How many times have you told your kids to snap out of it, focus, pay attention, stop daydreaming? Or how many times have you been told this yourself? Of course, excessive inattention and daydreaming can be detrimental. Yet maybe it is time to rethink our thoughts about daydreaming. Maybe we should be setting aside time to let our minds wonder. Maybe we should be encouraging our kids to daydream more. Research has shown some surprising benefits of daydreaming.

Daydreaming can help us achieve our goals. Most daydreams are future-oriented and goal-directed. Having a mental picture of success can serve as a motivation to work towards that success. Children who are encouraged to daydream and imagine their academic futures are actually more invested in that future and their academic pursuits.

Daydreaming fosters creativity. It is common knowledge that some of the best ideas come when we step away and stop thinking. Not allowing our children or ourselves to daydream can stifle this creativity.

Daydreaming helps kids develop social skills. When children daydream about an upcoming play date or event, they are not just thinking about the activity, they are also thinking about what they will say, how they will act, how others will respond to them. The same applies to a teen who daydreams about asking someone on a date or when you daydream about asking for a raise.

Daydreaming builds empathy and compassion. Internal reflection is needed to make meaning of life experiences and to understand ourself in the world.

Daydreaming is important for the development of self-control. Hungry children presented with a treat are better able to delay gratification when able to distract themselves. Daydreaming helps us to put off momentary reward for future gain.

Motivation, creativity, social skills, empathy, self-control…aren’t these things that we want to be teaching children? It seems like a little more daydreaming may be just what the doctor ordered.

Find more information in this Psychology Today article, Dreams of Glory.