Helping Kids Develop a Capacity to Wait

Why it's getting more difficult and what you can do


Published:

Image courtesy of Niwat Singsamarn/Shutterstock.com

The availability of mobile devices makes downtime and periods of waiting idly a thing of the past for many adults and children alike. What does this mean for the developing minds of young children?

Technology has undoubtedly changed our lives and has made accessing information much easier and more convenient. Information comes in many forms. We can view photos on a digital camera or phone immediately after taking them, search browsers for images of just about anything in seconds, and verify facts and data after a quick look online. Having instant access to information in this way eliminates many opportunities for children and adults to imagine, ponder, wonder and simply wait. 

 

Waiting and the Capacity to Imagine

By removing the gap of waiting (or wondering) time, children’s minds don’t have the opportunity to imagine. Years ago, when we couldn’t see photographs right after taking them, for example, our minds had to create the images themselves as we imagined how our pictures would turn out. Similarly, regarding data, without the means to access answers instantaneously, we were left with a period of time in which our minds could imagine the possibilities. These small exercises of waiting and imagining strengthen the mind and aid in the development of skills needed for higher thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. Without these experiences, children’s capacities to imagine and their ability to cope with delayed gratification are impacted. This makes waiting in general a more challenging task, which can lead to a lower frustration tolerance.

 

What Can You Do?

While the internet is a great tool for accessing data, you can place limits on children’s use of it as a resource for finding answers. Help your child ponder the possibilities and potential answers, then seek answers together by taking your time to look through a book or visit a library. Doing so will help your child become a more active thinker, develop reasoning and problem-solving skills and cope with “waiting” feelings — all necessary skills for tackling problems and finding solutions.

Take, for instance, a child’s question about the speed of the fastest land animal — the cheetah. A quick internet search will give you the answer to the question, “What is the world’s fastest land animal?” in about a tenth of a second, giving little room for wondering or asking other pertinent questions. Seeking the answer in a book by flipping through the pages to find the desired information, however, can lead to other related facts and information. “Where do cheetahs live?” “Why are they so fast?” “What is the world’s second- fastest land animal?”

Other steps you can take to delay gratification include waiting after taking pictures during an outing until later in the day or, on a different day, going through them together and reflecting on the experience. This can help your child stay in the moment of the experience and use his or her memory to relive it at a later time. Comments that can help activate your child’s memories, open up conversations and encourage meaningful reflective experiences could be, for example, “Let’s look at our museum pictures from last week. Do you remember what your favorite part was?” or “Remember our picnic at the park? We had so much fun. Let’s look at the pictures together.” 

These and other experiences that encourage waiting will build up your child’s capacity to imagine and cope with frustration when he or she can’t immediately find an answer. In the process, you and your child will likely enjoy rewarding experiences of coming across new related information that you wouldn’t have known was of interest to your child until you stumbled upon it together.

 

The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families. Visit lucydanielscenter.org to learn more.

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Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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