This post is inspired by a post I read over at Raven’s Writing Desk about turning chores into games, a post I read at DadCamp about malls replacing play areas with walls of Ipads, and a post at DadRites about kids and video games. In my brain it all starts as discussion about boredom.
I think about boredom and how to manage boredom a lot. Sometimes I defeat boredom but thinking about boredom. Mostly I wonder how I’ll manage Robin’s boredom in this day and age of instant gratification and screens.
My kiddo is only 15 months, so the concept of boredom hasn’t yet kicked in, other than the restlessness at being in a parked stroller for more than a few minutes, or that third hour in the car seat on the way to grandma’s house. But it is an issue I think about all the time. My fear is that I have zero basis to build an understanding of boredom in the age of screens. Computers used to be huge clunky things that you couldn’t lug around. Video games at the dinner table were kinda of an absurd thought. Sure I was often took to get off the computer and come to dinner, but they were separate events and needed occupied their distinct spaces. But now we go to dinner with my sister and her almost 3 year old, and he’d rather watch Jungle Book videos than interact with the rest of the table. If you take the screen away he fusses until you have two options: give in or go home. This is not a critique of my sister’s parenting style. She kept him away from screens until he was almost two. She used to angle for the table at the restaurant with no visual access to screens. But screens found a way in anyway. Some days you just want a quiet meal with out a fight. I totally get and support that.
- Be up front about the dangers of too much screen time with your kids. I happen to think kids are pretty smart. They can smell BS, but they can also sense truth. Tell them that too much screen time leads to lower academic achievement, lower social IQ and less tolerance for delayed gratification.
- Make certain times of the day and certain days of the week screen-less time. For everybody. We’re toying with the idea of no screens once dinner starts until bedtime. There are loads of studies that show that this could be a good thing from helping kids (and adults) sleep better to improved family relations. I’m just not sure how this will apply to the adult time after the kids are in bed, since its the only time we have to watch TV, or play Destiny.
- Get lots of analog toys, without “prebuilt” sets (modern Lego, I’m looking at you), and put them in a room where the kids can play with almost complete freedom. Creative play leads to creative adults. Let them take their things apart. Just consider it part of the cost of doing business.
- Let kids play. DadnCharge said this better than I ever could on his blog about banishing the play date.
- Let kids be bored. Boredom isn’t the worst thing. The brain hates being unused. This is why the writing exercise where you just start writing “I don’t know what to write.” over and over usually leads into a story idea. The brain wants to be engaged.
My parents thought being bored was the key to unlocking the imagination. And I think they were right. I don’t remember being bored as a kid, but I do remember the incredible adventures I’d have as Ghost of the Galaxy (or if I was powered up Ghost of the Universe), in the backyard, or running about the neighborhood. We had plenty of toys, most of which I completely disassembled within a week, never to be reassembled, or reconfigured into other toy monstrosities. This served me well. In school I was always able to find the fun take on assignments. And I learned those skills by turning boredom into something else, like an alchemist turns lead into gold. Sometimes my teachers would get annoyed, like Mrs. Whinery when I wrote a compare/contrast essay on different colors of blue. But it worked for me.
|Julie Andrew’s as Mary Poppins in Disney’s “Mary Poppins”.|
As Mary Poppins sings, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” My fear is that screens will turn that sugar into heroin and this generation will just skip the medicine entirely and never get out of rehab.