Summer time and the livin's easy....UNLESS your child is set to spend the majority of their summer in front of a screen of some kind. The statistics regarding children and screen time are absolutely FRIGHTENING these days. Click here or here to read more about the ill effects of too much screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics have strongly suggested that children are over-exposed but we live in a society that thrives on ipods, ipads, iphones, video gaming, and more....
Our kids are growing up in a generation that doesn't quite know how to function without a screen right at their fingertips. My boys and I just moved to a new house and have been without television or internet for a month. I kept delaying the process of getting us "connected" until the other night while I sat on my porch watching my boys (ages 10, 8 and 5) play a game of "pick up" ball. They used a plastic pipe as a bat, a tennis ball, and several other random objects as bases. There were no gloves. But, they laughed, chatted, and created rules for their new game in ways that my three competitive sons rarely do with one another. It was a beautifully decisive moment for me when I considered that if we had television and/or the internet as an option one of them would most likely be inside glued to a device. We will be officially "disconnected" this summer.
As parents, we can see the changes happening in our children physically on an almost daily basis. My middle son literally grows out of shoes in about 3 weeks time. (His toes are as long as my fingers.) What we might not be as connected to is the emotional, spiritual, and philisophical growth that they are experiencing. These aren't always as easy to spot as the physical changes but they definitely exist. Montessori spoke very clearly about the connection between the child's hand and brain. If our children are to develop at their fullest potential, they need to MOVE.
I urge you, with everything inside me, to get your little ones MOVING this summer. Engage them from every angle. Sure, a family movie night won't do harm. And there are some excellent computer programs out there that might keep them up to par with their math and reading skills but DO NOT let yourself believe that hours upon hours of screen time is beneficial in any way. Our kids have plenty of time in their future to commit to sitting still in front of a screen. (In the coming weeks I will be sure to post even BETTER alternatives to keeping your children's math and reading up to par.)
In her article "Screen Time and Childhood" Jennifer Rogers says the following; "Children spend an average of five to seven hours every day in front of a screen. The only activity that occupies more time for children is sleeping. These same young kids are experiencing speech and language delays, and chronic attention problems. Literacy is becoming increasingly hard to achieve, creativity rare. Though there is little research to establish connections between so many young children’s failure to thrive and their over-exposure to technologies, the conclusion that screen time is corroding young minds seems ridiculously obvious to most teachers." (Link above.)
What are your plans to keep your children from spending too much of their summer in front of a screen? Montessori was firm in her belief that children needed physical activity in order to develop fully and to their greatest potential. Below are a list of ideas that might help you engage your child. I have learned that when summer (or, winter) sets in its important to sit down with the kids and talk about ideas. When my kids say "I'm bored" I either refer them to the list of activities we created together. If nothing on the list looks inviting there is always the list posted on the other side of the fridge labeled "CHORES." We often have a list of activities that can be done together, at home or away from home, as well as a list of individual activities for when mom or the siblings aren't available. Our list might include some of the following ideas:
- Dark Dancing - my kids and I love to turn out all the lights in our basement and crank the music. Dancing in the dark encourages my boys to move in ways they might not feel totally comfortable with the lights on. Plus, they aren't so embarrassed by how completely uncoordinated their mother is.
- Jump Rope - this is especially fun with older children. There are a lot of fun songs and rhythms that can accompany jump roping. It is a wonderful team building exercise.
- Obstacle Course - Build an obstacle course in your living room or in the back yard. As your children get used to the idea they are likely to come up with some very creative ideas. Get the timer involved and invite children to beat their own time. (Think: hula hoops, high jumps, assembling and disassembling a lego toy, long jumps, etc.)
- Making and Flying Kites - see here.
- Build a Fort - Backyard and Living Room forts are the best. Be prepared to let it stay in the middle of your space for as long as it keeps the kids happy. These make a wonderful space for reading and playing board games.
- Pen-Pals - Get your littles in touch with someone via "Snail-Mail." There is NOTHING more exciting than checking the mailbox to find a personal letter from a far-away friend. Grandparents, cousins, old classmates....the list of possibilities are endless.
- Make Home-Made Popsicles - combine your favorite fruits with some delicious yogurt (we prefer greek) and water or juice and freeze it in popsicle molds. If you dont have popsicle molds, ice trays or your small cups and popsicle sticks work like a charm.
If all else fails, head to the Dollar Theater together. Don't forget visiting your local library, family reads, books on tape, building a volcano (plus a million more at-home science projects,) cooking, gardening and puzzles. If your children are part of coming up with the list of ideas and then gathering the materials, they are likely to find enthusiasm in carrying them out.
In teaching our children the dis-importance of extensive amounts of screen time, my very best advice is this: BE AN EXAMPLE. Limit your own screen time and get in on that messy paper mache' project the kids are so enthusiastic about!