Ah, the convenience of technology. Smartphones, tablets, entertainment subscriptions, and online video streaming is making it easier to keep kids busy when mom and dad are working hard running to work, taking care of other siblings, cooking meals, or anything else on the endless task of keeping the family healthy, wealthy and wise.
In an age where some jokingly refer to the TV as “the babysitter,” it’s beginning to become difficult to remember a time without our modern conveniences. Some may furrow their brows at the idea of the access children have to technology and entertainment. “Kids these days!” they exclaim as they see an oblivious teen almost crash head on to a street pole on the sidewalk with their eyes on their phone.
Kids these days…
What about kids these days? Kids these days are great! In a world that sometimes likes to take the pessimistic view of modern technology, let us take a different approach.
The truth is, technology itself is value-neutral. There are great ways and absolutely terrible ways to utilize it, depending on the values developed by each person within their family. Technology itself is not bad. We can talk with and even see loved ones from halfway around the world and have an endless library of knowledge at our fingertips thanks to modern technology!
However, it is also important to recognize that too much screen time can adversely affect our children’s appreciation of the world they live in. Instead of focusing on what limitations we can set on children when it comes to technology, we can think about alternatives to screen time that you can participate in as a family.
Here are some things you can encourage as an alternative to screen time. Some activities don’t even require more than the child herself. Encouraging kids to find creativity and contentment in unaccompanied activities (that don’t involve a screen) will help them be self-motivated to mature and expand their skills, knowledge, and creativity.
- Family game night: board games, card games, charades— nothing like some friendly competition to spark some energy.
- Exercise, teambuilding, fun… what’s not to like? Parents can teach kids how to play or encourage them to sign up in a community team.
- Go to the park: from playgrounds to National Parks, parks get the family outdoors for some fresh air and exercise
- Kids saying they’re bored? Tell them to take a hike… and go with them of course. Don’t forget to dress for the weather and bring some tasty snacks. For younger kids, go on a simple nature walk to a more level-ground trail.
- Arts and crafts: There is an endless array of possibilities online, including holiday and educational themed activities. Need a creativity “renaissance”? You can sit down with your child and draw or paint a portrait of each other.
- Toys that build: Blocks, logs, gears, you name it— stackable/buildable toys promote creativity and problem-solving, not to mention it’s cool to just build the tallest tower ever.
Cook together. Have a picky eater? Learn more about your child’s taste (while helping them build an essential life skill) by picking a recipe and cooking together. Involving them in the process might also help them appreciate the hard work others put into their own meals and make them more likely to finish what’s on their plate. They were the master chef after all.
- Read. Read. (Okay, maybe this one will have a screen— looking at you, tablet owners) There are SO many fantastic reasons to read together with young children and to encourage silent reading for older children.
- Have multiple children at your house? Whether they are all yours or their friends as well, you do not have to resort to a movie to please the masses. Here’s something fun. Encourage them to create a skit to be performed in front of a prestigious audience (that’s you, mom and dad). Let them borrow clothes and create props with arts and crafts supplies… or their sibling’s favorite stuffed animal, with permission of course.
- Puzzles! From jigsaws to sodoku, puzzles are nice, usually calm, activities to stimulate the brain and give you a little piece (get it?) and quiet.
- Have a jam session. If you have a little musician in the house, practice some songs together and perform for the rest of the family. Music has so many benefits for children of all ages. Even if you don’t want to risk an expensive instrument quite yet, for little fingers you can create homemade music makers at home.
- Got a green thumb? Get out in the garden. Some kids love getting in the dirt and watching life grow day by day with the seed they got to plant themselves. Bonus: harvesting vegetables or fruits is a wonderful experience itself and provides delicious, fresh produce for the whole family.
There’s a big, wide world of adventure outside your screen. What’s on your list?