You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Friday, June 29, 2012

Unplug. Play. Repeat.

Not long ago, we had a great family visit that reminded me exactly why we all need to unplug.

We went to deliver a baby gift to friends who have a 10 week old and a three year old. My boys are ten and twelve and, to be honest, screen time is usually a part of their day. We restrict the XBox to weekends, but between iPods, the family laptop, the PVR and our extended cable package, there is usually some sort of electronic component to their day. This visit, and some of the other visits I will describe later on, reinforce to me the importance of conversation, imagination and play.

We visited for a couple of hours. Visited. No electronics. No TV. The adults had a conversation (between efforts to keep the little one happy by rocking, talking and snuggling her.) The kids played with toys that require no batteries. Trains, mini stick hockey and playing a miniature piano managed to keep them entertained for the first hour of our visit. Then, the real fun began when they started to pull blankets out of the linen closet to make forts. Naturally, a round of hide and seek, jumping, rolling and squeals of joy ensued. It was SO refreshing to watch kids do the things I remember doing when I was young.

Tonight, both of my boys are having sleepovers. The older boys are at our house and the younger ones are 5 minutes away, but they managed to play together. On XBox Live, they can chat with each other while they play whatever game they are playing. I don't mind this. It is typical of their generation and I would be unnecessarily overprotective if I curtailed this type of behaviour. I think it is OK for kids, in moderation.

Our visit, however, reinforced the importance of balance and the need to unplug. Kids need to explore, create and solve problems in the real world. They need to navigate slippery log arches over creeks. Kids need to find amazing hiding spots. Chasing insects or playing with a pet can make hours pass by. My most vivid childhood memories involve visiting my friends, riding my bike, trying to climb trees, capturing frogs and being outdoors. On the last day of school this week, I asked my students what they were looking forward to this summer. I was thrilled and surprised that so many of them told me they were looking forward to things like camping, swimming, fishing and water fights.

When we go camping, it fills my heart with joy to watch my boys. They build forts, chop wood, and make fires. We ride bikes, go fishing and play cards. My absolute favorite moments of camping come when I watch my children create their own fun. Kids need to be kids. They don't need a parent hovering, coddling or berating. Children need to opportunity to define their own limits and push those limits. Sometimes, they will make mistakes. Sometimes, they will hurt themselves. Sometimes, they will spend hours engrossed in pure uninterrupted play.

Today marks the beginning of my summer holidays and I am already excited at our prospects for being unplugged for extended periods of time. They can have lots of fun indoors, but make sure to take your kids outside, folks. It's one of the greatest things you can do for them.

To learn a bit more about this topic, check out this site - Take Me Outside


  1. So well written, it reminds me of all our kids. Soon,and in a blink of an eye, the kids move away to University. Savor these moments.

  2. Reminds me of all the fun with our clan. Savor these moments. Soon they have all left for University and only come back for summer jobs.(and money)

  3. I realize that things are different in this day and age. It's nice to get a good description of all the toys available today. I agree that random play inside or outside is more satisfying.
    I hope all of you have a very good summer.

  4. Memories of Kick the can, tag, swimming and biking came to mind as I read this post. I do think there is a roll for electronics in our lives. But the old creative play still has a place, too. You've done a wonderful job describing the way you balance this in your lives.