Children spend a quarter of their time in class just daydreaming, new research shows 9 months ago

Children spend a quarter of their time in class just daydreaming, new research shows

I can't say I'm surprised at these findings, though.

Children have a vivid imagination, and naturally, tend to do a good bit of daydreaming – or simply just tune out and live in their heads for a bit, not paying any attention to what is happening around them.

However, when children daydream in school, well, chances are they will be missing out on what the rest of the class are doing or talking about.

And it happens more than you think.

According to new research from Queen's University Belfast,  children spend a quarter of their time in class daydreaming.

The study, conducted by the School of Psychology at Belfast's Queen's University, involved 97 children ranging in age from six to 11 years old, and what the researchers found, was that not only was daydreaming extremely common among children in this age group, but it also, as it turns out, affects the ability to learn.

The professors involved in carrying out the research said in a statement that said that knowing more about daydreaming in children could help with finding ways to reduce it in school.

"In school, often children can get in trouble for mind wandering, it is sometimes viewed as a sign of disrespect or misbehaviour, if they are not paying attention," Dr Agnieszka Graham, who was involved in the study, said in a statement.

"However, our research has found that children, like adults, are unable to fully concentrate all the time, it's likely that their minds will wander for a substantial proportion of a typical school day."

She added:

"Our findings indicate that further exploring the causes and consequences of mind wandering in these early years at school could provide a solid foundation for developing interventions to help children detect when their minds strayed from the task at hand and refocus their attention."

First of its kind

The Northern Irish study is the first of its kind to look at how daydreaming affects how well children learn and remember what they have been taught.

In previous studies involving adults, research has found that higher rates of daydreaming "have been implicated in poorer performance on a range of learning activities, including reading," according to the Queens University Belfast paper.

To conduct their research, the Belfast-based researchers had the children listen online to a pre-recorded story about a fictional pharaoh in Ancient Egypt.


Roughly every two minutes, they were asked a question to check if they were paying attention or if their mind had wandered to something else.

In the exercise, the children reported "mind-wandering" around a quarter of the time.

After the story was over, the children were then asked 10 questions to see what they could remember about it, whether they had liked the story and how interested they were in it.

What the researcher found, was that whether the children were interested or not affected how often they daydreamed and those who daydreamed more frequently remembered less about the story.

This suggests, of course, that if children are highly interested in a lesson in school, they will daydream less.

The team said that the results indicated that daydreaming "can be reliably measured in children and is of educational significance".

"Mind wandering is detrimental during educationally significant activities," the paper said.

"In an educational context, if students fail to attend to instruction because of (daydreaming) this may impede their chances of acquiring crucial skills or knowledge. Children's interest in the topic influenced the level of mind wandering, which in turn influenced participants' ability to recall facts from the story."