The holidays are here and with them comes a whole lotta extra time with our kids. And while it may be tempting to ‘plug them in’ to the TV or a device when seeking entertainment, the benefits of screen-free time are immeasurable. Here I give you tips to minimise screen time and maximise wholesome playtime with your family.
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR OWN DEVICE USE
When it comes to kids, monkey see, monkey do. Children often mimic the behaviour of their primary caregivers, so if you don’t want them spending hours on their iPads, you need to lead by example by getting off your phone. Easier said than done, I know, but the reality is, it’s extremely confusing (and hypocritical) for you to tell your kids they have to play outside, then sit in the park staring at your device. The solution? Practice mindfulness when it comes to any and all device use by setting boundaries and communicating them to your family. Moderation is fine as long as you communicate clearly with your children. Explain that Mama needs to do some work for an hour, but be true to your word and get off your laptop when you promised. Similarly, cut yourself some slack and let the kids watch TV for an hour, but set a timer so an hour doesn’t turn into three.
The cure for any bored child is the great outdoors. And while it’s easier for the hours to slip by when the sun is shining in summer, winter also a great opportunity to go on an outdoor adventure. Whether it’s the beach, park, playground, local skatepark or an overnight camping expedition, anything that gets your kids out of the house and into nature is a recipe for family fun. The holidays are a great chance to mix up your usual routines and go exploring. And since kids love the novelty of new environments, taking the kids on a road trip, enjoying a countryside bike ride, having a picnic in the park, or doing a day trip to the zoo is a win-win for everyone. The key is to engage your children in wholesome activities that inspire their minds, nourish their hearts, and feed their little souls.
If the weather is cold or rainy and heading outdoors is an impossibility, head indoors. Take the kids to an art exhibition or sign up for some activities at your local library. Introduce them to music or the theatre (not the cinema!) by seeing a live performance. Head to the aquarium so they can learn about underwater wildlife, or to the museum so they can learn about history. Visit a theme park or an indoor playground to burn off some steam. Do some dance lessons together, take some cooking classes, or set up a craft table at home and design some handmade creations. If you’re out of ideas (or patience), book them in for some holiday workshops, courses or camps. There is always options if you tap into your own creativity.
EMBRACE OLD-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Whether it’s doing puzzles, playing board games or baking a cake, sometimes the best way to connect with your kids and distract them from technology, is to embrace old-fashioned activities. Think back to a time when smartphones and iPads weren’t an option and get creative. Pull out the paints, read some books, build Lego, teach them how to sew, practice yoga together, create a fortress den out of sheets in the living room or do some gardening in the backyard…do anything that fosters your child’s creativity without plugging into technology. Yes it’s more challenging and exhausting than letting Playschool babysit them, but the reward is making precious memories with your child.
LET THEM BE BORED
As parents, we sometimes forget that boredom is healthy for children. Necessary even. In fact, countless studies have proven that boredom fosters imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills. By allowing our children to experience quiet downtime and boredom, we give them the opportunity to befriend life’s natural ebb and flow. Children are humans, not machines. Along with activity and stimulation, they need time to integrate and contemplate their experiences. How? By daydreaming and playing in an organic environment, away from artificial entertainment. This can be challenging in today’s world, where kids are constantly being bombarded with sensory stimulation; However by encouraging your children to create their own, self-directed fun, you are giving them the priceless gift of self-sufficient independence.