Welcome to the latest post in my Guest Blogger Series. We’ve had a quiet couple of weeks with the run-up to Christmas, so if you want to see your post here, please do take a look at the bottom of the article, which gives you details of how to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
This week, the lovely Samara who blogs at Tiny Fry is discussing ways in which to get your kids away from technology and into the outside world.
Samara Kamenecka is a New York-born freelance writer and translator living in Madrid. When she’s not trying to mold her two kids into functional, contributing members of society, she can usually be found enjoying a glass of wine (or three) or eating ice cream straight out of the container. You can find her blogging over at Tiny Fry, where she writes about everything from strollers to sippy cups.
How to Lure Your Kids Outside (and Away from Technology)
The Problem of Free Time
Many of us remember idling away the hours of our childhood, often left to our own devices (and by “devices” we’re talking “whims” and “desires” rather than electronic gadgets).
We were expected to find ways to amuse ourselves and fill up the time blocks between waking, school, homework and bedtime. We were industrious and creative and, yes, sometimes bored.
But since we didn’t have the luxury of modern technology, we managed to pass the hours without plugging into a video game, YouTube or picking up a cell phone.
Today, “free time” for kids is a whole other ballgame. Any spare moment is seen as an opportunity to grab a game controller, snap a selfie, or send a text message. It’s no wonder then that, as parents, we feel overwhelmed by the power technology has over our children. How can we lure kids outside to play, or at least distance them from their computers? How can we teach kids that it’s OK to be bored?
Tasks with a Twist
Getting kids to help out with outdoor chores can be tough. The trick is to add an unexpected, enjoyable twist. For example, if you want your son to rake leaves, challenge him to build a leaf pile that’s taller than he is. If you need her to shovel a path through the snow, take bets on how many shovelfuls it will take (maybe the winner gets out of doing the dishes!). By making outdoor work fun, your kid gets exercise and you get the help you need (without the complaints you’ve come to expect).
Spelling practice? Math problems? Grab some sidewalk chalk and take the homework outside! Have your kids practice their letters and numbers in the driveway, on the sidewalk, or carry a chalkboard to the curb. A new setting (and fresh air) can stimulate learning and creativity. So once the homework is done, encourage them to draw chalk pictures, trace each other’s outlines on the ground, or make the longest hopscotch pattern they possibly can. You’ll be amazed at the number of games that begin with just a box of sidewalk chalk.
Plan to eat a meal outside (on the lawn or a porch) and ask your child to help with all aspects of preparation. First, design a menu together and enjoy preparing and cooking the various courses. Once things are under control in the kitchen, send your little chef out to the yard with all she needs to set up the picnic. Encourage her to gather leaves or flowers for a centrepiece and to decorate the place settings in a creative way. Take it one step further and pretend you’re at a bona fide restaurant and play the roles of customer and server. It’s never too soon to let your child help with food prep and presentation. Not only will she be learning basic culinary skills, but also she’ll begin to understand the importance of nourishment and mealtime.
Here’s one for the whole family! Head outside as a team and search your yard, neighbourhood or city streets for something that begins with each letter of the alphabet. Give your oldest child a notebook to keep a list of discoveries so when you play again you’ll have the extra challenge of “no repeats.” This game can be played just about anywhere. It can be played while running errands, in the grocery store, during field trips or even as a way to put excitement back into the local playground.
If you have a yard, a patio, or a small garden, have your kids put on a show of their choice. Suggest a performance piece (like a play, a sing-along, or a dance) or an exhibition of their recent artwork. Suggest making programs, concession snacks, scenery etc. Give them a show time and leave them to it! (For extra motivation you can offer to video the show.)With an established start time, they’ll hustle to get everything in place You’ll be amazed at how well your kids work together and just how creative they can be in a short period of time when they know an eager audience is waiting in the wings.
A Balancing Act
Gone are the days of idle play. There are so many new gifts and gadgets on the market and kids are constantly bombarded with information about improved video games, upgraded apps and state-of-the-art devices. As parents, we certainly want our children to be tech-savvy, but ideally, we’d also like them to enjoy nature, the outdoors, and quality (tech-free) time with friends and family.
But let’s face it; kids today aren’t jumping at the chance to play outdoors. It’s up to us to tempt them by putting fresh twists on tried-and-true activities. It’s also our job to explain the value of “down time” and to teach that sometimes great ideas emerge from moments of quiet contemplation or even (gasp!) boredom.
A big thank you to Samara for contributing to this series. I think there are some wonderful ideas in this article. Don’t forget your badge!
Tell us in the comments what you do to get your little ones outside when the temptation of the tablet is so strong! We’d love to hear from you.
If you would like to get involved in the Guest Blogger Series, drop me a message by filling in the form on my Contact Me page. I look forward to hearing from you.