new way. Boredom actually sparks creativity and brings with it so many opportunities for children to simply be children. When kids do kid stuff, instead of things dictated by an adult world, they become innovative and self-reliant. It’s a win-win situation really.
What generally happens when children have time to be idle, without a scheduled agenda, is that they come up with ideas to keep themselves amused and engaged, ideas that we would never have even thought of. Remember too that children who are constantly provided with entertainment never learn to entertain themselves. It has been said that “never in the history of the world have kids been more over-stimulated, over-protected and over-parented”. So it’s time. Let’s get rid of our guilt, skip some chores, find what sparks our interest, have a day or two or ten of rest, revisit naptime and, most importantly, let our children be bored for a bit.
I wish you a wonderful summer full of sweet days and moments of doing absolutely nothing.
Principal and Co-Founder
Children’s Garden School