Dreams help us to decide which actions to take next, which attitudes to shift, which people to spend time with. Dreams ebb, flow and transform over time and reflect where we are at; our present world and self-views. Dreams can happen day or night, so when do the children dream?

Whether or not they eventually come true, dreams that are created, acknowledged and nurtured will never be wasted. Our future paths, especially the turning points, will be defined by our dreams.

But where has the dreaming gone?

I remember walking home from school. Sometimes moving fast, sometimes kicking my feet along the pavement, staring up at the sky. I’d gaze over people’s fences, tilting my head in inquiry. Wondering. Dreaming. Imagining. Processing the day. Stilling my mind.

I was usually by myself. My friends lived in the opposite direction and my brother didn’t want to be seen walking with me. Looking back now this was one of my regular opportunities to dream.

Saturday morning, walking along the beach with my Grandma. Silence. Peace. Another dreamtime.

Holidays would see me in my room, or other parts of the house, out in the back yard. Perhaps at the beach or playground or wandering to the shops. Sometimes with friends. Often on my own. Yet another chance to dream.

Fast forward 30 odd years and I find I’ve lost the natural art of allowing space for dreaming. There’s just no time! Come on people! At any one moment I have a thousand things on my To Do List.

Many people’s needs jostling for my attention. I’m a Mum. A busy one. A focussed one. Oh, and by the way, I’m also an Author, Educator, Facilitator and passionate, energetic, motivated member of the “Yes, sure” club!

Hmmm, I haven’t stopped to think recently about where the dreaming has gone…

What about present day children: when do they get to dream?

When do the children dream

Ever noticed a child standing staring into space when a (well meaning) adult comes up and attempts to bring them back with a word, or distraction, a toy? No? Not seen this?

Here’s another one: a baby lying on their back, looking around at the world and we come up and wave an item in front of their face and try to engage them – because after all haven’t we been told that babies need “face time” (as the glorious Nathan Mikaere-Wallis calls it)?

Aren’t we supposed to be connecting with our babies? OK, that’s absolutely true folks. However babies and children also need dream time. We do not need to be engaging with them every waking moment.

During my time at Playcentre I (finally, begrudgingly) learned to pause before attempting an interaction with a child; to consider what they may be doing before I leapt in with my fabulous (if I do say so myself) plan for play.

Aside from the play that is likely already occurring for the child (that I hadn’t noticed in my “it’s all about me” haste to engage), important dream time may well also be at play.

Where has the dreaming gone now that our school children are rarely walking to and from school? Now that being alone outside is deemed unsafe? When do they have time to dream in amongst all the activities we feel they need to be engaged in? Do they really have to be seen to be “learning” at all times?

This reminds me of one of the cultural differences between 19th Century Europeans and Māori. ‘Unused’ land was deemed to be wasted land and was confiscated by the Crown. However the land was only ‘unused’ by European standards. It was very much in use by Māori on many levels, including spiritual and as taonga (treasure). I believe time to dream can be viewed in a similar light.

In the work place I find it tremendously helpful to spend some time staring out of the window (or at a wall, whatever floats your boat) while ordering my thoughts for the piece of work I was doing.

How about doing this for life as well? And while we’re embracing this for ourselves, let’s support our children in their dreaming for life time also. In fact, they can probably show us how it’s done.

Dreaming of a better world, of a better self, of worries being resolved; making sense of ourselves, others and the world. Dreaming. Dreaming…

For more expert advice, check out our Health and wellbeing section.

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Sarah Amy Glensor Best moved away from a corporate career a decade ago to become a stay at home Mum. Since then she has been learning alongside her three daughters at Playcentre; become a kaiako/educator for Brainwave Trust Aotearoa; written numerous articles and opinion pieces; published her first book “Changing the World is Child’s Play” and started an education business focussed on children, parenting and play – Children Change. Sarah lives in Wellington with her family.

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