The other day my boss asked me if I had recently spoken to one of our members. I confidently replied, “Yes, I just texted her.” When did we accept that texting and high-tech gadgets replace actual conversations, and frankly, that it is o.k.?
We see it every day, kids juggling iPads, iPhones, DSL and computers. While parents moan about this obsession with electronics, do we actually recognize what is happening with our younger generations? The number of hours kids are “unplugged” from electronics and playing outside has decreased DRAMATICALLY.
According to research by the American Camp Association, kids have lost 12 hours a week of time engaged in offline playing.
Unplugged play is critical; it allows kids to practice socialization skills – skills they will need to be successful at school, at home and at work. Play requires kids to learn and practice coping and negotiation skills and how to respond in emotionally appropriate ways. Play allows kids to create, innovate and brainstorm and to work outside of structure. Yes, there is definitely something to be said about all the sports teams our kids are playing on nowadays. But they also need unstructured time where they experiment and self-initiate.
When I was a kid, mom sent me off on my bike and told me “to be home before dark.” With dynamics of families being all different and yet the same with crazy schedules, how do we build in the time for our kids to play and experiment in a safe environment?
Don’t allow free play to get lost in our daily chaos. When you take your child to activities, take an extra 15 minutes before or after to run around and play. Incorporate free play on the basketball court, at the pool, in your backyard, at the park or just walking your dog. Take time to be outside where the electronic pull is not so strong. Incorporating free play into your children’s days is as important as ensuring that they are getting protein and calcium in their diets. It is part of a healthy lifestyle. ✿
Audra Martin is a contributing writer to Kiddish magazine and the Children’s Program and Camp Haverim Director, Merage Jewish Community Center.