A Plea for More Old-Fashioned Play

By Lauren Perelmuter

parenting -play

Simple pursuits such as blowing bubbles are a nice break from screen time. PHOTO BY NENETUS/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET

Happy New Year! Like many of you I also had a busy holiday season. This week, our kids were ready to go back to school, the house is slowly getting back to normal and routine is kicking in. If you are like our family, many gifts were given and received, especially anything that was device- or game-oriented.

As a parent, educator and advocate for wellness and vitality, I have to say I have never seen more children with devices in their hands than I have this holiday season. Yes, even the babies in the strollers. We all see it. I am not saying that we should completely eliminate these devices, because they truly are a part of our world. What I am asking is that families really put hard limits on the amount of time our kids are using them, no matter what ages they may be. Stay strong, I say!

This is not only happening in our neighborhoods, it is happening globally. The statistics are staggering. According to figures compiled by Internet security company AVG in 2012 and cited by social media strategist Dirk Singer:

  • More small children in our world today can play a computer game than ride a bike. Around 58 percent of kids ages 2-5 can play a basic computer game, but just 43 percent of kids ages 2-3 know how to ride a bike.
  • Globally, 81 percent of children under age 2 have some kind of digital footprint, with images of them posted online. In the U.S., that figure is 92 percent.
  • More than half (51 percent) of 6-9-year-olds use some kind of children’s social network such as Club Penguin or Webkinz, yet 58 percent of parents admit they are not well-informed about their children’s online activities.

We all know how much our kids love their phones, gaming systems, tablets and other devices. But, their increasing sway over their day-to-day lives concerns me. What can we do? I say, take action.

Over the holidays, when I took our kids and their friends to the park, organized sleepovers, took out soccer balls, scooters and skateboards, the kids were thrilled. Yes, it took a bit of planning, but that is a parent’s job! Young children are learning how to self-regulate. They are not fully developed and they need our assistance. So get out your fun card and take your kids outdoors to play, ride bikes or just explore and go walking. They need to touch seashells and pine cones, ride bikes, feel the sand and get dirty! If the weather is rainy, stay indoors and color or build with blocks or LEGOs.

As you look over your list of New Year’s resolutions, I urge you to add “play,” and I mean the old-fashioned kind. It is easy to do and so very important for the wellbeing of our children.

I hope to see you all at the park eating ice cream cones, on the soccer field or at the beach building sand castles.

Lauren Perelmuter is founder/president of Art To Grow On Children’s Art Center Inc. in Palos Verdes. Learn more at www.art2growon.com.

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