Screens can be an easy go-to – highly desired by the kids and quickly allowed by their parents. It’s a one-stop shop for endless entertainment and communication: social media, texting, Youtube, games, Netflix, etc. But before you charge up the screens, we ask that you do two things:
First, check out this comprehensive list from the American Academy of Pediatrics on safe and healthy screen time. Be thoughtful, intentional, and active when and if your children take to social media and texting.
Second, find ways with your children to incorporate tried and true forms of communication and relationship building, and make these a priority. Consider these ideas to fill imaginations, hours, and physical mailboxes:
1. Get a pen pal. Before school is out for the summer, arrange to swap letters with a friend from class. Or help your child choose family members or old friends to whom they can write. Instead of exchanging e-mail addresses, get real addresses, buy stamps, and get a fresh pack of gel pens: the whole shebang! Spend time writing or coloring on special stationery, and let your child stick on the stamp and mail the letter.
2. Start a club. Does your child love Star Wars? Baking? Skateboarding? Encourage him to invite friends and neighbors to join him weekly in exploring his passion. Depending on your child’s age, this may take more supervision and effort from you, but building relationships and exploring interests will make a lifelong impact and be well worth it!
3. Create a play-date co-op. Help your kids build relationships while also getting a break for yourself. Plan ahead and arrange a weekly play date with three of your child’s friends. One day out of the month you will host the play date, and the other three play dates you will drop your child off at the hosting parent’s house. Sweet freedom!
4. Go to print. Encourage your kids to start a neighborhood, community, or family newsletter. Let your reporters loose to discover the latest news, personal interest stories, and most appealing photo ops. Use free templates in Microsoft Word or Publisher, or go really old school with paper, ink, scissors, and glue a la “The Pickwick Portfolio” in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
The important thing to remember is that in person communication is immensely more effective and meaningful for children. Screens limit that. Give your kids powerful memories by reducing screen time.
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