With the start of April, I’m hopeful that “real” spring will finally arrive and stay a while. I’m ready for my kids to spend more time outside and less time with technology.
Does this sound familiar to others? Whether we like it or not, our advances in technology have increased the amount of time we all spend in front of a screen. For various reasons, children are spending an increasing amount of time inside, in front of a screen rather than outside in nature.
Research shows that excessive screen time can be linked to health issues, sleep problems, behavior problems, impaired social skills, lower scores on thinking and language tests, and more.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen time for children under 18 months other than video chatting. For 18-24 month olds, choose high quality programming and watch with your child to help them understand what they are seeing. For children 2-5 years old, limit screen time to one hour a day and watch with them to help them understand what they are seeing. For children 6 and older, place consistent limits on screen time and the types of media they are using. Make sure screen time does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other positive actions and interaction.
More and more research is supporting the need for children to play in natural environments. Spending time outside has been shown to enhance thinking skills, strengthen the ability to handle negative stress, increase creativity, reduce depression, and decrease symptoms of ADHD.
Children who regularly play outdoors are more physically fit, have stronger immune systems, lower stress levels, more active imaginations, and greater respect for themselves and others. So why not get our kids away from the screen and get them outside? Sometimes that’s easier said than done, a common refrain is there’s nothing to do outside. Well, the list below will help with the nothing to do problem regardless of the weather.
•Build a fire and make S’mores
•Do an outdoor photoshoot
•Take a hike
•Visit your local parks
•Take a Stroll
•Climb a tree
•Build a birdfeeder
•Go on a nature scavenger hunt
•Go bird watching
•Build a fort
•Build an igloo
•Go for a picnic
•Play with sidewalk chalk
•Go for a bike ride
-•Build a snowman
•Make snow angels
•Rake leaves and jump in the piles
•Plant a flower and/or vegetable garden
•Have a snowball fight
•Build a mud kitchen
•Look for different shapes in nature
•Pick up sticks and build a structure
•Play with bubbles
•Have a water fight
•Look for insects and spiders
•Have a water balloon fight.
Hopefully, April will provide ample opportunities to get outside and enjoy some warmer weather.
Article adapted from an article written Julie Boyle, Extension Educator in Dakota County.
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