Connecting Your Kids To The Real World
By Contributing Author, Jennifer Landis
Screen time is part of most family’s daily routine, but kids today may be getting too much tech time. According to research, too much screen time can have serious long-term effects on neural development in children, especially younger children. If you’re looking for some creative alternatives to screen time, here are some great activities to consider before handing over the iPad.
1. Build a Fort
There is nothing better than building a fort out of chairs, pillows and blankets. While it may mess up your cleaning routine, creating a pillow fort can entertain kids for hours. The actual fort-building may only take a few minutes, but the original games that accompany this activity are endless.
The best forts have an epic storyline involved. If age-appropriate, prompt your kids to use their imagination to create a back story for the fort. For younger children, use the fort as a fun new space to eat your lunch, play with toys or work on a craft.
2. Play with Chalk
Sidewalk chalk is a great way to play outside without going anywhere. Chalk games are versatile, and you can engage the kids in anything from working on their spelling to playing hopscotch.
Simply drawing rainbows or stick figures works too. Chalk can also be an opportunity to work on counting, recognizing shapes or learning ABCs.
3. Organize a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts not only connect children with the natural world around them, but they also require creativity and critical thinking. You can have a scavenger hunt in your back yard.
Kids can write up a list of clues for you to discover, or you can set up the rules for them to find objects. Either way, this activity takes time to organize, making it a great way to pass the time.
4. Bake Together
We all know how much kids love to snack, and some days it might feel like the begging for more food never ends. Baking together is an excellent excuse for snack time while also engaging children in a learning activity.
Recipes can range from healthy snacks like applesauce banana bread to the most buttery chocolate chips cookies. Enlist kids to help measure, stir and clean up the kitchen space.
Cooking together is also a chance to work on math problems (counting chocolate chips) and teach the importance of rewarding hard work. There’s nothing better than enjoying a treat that you baked together.
5. Read a Book
Cultivating a love of reading is an excellent skill for any child and one that will have long-term benefits throughout their life. Reading helps nurture creativity, teach empathy and increase attention spans. It’s fantastic for building emotional intelligence and nurturing your child’s imagination.
Choose age-appropriate books to dive into, and use this time as a designated quiet time to calm down and relax.
If you can’t be hands-on with the reading activity, encourage children to look through picture books if they are too young to read themselves, and have older children take a moment to read a set number of chapters. Who knows, they might enjoy it so much they’ll get lost in the book!
6. Put On a Play
Creative play is a crucial part of childhood development, and writing a quick screenplay is a great way to engage your children in storytelling. Not only does it require creative thinking to come up with a plot, but it also involves visual and spatial reasoning.
7. Listen to Music
Music is powerful, and specific genres can work to energize or calm a child.
Feel free to think outside the box, throw a dance party, create a playlist of your favorite songs or put on some classical music to wind down before bedtime. Ask kids to try and write down what words they hear in the song, or guess the instruments played.
8. Play a Board Game
Board games are great ways to work on problem-solving skills, concentration and memory. From puzzles to adventure games, board games are a fun way to teach children critical thinking while engaging in tactile activities.
9. Make Your Own Toys
Sometimes kids get tired of their toys, no matter how many they have. Look around the back porch, attic or garage for unwanted goods to transform into treasures. Turn cardboard boxes into an epic castle, transform old pots and pans into a drum set or use aluminum cans for a makeshift game of bowling.
10. Plant a Garden
Growing a couple of plants, even in pots on the back patio, can be an incredibly rewarding experience for kids.
Planting seeds, taking care of seedlings and harvesting food is a fun away to engage kids in the world around them. It’s also a cheap way to keep kids entertained. Kids can measure how much the tomato plants grow every week, and inquire as to what factors they think are making it grow. Is it getting enough sunlight or water?
A garden is also full of surprises – they may find some fun insects or interesting critters while digging around in the soil. Even better, getting your hands in the dirt is a proven immune-booster!
Connecting to the Real World
Technology has many benefits, but too much time in the digital world isn’t healthy for young children. While screen time is sometimes necessary, there are tons of screen-free activities out there to engage your child. From building a fort to planting a garden, having a list of fun activities up your sleeve is a great resource for rainy days and summer afternoons.