Sunday, February 24, 2013

Unplugged Fun

Unless you live in a log cabin in the woods, off the grid, with no neighbors, and homeschool your children, you have to decide whether or not to let your child watch television and play video games, which ones, and how much.

It would be great if we could just send our children out to play every afternoon after school, wouldn't it?  Some people still can, and it isn't safe for others.  We live in a  city apartment, so it isn't an option for us.  Most of our outdoor adventures are on the weekend.

After school activities and team sports keep many children busy to some extent, but that still leaves plenty of hours to fill, especially on the weekend.  This posting is about filling those hours with activities which encourage children to use their minds, their imaginations, and their bodies in lots of fun and healthy ways, and build relationships.  While they are doing these things they will be having fun and making great memories of a childhood well spent.  These activities will build confidence and persistence and capability, encourage independence, and teach skills.  You'll hear laughter and see smiles and the look of pride.  (Most of the outdoor activities are winter ones.  Summer is whole other barrel of fun outside!)

Family fun is on the top of the list.  My husband and son are playing Bananagrams in this picture.

In this picture my sons are having a great time together.  

All three of the children wrestling....I wish we lived closer to my two oldest children so that the siblings could see one another more often.

Let the wild rumpus begin!  Here are some of the cousins playing together.

 It gets noisy, but a lot of the noise is laughter, and I love it!

Play outside in the snow!  Sledding, (which looks like a very serious business,)

building forts, (always more fun with friends,)

burrowing in deep snow,

having a snow walk,

or a snow hike,

snowshoeing, (and of course skiing,)

playing with ice from a stream,

crawling on top of ice, (this is a frozen beach,)

having a snow picnic,

shooting a bow and arrow at a target,

learning traditional skills, like how to whistle on a acorn cap, make your own toys, build a fire, and whittle, (there are instructions about how to do all these things and more on Acorn Pies!)

making a snow lantern,

playing in the woods with toys,

doing chores, which no one is going to get excited about, but it builds skills, is part of being a family, and if you give your child important chores, they will feel that they are making an meaningful contribution.

Doing a chore with a parent is more fun than working alone.  And let them help with your projects...they'll learn a lot and be proud.  (This boy is helping his father mix cement with a shovel.)

Reading books, comics, and magazines, especially with a cup of cocoa by your side, in a cozy spot,

using books to learn new things,

doing science, like this water pressure experiment,

building robots,

doing science kits,

trying to repair something, like Grandfather's broken train,

 playing with construction toys like bucky balls, lego, erector sets, and more, 

 creating something using recyclables,

or wood scraps, like these things made by Andrew, (getting to use real hand tools like hand saws and hammers is great for children,)

 making your own toys and games, (this is tiddlywinks with buttons,)

 and this is "Troll My Dame," an American Colonial skill game with marbles,

working on your collection, (here a coin collection glued into a world atlas,)

 making a play, puppet show, or shadow puppet play, (this is Peter and the Wolf,)

 designing your own dessert for the family, like these homemade cookies for dipping in whipped cream, oh, yummy! or learning to make a simple dinner,

 drawing your own inventions, like this Sky Snow Maker,

or this Turbo Limousine, with a cut-away of the engine.

Some of the big questions are, what do you want your child's childhood to be made up of?  What images do you want in their imaginations?  What do you want them to learn?  What skills do you want them to take into adulthood?  Giving your child a childhood which is not heavily dependent on the digital world for entertainment takes energy, purpose, and some parenting courage, especially if you live in an environment where you and your child feel like you are bucking a trend.

Think about your favorite activities from when you were a boy or girl.  Even better, what were your great grandparents doing in the days before television, when they were children?  There was lots to do,  and if they were bored, their parents probably made them solve that problem on their own.  By the way, children don't have to busy all the time.  They can tolerate quiet time, and use it to imagine, think, and plan.  Just because the adult world is busy, busy, busy, doesn't mean the lives of our children have to be.

Libraries and book stores are full of great books with unplugged activities for children, many with great illustrations and geared to children to read.  The world of family-oriented blogs and craft blogs are also full of ideas.  Tell me about your ideas for encouraging children to stay busy without dependence on television and video games!


Fiona said...

What a great post Beth :-)

I think my advice would be to attempt to reduce screen time slowly, and always offer an exciting alternative.

Initially less digital 'baby sitting' means more work for Mum, but in the long term it actually makes life easier.

We have been tv (and all screen time) free for over 3 years now, and I love how my kids will play endlessly with few props and lots of imagination.

For indoor play we like sensory boxes, and have a large one filled with beans (search 'sensory box' and you will find a myriad of suggestions).

For outdoors, fire making is one of our favorites.

Twisted Cinderella said...

Lots of wonderful pics of great unplugged fun!

Beth said...

Fiona, thanks for your great input. No T.V.....that's a big accomplishment nowadays, but I agree that if children have to entertain themselves, they will, with imagination and resourcefulness. I appreciate your advice.


Beth said...

Thanks, Twisted Cinderalla! Beth

Valley Chicks said...

I love these pictures, their spontaneity and pure fun! Thank you for sharing them and your wonderful unplugged ideas. I also appreciated the idea behind chores, I fully agree.

Beth said...

Thank you, Almaden Acorn! Beth

dionne said...

You always say things so beautifully. I just finished up a week of screen-free ideas on my blog that we shared with my daughter's early childhood friends at school. (One day included letterboxing - a hobby we discovered years ago through YOU!) It's so inspirational to find what other folks are doing to create rich, magical childhoods for their children. Thank you, thank you for all you do and all you share.
-dionne @

Beth said...

Thanks, Dionne! That made my day! I'll check out your ideas! Beth