I understand how parents could feel a bit overwhelmed (to say the least!) about what activities to do for, or with their children, for long periods at a time, specially during holidays!
On the other hand, I can tell you of the many benefits of not having kids glued to the TV/screen while they are not at school.
In terms of scientific research, a good place to start is to know, and to be re-assured that, our efforts in limiting content and the amount of time children spend on the computer or in front of the TV, can indeed make a positive difference in our children’s lives.
- Movement helps prevent obesity, a heart disease risk factor, and increases balance and flexibility.
- It is through play that children develop language, critical thinking, problem solving, math skills, as well as lateral thinking.
- It is through play that children learn how to get along with people, develop focus, harness longer attention spans and hone their natural love of learning.
- Research has also found that children show increased emotional regulation, empathy and cognitive ability when engaging in play, and activities designed to elicit imaginative responses.
So what are some of the ways you can help your child to be active versus a ‘screen addict’, during holidays?
ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT PLAY
This is simply allowing children to be in charge of what they want to and how they want to spend their time, through play. And you need two things for this:
- Plenty of time (which you’ll have during holidays!) and
- Boundaries from your part. In other words: What is acceptable and not acceptable in your household during that time?
For instance, you may not be in the right frame of mind to let your child play with water in the backyard today, but maybe that could be an activity for tomorrow.
If given enough time and trust, children are incredible inventors and creators. There are cubby houses to build (Hot tip: Leave blankets, cushions and boxes lying around), machines to create (same materials!) and places to visit (same materials!).
ENCOURAGE OUTDOOR PLAY
Playing outside will get children to fully and freely experience motor skills such as running, leaping, and jumping. It’s a good opportunity to let their lungs run their mile too!
By being outside, children will get to see, hear, touch, taste (!) and smell things they can’t find indoors. You’ll be surprised what kids can create and do in an open field with simple things such as sticks and sand/mud/dirt.
LOOK AFTER YOUR NEEDS
If you are catching yourself using screens as a babysitter, check in with yourself:
Are your individual needs being met?
Do you need support?
What are two things you could do this week to shift things around?
This could be as simple as going for a walk by yourself or having coffee with a friend.
A BIT OF PLANNING PAYS OFF
For the long Christmas holidays, I create an advent calendar for my sons.
This ‘advent’ calendar doesn’t have to be reserved only for Christmas though. It can be done at any time and labeled anything you like. The ‘Holiday Calendar’ will do!
They don’t take much time nor money to create, and they are always very successful and popular with the children. (Lots of families have ‘copied’ our ideas after seeing how much fun our kids have had over the years).
The ‘advent/holiday calendar’ works wonders because you pretty much have a whole month of excitement and activities!
One year I created a calendar of second-hand books and wrapped them. It took me a couple of hours rummaging through a few garage sales and school markets but I found lots of cheap, fun and entertaining books.
The simple wrapping took another hour and I added the days of the week in different languages to make it a bit more interesting.
Another year I had envelopes and stars hanging from the stairs with activities to do each day, such as:
- Bake cookies
- Find a gift for the neighbour’s daughter (from something we already have at home and kids not using anymore)
- Draw cards for relatives and friends
- Make a new friend at the park
- Make Christmas tree decorations
- Go for a walk around the block (treasure hunt)
The activities can be as simple or as complicated as you, the parent, wants or needs them to be.
For example, if I know I will be needing to be working from home one day, I won’t have the ‘baking cookies’ nor ‘going for walk’ activities listed but instead the ‘drawing cards’ or ‘write a story’ type activities.
And yet another year my son’s class created a ‘calendar’ with a stick and coloured tissue paper with little treasures wrapped inside (easy to replicate), such as:
- A rock
- A feather
- A crystal
- A trinket…
All super simple, and most found at home or at garage sales or grandma’s house, but still enough to stir children’s imagination, and for them to create their own independent play!
Holidays are a great time to embrace change, break the daily routine and have new experiences. Also to connect with our children in different ways.
Screens are going to be around for their rest of their lives, but the gift to create memories while young, won’t last forever.
Suni Sánchez is the mother of two lively boys, Founder of Human HQ®, and best-selling author of Welcome to Parenthood: How to design a fabulous family life. She’s a fierce champion of parents and children and her life’s mission is to support families in having more highs than lows in their family adventure and as they travel through life together.
To explore and discover more visit https://www.humanhq.co