Ten Ways to Get Your Kids off the Electronics and into the Natural World!
The number of children suffering from childhood obesity has tripled since the 1970’s. The rise in popularity of smartphones and tablets has led to an increasingly sedentary population. These phones are overloading kids with stimulus and making it easier for them to get bored. So, we as parents must find alternative methods of entertainment or we will raise a generation that is in a trance with their electronics. It is easy to limit time and tell them to get off their screens, but what positive habits can we foster to help their minds and bodies grow in a more constructive manner. By focusing on what they can do, as opposed to what they can’t we should see better results. Many parents are aware of the problems with phones yet the problem remains, so what can we do to encourage a healthier lifestyle for our children?
1. Lead By Example
Whether you like it or not, your kids are learning from your behavior as much, if not more than by your words. You can spend all day telling your kids about the benefits of being active and going outside. However, if they often see you lounging on the couch with a beer watching the Masters or mindlessly scrolling through social media, well they may think your advice is hypocritical. If you get outside and stay active, that behavior is infectious and they will want to join you with much less coaxing.
2. Take Them on an Adventure
Kids are just like adults with respect to playing with their phones. They often do it out of boredom when there is nothing more interesting to do. Get them out of the house and find something exciting. Kids love an adventure, and adults can too. An adventure can mean anything from a long road trip to a national park to simply exploring the backyard. Involve them on the process too. Have them pack a bag of “necessities” for a backyard excursion.
3. Play a Board Game
Games are fun and there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off to decompress. One of the issues with playing games on the iPhone however, is most of them are mindless and manipulative. Unfortunately, it has become common for children to spend more of their time playing games on their phone, and the law has not caught up with the technology. Many of these game companies are using a Skinner Box to take advantage of human nature. This is especially devious to market to children who are more susceptible to what is tantamount to casino tactics. This practice should definitely be illegal to market to children, and possibly even adults if they are not going to display the odds of winning or achieving an item.
4. Read a Book
Do you have trouble getting your kids to settle down and go to sleep? Perhaps that last round of Fortnite is too much excitement and stimulus right before going to bed. The unnatural blue light from electronics tricks the mind into thinking it’s daylight. Help ease the transition by spending the last 30 minutes or more reading a book. The trick here is no different for kids than for adults. If you want your child to be motivated to read, you’ll have to find a topic that is interesting to your son or daughter. If your child is too young to read, try reading to them. This helps children expand their language skills and improve their concentration levels.
5. Play with the Dog
You don’t have a dog? Well, you should get a dog. You’ll never be more loved by anyone or anything than by your own dog. Their happiness is infectious. A dog will go with you anywhere and even if he has no idea what is happening, he will enjoy the ride. It really is an inspiring way to go through life. A dog will make your more active too. If you track your steps, you’ll see an increase from the walks with your dog. Best yet, you’ll spread joy. Watch the people around you when you take your dog for a walk or to the park. People love animals and will smile and say hi to your fur baby. A dog is also a great way to start teaching your son or daughter some responsibilities.
6. Teach Them a New Skill
One of the beauties of parenting is kids look up to you. As a parent, you have spent so much more time in this world than them, and as a result, parents have a lot to share. Are you into fishing? Do you know how to change a tire? Do you play a musical instrument? Teach them some writing skills. It is frightening how many adults struggle to put together an email. These are all fun and useful skills that can help our children grow. School is supposed to teach important skills, but we know that modern education is dropping the ball. Take some accountability and help supplement their education with the skills you have.
7. Go for a Bike Ride
Who said that exercise should be boring? A bike ride is a perfect way to get some cardio and share a fun experience at the same time. This is a fun way to get out and explore nature too. Most towns have a nice bike path somewhere, and if not, this could also be combined with the adventure idea. Travel somewhere new and take a peaceful ride through a park. Or if there is a quiet subdivision nearby where traffic is light, that can work too. Just make sure you bring some water or juice so your kids don’t run out of “fuel.”
8. Make a Bargain
So, my son asked me to give up drinking beer for a week in exchange for him giving up his phone for a week. I like to encourage his salesmanship skills. These are invaluable in life and this is just fun. I’m competitive by nature so I love a good challenge. Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to teach your children about negotiation skills which are immensely important and not taught in school. No matter what you do in life, numerous times you’ll have to negotiate or bargain with people.
9. Create Something Together
Last weekend, we were out in the backyard playing with the dogs and just enjoying the weather. I started clearing brush and downed trees when I had an idea. One recently fallen tree looked perfect for a new project. So, I spent my Sunday sawing up a tree into coasters. A simple task though I used a hand saw, so that makes for a decent workout. This helped inspire my son to go find some branches that could be turned into walking sticks.
10. Make a Bonfire
After a long active and fun day, what better way to unwind than with a bonfire. There is something mesmerizing about a bonfire. Perhaps this has something to do with ancient humanity’s connection with fire and how it has established mankind dominance as the apex predator of this world. Fire was the turning point from leaving the jungle and establishing our civilization on this planet. Our relationship with fire is older than most of us can truly comprehend and it is just as important today. It is a way to reconnect with the natural world and our ancient ancestors.