National Day of Unplugging

There is no denying the media, the Internet, video games, and computers are all part of our daily lives. We use these electronic devices for a variety of reasons; for work, to assist us in our everyday routines, to keep up with friends, and for play and recreation. For the most part, technological advancements have improved society. But what effects do these gadgets really have on young childrens’ development as they grow?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of 7 hours a day on entertainment media. As a parent, it is crucial to limit children’s screen time and offer only educational media and non-electronic formats such as, books, board games, and sensory motor activities. If your young child does use media, watch together and then talk about what you saw. Or sing the songs together. This will help guide your children to a better media experience. In a child’s first 5 years of life, the brain grows rapidly. Young children learn best by interacting with other people and directly from sensory and motor play with their bodies utilizing all their senses.

National UNPLUGGING Day from sundown on Friday, March 7th to sundown on Saturday, March 8th allows us 24 hours to reconnect with our children, family, and friends (and self) without the interference of technology. As an Occupational Therapist and child development specialist for 33 years, I assure you this is a wonderful opportunity to unwind, de-stress, try new activities or pick up an old one that you have forgotten.

Here are some suggestions of activities that parents CAN do with their children on this day that will have the most powerful impact on a child’s sensory and motor properties. You don’t have to limit these suggestions to a National Unplugging Day, so feel free to do them frequently. You will be providing your kids with the ingredients they need to strengthen their bodies and minds.

1. Go out in nature! Even if the weather is cold, take a walk, play in the snow, ice skate, or go sledding. Do something physical but also talk about what you see and feel in the world that is the colors, textures, temperature, clouds, and animals.

2. Start a garden indoors or outdoors! Dig, plant, hoe, spread dirt and plant seeds. Work with your hands and have your child get his or her hands dirty.

3. Cook together! Especially focus on the gooey stuff, such as mixing, stirring, spreading, and pouring. For older children, allow them to cut and chop with supervision.

4. Read together! Tell each other stories. Ask questions about what you are reading. Ask your children to anticipate what they think will happen. Ask them to make up a different ending.

5. Play with manipulatives together! Try various types but especially ones that require pushing and pulling. Try pop-beads for younger hands and zoobs for older hands. Don’t tell your children what to make. See what they come up with and then talk about it.

6. Make an obstacle course indoors or outdoors! Use furniture, toys and pillows, and then go over, under, through, and around objects. Change directions and go the other way. Then try crawling backwards.

Unplug and enjoy!!!!!