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The day has arrived, my kids have gone back to school. I know some parents relish the time being at home with their kids over the summer, but I find it very difficult. My kids are 8, 6 and almost two, so finding activities to keep them entertained at their varying ages and interests was a challenge!
One of my biggest challenges this summer was getting my kids to play outside. After a lot of coaxing to get them out the door, they often only stayed outside for 10 minutes before announcing ‘I’M BORED’ and heading back inside. They were happy to play with lego, games or other toys when I set limits on screen time, but they wanted to be inside. I found this extremely frustrating, but it also made me so sad. Sad that they preferred to play inside than to explore the neighbourhood and meet other kids. Sad that they weren’t experiencing nature, breathing fresh air and running freely. Sad that childhood isn’t what it used to be and that my kids are part of the statistics saying kids are leading more sedentary lives and engaging in active play less than ever before.
I decided I had had enough, and pulled the plug on screens. I announced we were having a screen-free-day. There would be no tv, iPod or iPad for the entire day. I hid the remotes, and the computer mouse, and I put away the ipad. They weren’t happy about it, and there were tears and lots of anger. But we quickly got out the door and headed to the park and screens were forgotten.
I made a few observations throughout the day:
-They didn’t ask for screens. When I told them it wasn’t going to be an option for the whole day, they stopped asking.
-They got along! My older two kids fight constantly, but they actually played together nicely!
-They were less moody! There were no blow ups, and no one snapped or got angry like they usually do when screen time was over.
-They played outside!
-They fell asleep fast and hard! My 8 year old, who usually takes a long time to fall asleep crashed the minute his head hit the pillow!
As a child, I do remember spending days in front of the TV, but I also remember days spent running around in my neighbourhood and at the park. I remember running through sprinklers, biking with friends and exploring the little wooded area behind our neighbourhood. Part of me feels like technology is getting in the way of these childhood experiences. I understand it has it’s benefits, and we can do so much more and connect in so many ways now than ever before. But this summer, I had many moments of wanting to throw out each screen in the house if it meant my kids would just play outside!
So where does that leave me… I don’t feel like I can completely deprive them of technology, it’s not going anywhere. There are opportunities to engage and be social, opportunities to learn and be creative. Not everything online is a time suck and not everything offline is engaging and amazing. But what I need to do, and believe me it’s a constant struggle, is to find the balance between the two so that their childhood is full of all that is out there to experience.
We will be having more screen-free-days in our house, and I am trying to engage them in activities that I like to do and hope they’ll follow my lead.
How do you balance technology use and outside play in your home?
My kids play so differently. My son Joel loves to zone out into his own world of makebelieve with bits of paper, receipts, calculators or knicknacks. He pretends he’s everything from a banker to a subway driver. I love watching him get lost in those worlds.
My daughter Mieka on the other hand is more into sensory play. She loves playing in the sink with bubbles. I fill the sink and give her a laddle, collander and some containers, and she’ll play happily while I make dinner. She’ll spend hours in the sandbox, or playing with playdough, and loves playing with her food!
Understanding how my kids play is helpful when it comes to putting together activities for them. I loved the explanation of Sensory Play for preschoolers over at www.notjustcute.com. It makes sense that our children are wired to receive sensory information from day one. Which explains why they dive in with their hands to explore new things. Amanda from www.notjustcute.com adds that by talking with them about what they are observing and sensing, we give them new language tools to connect with these more familiar sensory tools, building language as well as supporting cognitive concepts specific to the experience.
I took a look on Pinterest and came up with so many great ideas for sensory play. These will definitely be tried out at my house very soon!
How fun is this spaghetti sensory play WITH PAINT!
Source: Spaghetti Sensory Play
I know Mieka would love this idea! A bin full of shaving cream!
How about a squishy bag? This is easy to do with some hair gel (from the dollar store), glitter and food colouring. Mix them all into a ziplock bag and let your child make letters and numbers on the bag. Hold it up against a window for a whole new tactile effect!
(Source: Play at Home Mom)
Some more ideas? A bin full of popcorn kernels, dried beans or noodles. One full of feathers or pom poms. A bucket full of plastic letters. Tools like tweezers, scoops, small cars, and sponges will also help with eye-hand coordination. How about a basket full of laundry (the other day Mieka rolled in it pretending she was covered in mud). The possibilities are endless!
Sensory play is so important in a child’s brain development. Think of it as brain food. Just say for example your child is playing in that tub of spaghetti, she is developing her sense of touch, which is the foundation for learning other skills, like being able to identify objects by touch, and using fine-motor skills. Sensory play also helps children develop new concepts; is it smooth or rough, wet or dry, bumpy or crunchy? Some questions you might ask while your child is engaged in sensory play: what does it feel like, smell like, look like. What can you do with it, how can you move it, where can you put it.
I think I’m going to take a look around the house and in the cupboards for things that are bumpy, crunchy, scratchy, soft and smooth and let the kids get dirty ! Will you join me? Let’s let our kids get right into it and messy!
This family day weekend, three Peekaboo Beans Play Stylists headed out to Funatorium Explorium Family Extravaganza, a three day long event geared to children AND parents playing together! Funatorium could not have been a better fit for us to represent Peekaboo Beans. At Peekaboo Beans, we believe that play is integral to childhood development, and that all kids need play for optimal growth and development!
I loved watching families playing together at Funatorium this weekend. Whether they were having stacking cup races, building lego towers, plasma car races or bouncing around in the Body zorbs, everyone had a great time! When we play WITH our children, we are setting an example for them and encouraging them to engage in their own creative play. What better role models than parents to show our kids just how much fun it is to play!
It was a great weekend, and it was such a pleasure talking to families about the importance of play and how Peekaboo Beans can fit into their lives! How did you play this family day weekend?
Here are some great photos of the event from my friend Sara Mcconnell Photography.