It’s a story I hear too often from my friends. Much to my surprise, this story has been passed to me and now that I’m months away from my firstborn, I’m quite feeling the pressure of juggling things perfectly to raise my kid.
I want to raise my kids the way my parents raised me – playing in the nearest residential playground, running, screaming, playing under the rain, catching frogs and insects like I used to when I was a kid.
Modernity and technology are only bits of the puzzle when it comes to fast-tracking childhood. Learning and growing are accelerated across the board, but so is childhood in general. As we all experience plodding cultural change, children of the newer generation are losing childhood because they aren’t given the time for outdoor play. I couldn’t agree more.
I often see children aged 3-10 years old holding smartphones, tablets, Nintendo and other gadgets – those we haven’t even imagined possible by the time we we’re kids. And this trend never seems to stop. Alarming isn’t it?
Today, your child wants a new video game console. The next day, your child wants the newest cellular phone available in the market. The following days, your child wishes for a computer and join an online community with a monthly fee. In the newest research conducted by a child advocacy group, Common Sense Media, the use of portable gadgets has exploded over the past few years from 38% in 2011 to 89% in 2013. Furthermore, the amount of time kids spend with their devices has mounted triple. These happened in spite of the reiterations from several different medical organizations about the negative effects of too much screen exposures of kids to screens.
You might wonder, what kids do on these portable gadgets? Mostly play games, others use app and watch videos, further studies have found.
It is 2014 now, preschoolers don’t know how to climb a tree but they can win a life and death games using the electronic gadget.
I don’t want to raise my child too tied in modernity. I want an exceptional childhood experience for my firstborn and future kids, with the right balance after all.
Parents and soon-to-be –parents should encourage their kids to drop their gadgets and play at the school or community playground instead. Playtime which involves a lot of moving around obviously has several health gains and could cause you, parents, and priceless benefits as you interact with your kids in playground.
So, with the competitive attraction of modern gadgets, how would you make outdoor play more engaging than video games?
1. Travel Back in the 90’s
Who could have foreseen time flying kite could provide hours of endless entertainment? Get your kids outside by making their own kite. Let them design it and fly it by themselves. Use different colors of papers and sticks to make this activity more attractive to kids. Bring them to a wide open space. Give them the reign to control once they get the hang of flying the kite. Just watch over them and let them be on their own. You can also let them play other games – those which you enjoy when you were kids.
2. Bring them to play paradise
Play is for playground. Paradise is for nature. Try to have an uninterrupted playtime in nature-themed playgrounds. In a 2011 newsletter of Nature Action Collaborative for Children (NACC), nature-based playtime is defined as more than just outdoor play. It happens in a natural space and is child-initiated and directed. In short, it is children playing with nature. Being closer to nature also helps in overall child development. The wholesome goodness of nature and play makes kids smarter. Children have the opportunity to decide for themselves, stimulate their problem solving skills and creative thinking. They learn to work with other children. When they explore the outdoors, they feel freer to wander. Seeing such scenario is just priceless, go create your own nature-themed play project for you and your kids.
3. Treasure Hunt
Encourage group cooperation, problem solving, following directions, thinking and reasoning with this extremely exciting game – treasure hunt. Prepare colorful costumes and props. Make it look like the real treasure hunt they see in the movie. Let them play in the mud, make mud pies and solve problems while keeping cooperation with his/her teammates. You will get to see who the leader is and who the problem solver is, the trickiest and who the organizer is. Make sure to prepare something special for them after the hunt.
4. Set a Friendly Puppet or Talent Show
Invite other kids from the neighborhood. Bring out chalks, papers, radio, chairs, toys and other art materials. Set up a mini stage for this cute little event. This will be a good opportunity for parents to see their kids’ talent. It will help you gauge what sport and activities fit your kids – basketball, singing, art, painting, crafting and many others. Prepare healthy snacks for them too and invite other parents to help you assist the kids. With this, you do not just bring your kids outdoor, but make him open for friendship and conversation.
5. Introduce Outdoor Science
Children love to play and experiment to discover new things. Bring the science of play and the science of science outdoors! You can use simple and easy concepts of science to make kids drop their gadgets for a while and be the next Einstein. Awe them with –do-it-yourself rainbow or the mentos-coke experiment or the all-time string telephone. After accomplishing each simple experiment, explain the basic concepts behind them and let them asks questions. Answer each patiently.
6. Get Your Kids (and Gadgets) Outside
Kids don’t have to choose between gadgets and outdoor play. You can get the kids fall in love with nature through bighearted photowalk or make a family video, while having picnic outside. Let kids use their gadgets to capture the most amazing nature shot. Let them look for birds and flowers to take pictures of it. Prepare mouth-watering and healthy food and prepare mindful and nature-based games. Put a balance between nature and technology because after all, we have to embrace what the future really is.
As parents, we cannot not worry about our child safety but sometimes joyful abandon of what’s “safe,” you can reap the myriad of benefits for your kids. Pretty soon, I’ll have my baby and I won’t be ashamed if I raise my child in traditional way and by nature’s rule of thumb. More than the benefits of bringing kids outdoors, I wouldn’t want to see my kids live with the bots and eventually be one.
Written by Aby Nicole League