We don’t play video games. I am not going to get up on my high horse here because that would be wrong and even hypocritical, and possibly anti-social as most of my good friends and practically everyone else has and plays all sorts of video games. But, I was thinking hard this week about what to blog about. I thought the “new year’s resolutions” theme, the “best of 2011,” and “what’s coming in 2012” were already DONE.
Dan and I were chitchatting about our six-year-old daughter’s post-Christmas statement that she was now practically the only kid in her class who does not have a handheld video game of some sort. She is in Grade 1. Seriously, I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I think that is just crazy-weird. Why on earth would a child in Grade 1 need a DS or their own iPod touch, for heaven’s sake? Shouldn’t they be playing with blocks or outside in the yard or using their imaginations or reading a book or ANYTHING but staring at a little tiny screen for hours at a time? Once I started writing about this, it was diplomatically suggested that no matter what I say about video games, I am going to come off as being self-righteous. Honestly, not my intention, and I truly believe that as long as everything is done in balance, it can’t be all bad.
We don’t deprive our children from modern technology, but we do restrict it and they seem pretty filled with joy anyhow. That being said, wouldn’t you rather go for a wander in the woods than sit in front of a screen?
I took a silent vow when we had children that I would never judge other parents, and I stick to that vow as much as I humanly can. I can talk only about our own choices. So, back to that one choice… we don’t play video games. Some games, like the dancing ones, sound like a lot of fun, and I am quite sure the exercise and sport ones provide wonderful opportunities for physical activity. And yes, there seems to be some argument that hand-eye coordination and motor skills can be improved through video gaming. Many games are quite educational.
When we want to be physically active (sometimes it happens), we go outside and do real-life activities. We paddle, we bike, the girls run around the yard in circles. In winter we ski, snowshoe, toboggan, go to the pool or skating. We compromise on screen time by putting on one of the girls’ yoga DVDs (http://yogakids.com/ ). The girls feel like they have had “TV time” but they get some exercise and learn techniques to relax and calm themselves in a healthy way.
Getting dirty is a developmentally-appropriate activity for kids, and we encourage it. I have always thought that if the girls are still clean at the end of the day, they have not had enough fun. Climbing trees (safe trees!), playing with things in nature, like sand, sticks, rocks and water, and just being out in the woods or on the shore is the most satisfying way to spend an afternoon. Sometimes I think we spend too much time entertaining our children, putting them in organized activities and planning their days. Left to their own devices for a while, they come up with amazing, complicated scenarios for play, or something like what you see in this photo…
Role-play is huge in our house. Dolly daycare, school, dress-up, Miss Fix-it-all, ballet recitals, Playmobil-a-thons, we do it all. We have a huge stash of dress-up clothes thanks to our talented friend Christine, who made or found everything from cowgirl to genie to chef to little red riding hood and everything in between. Nary a princess in sight. Okay, maybe the occasional princess.
We do Just Dance, except we just put some 1990s dance music on the stereo and dance around the living room. For some reason the girls think Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch is the BEST. We read tons of books, and have since they were born. Having books around and seeing the adults in the family reading provides a strong base in those little minds for future literacy skills. Arts and crafts, also big and by the way GREAT for hand-eye coordination and motor skills.
There are times when our children want to play on the computer, and once or twice a week, we let them. We put some kids apps on the iPod, simple things like colouring or Highlights puzzles, or we let them play the games on sites like PBS kids or the Knowledge Network. So they feel like they are doing a bit of what other kids are doing, and we know what they are up to. I know that soon enough, they will be wired in as almost everyone is now, but in the meantime I want them to be as free of all that as possible. Free to be kids, free to use their imaginations, free to have fun and learn from the world around them, not from a screen.