Do you remember your childhood days when you would play outside until the street lights came on, or fall asleep to the dim flickering diode of an old (non-LED) night light? This generation (our kids) may never if rarely experience those key memory markers. Our kids can hack and navigate our phones and tablets with reckless abandon at the age of two, and have unlimited streaming kid content. Of course, they now (struggle to)fall asleep, not because of the flickering night light, but because of the artificial backlight of our always-on electronic devices! Their endearing eyes once gazed upon us in absolute wonder; eager for inspiration, affirmation, love and support. Now, their disconnected glances rarely seek us out, if only for the power cord or headphone. Our glances rarely meet those of our children, for they have found a replacement you, a more HD version of you...rather the the artificial replacement of you! The truth is, we relinquish our position of power as parents. Supplanted instead by electronics, not by force or fear, but incrementally (in thirty minute cartoon episodes, or the always looping five minute DIY toy videos). It is at its core with good intentions, but we are losing the narrative of what it is to be a parent. I understand the integral part tablets, phones, and laptops play in our cloud based culture, but for the little discretionary time with our families we do have, lets maximize our influence as parents! Here are some ways that my husband and I reconnect with our two kids. Limiting Screen Time: This includes both duration and the actual time-of-day of consumption. Limiting *discretionary* electronic consumption allows other functions of our learning to occur. My husband and I have a rule that our kids must play or do something constructive for at least three hours before they watch TV. Family Game Night: Our kids are younger (under five), so we use board games and puzzles. Consistency is important, this needs to be a scheduled and dedicated family event; even if your don’t finish the entire game. Having Play Dates: Make friends in the neighborhood and get those kids over and play! It benefits all. Invite their parents over for lunch (with their kids), show your kids how to be social. Knowing who your kids are hanging out with will help you maintain influence over them as they grow, being the house where the kids go is also a great way to stay updated on your kids lives. We have kids over two or three nights a week.
Cooking and Eating Together: Teaching our kids how to cook is an invaluable life skill. Our kitchen will often times mimic that of a high school science lab. It is where our kids go to experiment and be creative with different food and flavors. Our kids have a tangible and (most times) edible learning experience, they want to express themselves through the cooking of food. Our kids have been more willing to eat what they cook which cuts down on the pickiness a two year old and a four year would tend to have. Take Walks with Your Kids: Walking around our neighborhood at dusk brings us back to the days when one-on-one time meant actual face-to-face. This creates the opportunity for our kids to inquire about the sights and sounds around where they live while exercising too. Get into the Pool and Have Fun: Most kids love water. We get our kids into the pool and confident being around water (it’s also life insurance for them if they ever fall in). After swim lesson we teach our kids how to jump into the water and how to play pool games. My daughter and I had a 10 minute water gun fight! Do not sit on the sidelines watching your kids having fun, join them! Reading Books Together: Books open an opportunity for our kids to escape into another world. It also gives us time to reconnect. Our kids get to hear our passionate reading voices and laugh at or storytelling. Spending at least 15 minutes a day reading to your kid is a good starting point.
Good Old Fashioned Playing: Unscripted and fun. Teach your child how to play (we as parents forget how to play). My husband was casually taking some cardboard boxes to the recycling bin, when out of the blue, he turns around in the living room and looks at our kids. Ten minutes later, they had cut out and decorated two rocket ships and were soon off to space! The kids loved it. Go back to your inner kid and (seriously) play for your kids, kids don't judge you and they want to connect with you! Unplug and reconnect with your kids. Include them as much as possible into your daily activities absent electronics. They long for that connection and everyone will be better off because of it!