Brains Need Plenty Of Quiet Time

brains need plenty of quiet time

A sign in my father’s office read, ”Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”

Ungrammatical, but it captured the essence of my father. My dad spent a lot of time thinking and planning, but he didn’t hesitate to take the down time of ”just” sitting and doing nothing. Dad understood what was good for him, as well as for all the grandchildren that loved to sit on his lap, and just sit.

Children need opportunities to simply sit, rest, observe, quietly explore and be. My dad understood a child’s need for this quiet time. With our children we need to balance activity with tranquil and undisturbed time.

Our children today seem to be bustled off to gym class, to swim, to dance, to lesson after lesson to try to maximize their learning or, heaven forbid, prevent them from being bored. Instead of trying to cram learning with activity after activity, it is better to have an environment where children can explore, investigate and inquire with help from a guide. If a child is interested in looking at rocks, an adult to offer a bit of information by perhaps pointing out the different structure of the rocks–igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic–and then to retreat, offers the child the quiet opportunity to do further exploration, thinking or simple consolidation of new and old information.

A child’s learning is deeper when it comes from within versus being crammed in by using flash cards, worksheets, questioning and on and on.

If we each look at our individual style of learning, we’ll perhaps see that we learn best when we choose our activity, do it to our satisfaction and then have a period of rest or contemplation to unify our thoughts. My grandmother resisted numerous attempts to buy herself a dishwasher, saying that washing the dishes by hand gave her time to think. My grandmother enjoyed that half-hour to reflect on the day’s events and to begin looking forward to the next activities.

Children’s brains need this time to consolidate new experiences and then to choose what activity to do to create meaningful learning. By the process of selecting what to do, our children reveal to us who they are. With time to choose, learning becomes personal and powerful. Through their choices, our children are telling us their likes, their dislikes, their interests, their passions, their weaknesses and their strengths. It all begins with being quiet and having time that is unencumbered with activities that aren’t evaluated, judged or prioritized by adults.

When we fill up our children’s days with busy work that does not tap into the brain’s powerful way to learn through quiet reflection and choice, we do our children a disservice.

Our children need this valuable unstructured time for contemplation and true learning. The brain for proper development needs quiet time, to sit and think and sometimes to ”just sits.” One could say that a child and a child’s brain need time on grandpa’s lap.

Building Cathedrals Not Walls

11 Responses to “Brains Need Plenty Of Quiet Time”

  1. Usha Mangrulkar

    The environment should encourage this..It helps to have a ‘Quiet ‘ corner in the house.. where there are pillows, some books, maybe a fishbowl… to just go there and sit ‘when ‘the world is too much with us!

  2. Hi Maren,
    I heartily agree with everything you say. Thank you for encouraging me in my parenting journey. I do have a question.

    I work really hard to provide my two children (19 month old and 4 year old) with an environment where, as you said, “they can explore, investigate and inquire with help from a guide.”

    However, I have an ongoing struggle. My mom does not share this perspective. When she visits (once every 2-3 weeks), she often tries to teach and direct my children’s play.

    I get the sense that she sees my parenting style as lacking and feels the need to fill in the gaps by doing things for them.

    As an example, about a month ago, my 4 year old was very content to fashion her Duplo blocks together to make a little pool (she is very into water, pools, etc). She was very pleased with her creation and played with it a lot. Then, my mom came to visit and felt the need to construct a much more elaborate pool, and I feel a sense of loss because my daughter is no longer content with the small pool that she was once so proud of. That is one example of what my mom does.

    My question is this: should I feel okay allowing Grandma a little leeway while she is here knowing that, for the most part, my children are allowed to be more introspective and creative?

    I know I cannot protect them from every outside influence, but sometimes I feel like my efforts are being crushed, and I worry that my children will lose their sense of wonder about life. Can I be okay with one or two days of guided instruction from grandma every 2-3 weeks knowing that her time with them is short and that, when they’re with me (and my husband), they can go back to less structured learning environment?

    Thank you for your thoughts on this topic. Warmly, Erin

    • Erin,


      First, realize that your mom is trying to help the best way she knows how.

      Also, know that our children are resilient. They’ll learn that grandma does it this way, and mom and dad do it that way.

      What I think you can do is help your mother understand your thinking. Perhaps have her sign up for my newsletter? (Wink, wink.)

      Perhaps my complimentary 45 minute workshop, Preparing Your Home The Montessori Way, might also help her see what you are trying to accomplish.

      Register here:

      Try to keep a list of activities you do want her to do with your children such as read books, sing songs, take walks, cooking projects, etc.

      Help your mom step back and just watch the girls and enjoy how they do things on their own and figure things out on their own.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Absentminded

    Thank you for this. I never thought of this aspect in life but I do the dishwashing and I take the time to think and contemplate too.

  4. Michelee Bouchard

    I enjoy your articles, they offer great information, that is clear and helpful


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