Most American children spend an average of three hours a day watching TV and a total of five to seven hours of “screen time,” when all media is considered, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Less screen time, more play time
NIH guidelines call for much less time. Children older than age 2 should only get about one to two hours of screen time and it’s recommended that children younger than 2 get none at all. Excessive screen time has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems and behavior issues.
Dr. Julia Kyle, an internal medicine/pediatrics physician at Marshfield Clinic Eau Claire Center, agrees with kids cutting down on screen time.
Kids grow up far too quickly,” she said. “Parents and kids turning off the TV, shutting down the computer and putting down the cell phone to share some of these activities will create memories that will last long past any show, text or video game.”
On a cold winter’s day, Kyle would still have parents consider bundling up the kids and taking them outside for a short time. But when the kids are stuck inside because of inclement weather, try an activity to entertain them without electronics.
Here are some fun indoor activities
- Pack a picnic. By having children help plan, make and pack a picnic lunch, it gives them an out-of-the-routine experience. It also teaches them cooking and nutrition basics.
- Make a fort. Forts can be made with items you have in the house that can be draped, tucked or balanced to create walls and roofs for the perfect private spot.
- Fun with tape. New choices in fun and colorful industrial tape means crafty fun. Use a less sticky version, like painter’s or masking tape, on carpet for an instant hopscotch path or race track for toy cars.
- Dance party. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends children get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day with most of that being aerobic exercise. If you have a radio and a rug, you can throw an instant dance party. Dancing uses the whole body, provides a cardiovascular workout and improves flexibility, coordination and strength. Plus, dancing can be a great form of creative expression.
- Yahtzee! Puzzles and board games may not pack the activity punch of a dance party but they do help children build analytical, organizational and creative skills. The Wisconsin family favorite, cribbage, can help build math skills. Or pick a more physical game like Twister, Charades or “Simon says…” to get the kids moving.
- Scavenger hunt. Online resources can provide pre-written lists and tips for parents. And along the way, kids may even find that one item that’s gone mysteriously missing.
- Curl up with a good book. Reading is important for child development. Even a child not old enough to read themselves benefits from an adult reading aloud. For school-age children, if there is no book in the house that appeals to them, grab paper and have them write and illustrate their own book.
These are just a few suggestions and proof there’s lots to do that doesn’t involve an electronic screen.