According to research, daydreaming and play (and recess) are critical in developing creativity in children.
Resting the mind is extremely important for productivity and the ability to focus. “People who take regular breaks — and naps even — end up being more productive and more creative in their work,” Levitin said. “You need to give your brain time to consolidate all the information that’s come in, to toss it and turn it.”
The brain has a natural way of giving itself a break — it’s called daydreaming. “It allows you to refresh and release all those neural circuits that get all bound up when you’re focused,” Levitin said. The brain will do this kind of daydreaming naturally when it is fatigued. The experience of reading a book and suddenly realizing the eyes have moved several paragraphs ahead, but the mind hasn’t retained any of the information, is the brain checking out for a break.
This point is particularly important for students, who are often asked to sit through a long school day with very few breaks. Lots of research has shown the importance of recess and free play time for academic success, but schools still tend to emphasize time spent in class “learning” over a more nuanced view of how and why kids learn.
“Children shouldn’t be overly scheduled,” Levitin said. “They should have blocks of time to promote spontaneity and creativity.” Without that time, kids don’t have the mental space to let new ideas and ways of doing things arise. Daydreaming and playing are crucial to develop the kind of creativity many say should be a focal point of a modern education system.