In a parenting article in the Herald-Tribune from Sarasota, FL called “White space is important for kids to develop interests,” Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, parenting experts, explain what white space is and why kids need it.
In my opinion, we all need white space in our lives. It’s a time to reflect and think, without the TV on in the background, or checking out your social media on our phones.
From the article:
In art, the white space is sometimes called negative space. This offers an interesting play on words because many parents view the white space — the unscheduled, empty time in their child’s day — as something negative, something to be avoided.
But just as negative space is critical to art and rests are vital to music, white space is critical to a child’s ability to develop thriving interests.
In practical terms, white space is totally unscheduled time. It’s time when kids don’t have homework or activities or chores or screens or visiting friends. It’s time when they are left to grapple with themselves — alone — probably bored, thinking to themselves, discovering things.
White space can be challenging for most people at first, especially if they have been conditioned to fill quiet and empty moments of the day with people, tasks or entertainment. But it is in the white space that human imagination is called upon, an inner-thought life develops and significant interests can develop.
Many parents are afraid of white space. They think it is unproductive, maybe even a waste of time. They think it’s an opportunity for kids to get in trouble. Some are afraid their kids will drive them nuts or make a mess or wreak havoc in some other way. Some parents even fear their children will miss out on other things. Others are afraid their kids will resent them for enforcing times of white space.
Ultimately, these parents do not have faith in the process. But the truth is white space allows kids time to learn how to think about things. When there is no other voice but their own telling them what to think — no friend, adult, video game, TV show, YouTuber or even the author of a book — they have to grapple with things on their own, in their own minds.
In these moments, a deep inner-thought life can develop. The skill of communicating with oneself and learning how to think about things begins to take root. And often, from this inner wrestling match, deep interests may arise.
In my children’s lives, they were extremely busy. I do think a lot of their time in the pool, staring at the black lane on the bottom of the pool, gave them time to think. Also, the full days at the beach allowed them time to be creative and create everything from sand castles to kitchens and lie back and stare at the blue sky and ocean waves.
As for my own thought process working on a mid-grade children’s novel, somedays it may seem like I’m not getting anything done. In reality, I’m thinking. I’m mulling things over. That’s when problems get solved and creativity is allowed to spark.
What are your thoughts about white space and how do you use it in your life?