According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 now spend, on average, a whopping 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day, 4.5 of which are spent watching TV. Over a year, that adds up to 114 full days watching a screen for fun. That’s just the time they spend in front of a screen for entertainment. It doesn’t include the time they spend on the computer at school for educational purposes or at home for homework.
It’s no different in our household, but that’s why I started this web blog. Many of the ideas I post are from constantly trying to get my kids to get off their computers and do at least one creative thing a day – answer a creative question, play a creative game, solve a creative problem. It’s been especially important this winter with the Arctic Blast we have been experiencing and all the snow storms and school cancelations, making it even more enticing for them to hunker down and cuddle up with their favorite video game for hours on end. Sometimes I find the easiest way to transition them from being on-line to off-line is to present variations on whatever the current theme is that is holding so much of their attention.
As an ice storm has hit today and school has once again been closed, not surprisingly I found my kids on their computers this morning playing their favorite video game “Minecraft”. To the defense of “Minecraft”, at least I find it to be a creative computer game. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s kind of like virtual Lego Building with added video game components. But even with a game like that, kids need to take an off-line break. So, about mid-morning, in my most authoritative voice, I declared it to be time to unplug. But I was ready with an easy transition. I presented them each with one of my RaiseCreativeKidz “Make Your Own Game” kits, and told them to make their own board games based on the video game I just made them stop playing. Instead of the moaning I usually receive when I tell them to get off their computers, they excitedly took their boxes and went down to the dining room table to work on creating their games.
Though they each based their game theme on “Minecraft”, the individual games they created were unique. My 8-year-old’s Activity Cards included “Pretend to fly in the air like an End Dragon. Move Ahead 2 Spaces”, and an example of one of his board spaces included “A Creeper exploded. Go Back 3 Spaces”. One of my 10-year-old’s Activity Cards read “When zombies attack villages, the iron golems will throw the zombies in the air. Swing your arms up and down like an iron golem. Move Ahead 1 Space.” One of her Board Spaces stated “Stuck in a mine. Lose a Turn.”
When they were done, they had just as much fun playing the games as they did creating them. From start to finish, they spent three hours off-line being creative with this project. There was even a halo effect in that, instead of jumping right back onto their computers when they were done, they moved onto self-initiated active, pretend play. So, once their on-line trance was broken and their creative brains were turned on, they continued to be motivated to find more active, creative outlets. I am sure at some point later this afternoon they will get back on their computers, but the fact that their screen time was cut in half today and replaced by activities that nurtured their creative brains is a big win.
So, whether it’s with a RaiseCreativeKidz “Make Your Own Game” that you can buy here by clicking on the On-Line icon below, or with another one of our Creative Play or Creative Mindflexor ideas that I’ve blogged about, or simply coming up with your own idea, the key to easing your children off-line is to take whatever it is that they are interested in on-line and come up with a “variation on that theme” and apply it to a creative project that they can do more actively off-line. You can cut down on their screen time while nurturing their creative brain – add some physical activity to it and they reap multiple benefits.