Seems a little trite of me really to tell people to get their kids outside and moving. And I certainly feel that way sometimes when I present this as a strategy to parents. Doesn’t everyone know that already? The value of getting outside and playing, moving, exploring, taking risks, seeing new things, making up stuff, pretending?
Well I think we all do deep down. But we also hear lots of cries from parents lately, and probably more so from society and media at large, phrases such a “kids today are too lazy to go outside and play”. “Kids today would rather be holed up inside on a screen”. “Kids today don’t know how to use their imagination”. “When I was young we used to go outside and play until we are called in for dinner or it got dark”. Or ” We had to make up our own games as we didn’t have Fortnite and Minecraft to keep us entertained all school holidays. Kids today don’t know how to be bored”.
And I get that, and I see that, and I even sometimes fear that.
But. I don’t think it is for a lack of wanting to do the the outside physical play. It is not that kids don’t want to have free time to run outside with other kids, and hang out. And it’s not because they are lazy.
Instead I think it’s because of these 2 reasons:
- We hand over the screens that answer so many of their perceived needs, that are built and created in a way that keeps them on and connected, that play to the weaknesses of a developing brain and then we expect them to put them away on cue and be able to regulate their time and behaviour with often very little help.
- We don’t let them have any free time to play. They are either up to their eyeballs in extra curricula activities (I certainly don’t have a problem with organised sport and activities) or we are too damn scared to let them out of our sight for longer than 10 minutes for fear that someone will steal them or they fall and hurt themselves.
So as much as I realise parents have a whole lot of stuff they need to do already, they must also play a greater role in building a culture of balanced play and actually make the effort to go outside with them at times. We need to ensure that the way we play is something that is nurtured, encouraged and something that ‘just is what it is’ when it comes to the way families spend their time.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with young people using devices. They just can’t be the only way kids get their information, are educated, are social and are entertained. And we need to help them with that. Because it is very easy to sit and get all of those things from a device. We can connect with others on social media, be entertained with games and youtube videos, find out anything we want via google, and we don’t have to put in a great amount of effort to do that. And as parents we can enjoy the extra time to put the dinner on whilst our child is happily engaging in some reading eggs or episodes of Peppa Pig or surfing Youtube. But we can’t always expect that the kids will all naturally choose a range of other experience over the devices, without us having to do a little pushing.
So we need to provide days out that don’t involve screens, make it regular practise to go and kick a footy or shoot hoops every night before dinner, go for family walks, bike rides. Kids still want to play, but sometimes they may need some reminders. Building these things into the everyday and not just lecturing them to do so, helps these practices become the norm for our kids. We can complain all we want that kids today play differently than we do, but these devices aren’t going anywhere, so it best we come up with other ways to ensure they don’t take over every aspect of our child’s day.
If your stuck for ideas on things to do without the screens, here’s 50 or so for you that might help you out …..50 Things to do that doesn’t involve screens