A recent Ontario study has found that children were spending nearly triple the recommended time on screens—a fact that may be connected to parental stress levels and school closures. On the contrary, parents who had a greater involvement in their children’s activities reported lower screen times for their children.
The excessive use of electronics impacts children’s health and well-being in many ways. It can lead to a plethora of behavioral, physical, and emotional problems, and stop them from developing a vital bond with the Great Outdoors. If you’d like to reduce your family’s screen time, the following ideas may inspire you to have a family meeting, so you can come up with your bespoke list of fun activities.
Brainstorming Group Activities
If your children have similar interests, then you may decide to embark on a group project together. It could involve making a collage, building a treehouse, doing a puzzle, raising money for a particular cause or charity, or sewing a family quilt.
If you are into vintage projects, quilts have a fascinating history in the lives of families, with families of old giving them as wedding gifts and swathing newborns in them. You will need to choose your fabrics, pattern, quilting frame (foundation fabric), quilt block (to measure all the pieces of cloth you add to your quilt), and a needle or sewing machine.
If you have children aged around eight to 10, make sure they have their own child-safe sewing machine and select a quilt style that resonates with their sense of taste and style. The quilt could even display a theme that represents their interests (and yours!). I still have the quilt that I sewed with my mom in my teens, and this is a project that I’d love to do with my own kids someday.
Embracing Outdoor Adventures
Nature is a natural stress buster. It helps kids and adults focus, disconnect from their worries, and improve their physical and mental health. Once again, discuss the plethora of outdoor activities that everyone wants to do. Don’t commit to just one; do them all! Simply throw all the ideas into a basket and choose one activity a week (or one every two weeks).
Fun nature-focused ideas can include growing a vegetable garden, performing an obstacle course in the snow, taking part in a scavenger hunt in the woods, or simply going for a forest bath. The latter, a popular pastime in Japan (where it is known as “shinrin yoku”) is so simple but fulfilling. It involves heading to a forest area and actively “opening your senses” of sight, sound, touch, smell, touch, and even taste, to the forest. Before you leave, enjoy a tree hug and feel the stress flow out of your body!
Plan a Family Music Night
If you and your kids play musical instruments, plan a family music night. While I no longer play, my four daughters are all now learning to play different instruments. The other night, they decided they wanted to play for each other. They all got out their instruments and played a song that they are currently working on. Even my four-year-old got out his plastic guitar, and strummed it while yelling “rock and roll! rock and roll!!!” over and over again.
If you have grandparents who’d like to listen to the music, invite them over. Or if you have friends who also play various instruments, consider expanding “the band” and having a bigger jam session.
This can be a fun way to spend time together while also encouraging your child’s musical interests. If your kids don’t play an instrument, consider family karaoke instead. You can find online karaoke songs to sing along to, or simply turn on your favourite songs and sing along with them. Give yourselves space to dance too! Remember to laugh at yourselves and be silly.
Having One-on-One Dates
We sometimes fail to really see or hear each other when we are in a large, lively group, and the same happens in our families. Parents and children can quickly get into patterns and kids can get used to sharing their important news, thoughts, and emotions with specific people. This could be one parent, a sibling, extended family, or friends.
To ensure your connections are strong with each of your children, consider having individual “parent and child” dates. If you have a spouse, divide this activity and switch kids the next time. Not only will you delight your little ones by letting them choose an out-of-home activity (which could be dining, zip lining, or camping overnight somewhere), but you will also discover things about each other and have the chance to create unique, valuable moments.
Most kids go considerably over recommended times, which can have a detrimental effect on their health. If you would like to encourage your children to spend time away from their phones and tablets, involve them in the decision-making process. Try to make your time together as green or blue as possible, making nature the focal point of your activities.