by Sharon Davisson
TV, DVDs, computers, video games and other electronic media are a powerful force in children’s lives.
Many children spend more time in front of a screen than in school. Shows, advertisements and the toys and other products linked to the media influence most aspects of children’s development, learning and behavior.
Many parents and teachers are concerned about this issue and struggle with what to do.
From T.R.U.C.E. Media Action Guide. www.truceteachers.org.
First of all – turn off all electronic media.
Some alternatives to screen time:
Read Aloud Time
Set aside a regular time of day where you read aloud together. You’ll be not only deepening your relationship, you’ll be contributing to your child’s developing literacy skills.
Try having your children join you in a make-your-own-pizza night, or mix and bake cookies, cut up ingredients for vegetable soup, mix and knead and bake bread.
You can pack a lunch and walk or drive everyone to a favorite site for a family picnic – or you can make the picnic a family project.
Picnic Project: hold a family meeting and collectively select a location for your picnic. Plan the menu together. You can shop as a family and/or assemble the content of the food together. It is extra fun if the children cook or prepare some of the food.
Families can find great pleasure in playing board games. Family Pastimes is a wonderful company that creates board games for all ages that reinforce values such as sharing and cooperation. Outdoor games such as basket ball, hula hoop, four square, treasure hunt or scavenger hunt can be a healthy way to deepen family bonds.
Family Scrap Book
One fun activity is to keep a family scrap book or journal. You can use an actual scrap book or a large binder that has blank pages and pen for journaling. Journal your every-day as well as exciting events. Glue in photos. Decorate with drawings, stickers, colored paper or shelving paper.
Back to Nature
Contact your local Chambers of Commerce for maps and directions for hiking trails. See if there are any zoos or aquariums in your vicinity. If in an urban area, take a magnifying glass with you on a walk in your neighborhood and examine tree bark, or plants in the cracks of sidewalks. Bring a notebook and keep a record of the weather, the sky, and any wildlife you might sight each time you take a walk.
Do you remember how much fun it was to water the garden, wash the car or the dog? Truly, children find a lot of joy in working and playing with water!
Any and all work in the garden can be shared with children. The benefits are tremendous – fresh air, exercise, healthy meals! If in an urban area, see if there is a community garden you can join. Or, try container gardening (window boxes, clay pots, plastic containers, etc.). Plant a butterfly garden (groups of colorful flowers like cosmos, lavender, zinnia, marigolds).
Crafts and Projects
There are endless things one can do with glue and/or paint using found objects such as rocks, sticks, egg cartons, oatmeal boxes. Have fun! Families can also create a puppet theater, make sock puppets, create family greeting cards, work on collages created from magazine pictures, and work with clay.
Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness
The Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion (www.nrgbalance.org)