We’re honored to have our friend Meredith Sinclair here to share her insight into the importance of play and her ideas for how to balance playtime with plugged-in time.
You need five minutes of peace and quiet, so you hand an iPad to your kid and let them level you up on Candy Crush. Your middle schooler spends hours on the computer for homework, and hours playing video games after that. After a long, crazy, stressed day you and your spouse sit side by side on the couch, both staring at your phones as the Real Housewives of Somewhere flip tables. Sound familiar?
No shame, and no judgement here, because I know we’ve all been there. The Genius of Play asked parents to sound off on this issue in a recent video, and it’s clear that there’s no one ‘right’ way to manage screen time for our kids.
What is clear is that it’s so easy in today’s world to allow screen time to take over our lives, but as The Genius of Play Ambassador and passionate advocate for infusing more play into our lives, I’m here to tell you that it can be just as easy to balance your family’s plugged-in screen time with good, old fashioned unplugged playtime. If I can do it, anyone can!
Any Time is Play Time
Studies show that not only does ample play time for kids correlate to social success as adults, but play time actually helps in childhood brain development. Still, with four hectic schedules to juggle, it’s difficult to set aside time to ‘just play’ with my family.
So in the Sinclair household, we live by the motto that “Any Time is Play Time!” Have five minutes? Play a quick round of I Spy in the backyard. Cooking dinner? Grab your ladle microphone and turn this chore into a dance party/singing competition – loser does the dishes. Keep an open mind, and everyday moments can become fun-filled opportunities!
Everyone Can Play
You heard me – everyone can play. Babies, moms, dads, grandparents, even teens (I know, it’s hard to believe) can join in the fun. While it can be a little challenging to find games or activities that appeal to the whole family, it’s not impossible! Play a classic board game, and adjust the rules a bit for the littlest ones.
Entice older kids by allowing them to choose the activity, or be the team leader. Watch out for Grandma, she cheats.
Prioritize Unplugged Play
Play is important. Say it with me. PLAY IS IMPORTANT. Technology and screens are great tools for education, communication, and entertainment, but remember that free-form, creative play is just as important and necessary for our families.
One of the ways that my family prioritizes play is by setting limits on screen time. Aside from school or work, we try to limit our screen time to 2 hours a day. The rest of our free time is dedicated to connecting and playing together as a family. It’s not a perfect science, and some days are easier than others, but believe me – the time we spend playing together is the time that I cherish the most.
The simple fact is that our kids are growing up in a digital world, and will rely on technology for education, communication, and connection their whole lives. Responsible screen time is a necessity. But we should balance that with a healthy dose of unplugged, creative playtime – for our kids and for OURSELVES, too.
How does your family balance play with screen time? Join the conversation on social media and in the comments below by tagging #GeniusOfPlay!
Written by Meredith Sinclair
Meredith is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s in education who turned her expertise to improving people’s lives by spreading the gospel of play, and author of the book “Well Played,” published by Harper Collins in June 2016.
She is also The Genius of Play ambassador and supporter of Play Talk, encouraging parents to share their opinions and experiences on timely family issues. She lives with her husband Jon and her two sons, Maxwell and Truman, in Los Angeles.
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