“But we have nothing to do!” Do you ever scratch your head blankly searching for ideas when your children complain like this? Apparently their boredom is also all your fault because you have just demanded that they get off their digital equipment.
So many kids today have poor tone and floppy bodies. So many adolescences – have poor tone, floppy bodies, big attitudes and if I had to guess – would struggle to find there way out of paper bag.
This typically results from a combination of us over indulging our children, reneging them of responsibility, poor diet, negligible exercise or strength work and way too much time watching screens. Believe me I know it’s incredibly hard work keeping our children active, keeping them reading “actual” books (not digital books) and keeping them engaged in daily conversations, real-life social issues and important family rituals.
By no means am I a candidate for “mother of the year” and our boys are “normal boys” – considerate one day and revolting the next, for me though this is an area that I am particularly passionate about and I love the challenge of keeping the boys “practical kids.” Perhaps I’m old school but I need my children to be fit, well mannered, to be able to hold a conversation, to be responsible, be gracious and mindful of others.
Here are some reflections on how our week looks at a glance and how we aim to strike a balance. These may serve as ideas for keeping kids away from screens on the weekend and ideas to preserve everyone’s sanity. These points are not offered in any particular order of importance.
Before you consider if any of these suggestions might work in your household please review the health implications of digital time in our previous post How is Screen Time Compromising Our Kids?
How We Aim to Strike a Balance and Points to Consider:
1. Set Clear Guidelines:Our role as parents is to be clear about how much technological equipment we allow into our child’s day. We have time limits for week days and weekends. The boys know for eg. on a weekday they can have half an hour for social media or games in the afternoon and that the rest of the time is for doing things outside, extra-curricula activities, homework and reading.
On a weekend every half hour of digital time is matched by an half hour of exercise or time outside and 15 minutes of reading. And no more then 2 half-hour periods of digital time in a day unless negotiated. Additionally there is no random playing on digital equipment unless they ask first and no movies or television unless discussed.
Another biggie in our household is – no eating while on digital equipment. When we eat we engage in conversation or are mindful of the food itself.
If the boys go on digital equipment without asking or complain or delay getting off digital equipment then I take time off their next sitting of screen time. If they delay and moan repeatedly then I kick up a memorable fuss and take the digital liberty away entirely for a day or more if I feel really “unheard.” Monitoring digital time is not a charter for slackers 🙂
2. Get Them Earning Money: Kids always want the latest toy or pair of shoes. So it’s important to clarify what your’e happy to pay for and what your kids need to pay for. To earn money our boys garden, they clean out cupboards, they tidy the garage or shed – oh the options are endless :)!!!
3. Encourage Them To Do Quiet, Self- Soothing Activities: You will have heard of the latest Rubber Band Bracelet craze – I love it. This is a great activity for kids. So to is drawing, doing painting, puzzles, playing with lego etc.
Get them Reading
The boys have to read everyday 10-30 minutes. Reading is such a wonderful, peaceful habit that develops their writing skills, spelling and self-expression. Our boys tire of each other quickly so being able to escape into books is a great way for them to have time to themselves.
Encourage them to play Musical Instruments
We encourage the boys to play a musical instrument. Some years they want to do this formally with lessons other years they just want to navigate their learning themselves and just play for pleasure. Either way it gives them another creative outlet.
4. Get Them Exercising: It’s incredibly important that our children balance the flexed forward postures related to being on electronic equipment with exercise or sports that strengthen their core and the posterior muscles of their back and neck.
These extensor muscles on the back side of the body neurologically fire straight to the cerebellum and improve the way their brain works. In essence, back muscle stimulation re-trains the static postural muscles and supports good function of our vestibular system.
What is our vestibular system
This circuit system allows us to maintain balance, stand upright, move through space, and process visual information about the environment while we are in motion. It helps children develop normal muscle tone, plays a significant role in the development of language and is a surprisingly complex sensory system — in fact the vestibular system is known as the “chief regulator” of ALL incoming sensory information and is considered the most important sensory system.
This system takes information from the inner ear, the eyes, the neck and shoulder muscles, the fingertips, palms of the hand, the soles of the feet, hip and leg joints then combines it all together allowing us to think, move, comprehend and interpret the world around us.
Consider gymnastics, trampolining, swimming or any form of exercise that develops their core and strengthens their back muscles. Our boys do 6 hours of trampolining/gymnastics a week plus other sports, during their trampolining classes they do lots of strength work including plank poses and “rocking horse” which are great examples of exercises that directly fire up the brain.
It is great to challenge your kids with who can do the best cart-wheel, the longest hand-stand and best trampoline tricks. If they are younger encourage your child to stand on one leg, to hop, skip and walk along beams or ledges (under supervision) these are all helpful for balance, while spinning, swinging, ball games, clapping hands and cross- crawling all provide wonderful brain feedback. Also utilise jungle gyms, slides and balance beams, play hopscotch and other jumping games.
We also love to go on cross country bikes rides, walks and runs – they don’t have to be harrowing and exhausting. Make sure there’s a nice cafe along the way or at the end of your destination.
Have Strength or Fitness Competitions
In our house we have ongoing chin up competitions, burpee competitions, push-ups and plank competitions – you name it, as long as they can try to whip each other then boys are in it. Remember to keep spirits high and make it fun.
5. Get Them Adjusted: One of the most powerful things you can do for your child’s health is to have them regularly adjusted by a wellness oriented chiropractor. Chiropractors can assess how your child’s spine and nervous system is adapting to the lifestyle stressors placed upon it, and regular chiropractic adjustments help to support optimal growth and nerve function.
6. Get them a Pet That They Are Responsible For: It’s important kids are raised to be responsible for certain jobs and creatures. Kids always want pets and thats fine as long as they can be responsible for them. Our boys have to walk and feed the dog each day, clean up dog poo and wash the dog.
7. Get them Cooking: It’s important to me that all my boys learn how to cook. The other benefit is when they are bored you can get them to contribute by making food for everyone. Our boys love too make breakfasts, sushi, crepes, smoothies, juices, dairy free ice-cream, desserts, biscuits, muffins, cakes.
8. Inspire Them to Write Thank you Cards With You.Reminding children to be grateful for the love and guidance they receive in their life serves our children well.
9. Kick Them Outside: Ask my children and they will tell you that I am forever telling them to go outside. Often I’m out there with them kicking the footy, having sling shots competitions, shooting bows and arrows but they are also happy hanging out together or doing things on the lonesome. They’ll climb trees, tinker with their bikes, make something in the shed, play with the dog, I’m often amazed as I venture out there to find what there up to.
10. Encourage Them to Create Vision Boards or Goal Books: I’m a big believer in setting a vision for your life, it’s something I was encouraged to do since I was about 6 years of age. This is a great activity to do together and then you can individually keep modifying and up dating your goal boards or goal books. Think about what you’d love to manifest with your fitness, wellbeing, career, relationships, finances, spirituality etc. Cut out pictures, write down your specific goals and create a visual feast that your ‘e excited to look at each day.
“What you feed at home, you send to the world, let it be love…”-A. Hamilton
When we think about it – there’s ample ways we can engage our children we often just need a little inspiration and intestinal fortitude.
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Yours in health…
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani