Right from age 0, children are already introduced to phones and computers to keep them busy and for playtime. Your baby would rather watch “Cocomelon” or play video games rather than play outdoors, they could stay in front of these screens for hours without moving. In as much as technology has made things easy, it has greatly affected playing outside with friends and fun outdoor games.
Unfortunately, too much screen time is unhealthy, "The more time kids spend in front of screens, the more inactive they are," says Gwenn O'Keeffe, MD, a pediatrician and author of CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media. Getting your kids to play outdoors will not only help them stay physically healthy, but it's also been shown to increase their attention, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
What is Outdoor Play?
As the name implies, outdoor play is a free and spontaneous kind of play done at playgrounds, parks, school fields, or just around the house. Every child is born with a great imagination, curiosity and creativity and this is an important aspect of their childhood. You would agree that children are naturally adventurous and they love to explore freely, engaging in healthy fun!
Outdoor play doesn’t require phones, Tv, tablets, video games or computers and it needs less adult interruption. However, you could still make sure the environment is safe and they don’t get hurt while trying new things.
How do you reduce screen time?
- You can start by establishing a curfew for phones and setting up scheduled hours for bedtime. This means all assignments and chores are done before Screen time and they need to go to sleep once it’s bedtime.
- Ensure you collect all gadgets before they go out to play. This makes them more mindful of where and when to use their phones. When they are without their phones, they are aware of the fun outdoor adventures and it’s easy for them to play with their pairs.
- You can’t completely ban gadgets in your home, you are even causing more harm than good to your kids. Always remind them to limit the usage of phones and make sure you pay attention to how much time they spend in their rooms
- Encourage your kids to exercise or let them join your workout. Motivate your kids to exercise. There are many exercise videos and active games that could make them active.
- Create screen rules together. Ensure there is an agreed time for screen time and disobedience will attract punishments. Together you can write an agreed rule and stick it to their walls:
- No texting during meals, either at home or a restaurant.
- No texting on the road
- No phones at school
- The TV gets turned off during bedtime.
- Give them the support and supervision they need. If they have an interest in soccer, basketball, or tennis, create a small area in your home where they can play. If they know you will always let them play outdoors, they won’t be so reliant on their phones during leisure time.
- Get old school and bring up games you played as a kid. Teach them something new. Get them card games, board games that can teach social skills. Jenga teaches self-control, Chess teaches decision making, Team Pictionary teaches teamwork.
- Give rewards when they win games. Everyone loves to be awarded for their good work. You could even use their phones as a reward; “if you win the games, you get to play with your phone”.
It’s not just about making rules and giving punishments, if you always make outdoor play fun and make interesting games available, they will always look forward to the next exciting playtime. Our kids are born into the jet age and they don’t even need to be taught how to use these gadgets. The benefits of using gadgets are great but playtime is also an integral part of their childhood and it shouldn’t be left out.