Whether at home or at work, many of us spend a portion of our day behind a screen. For some, we spend more than 9 hours a day looking at our computers, phones or TVs. With screens of every kind becoming more prevalent in our lives, one has to wonder — what effect does this have on us and our children?

This is a question we, and many others, have pondered. The American Academy of Pediatrics noted the adverse effects of excess screen use can lead to obesity, poor performance at school, as well as behavioral and sleep problems.

As educators and environmental stewards, we continually create programs to enrich the lives of adults and children alike. Our annual Outdoor Summer Adventure Camp is based around the concept of spending more time with nature and less time with screens. It’s been a focus of ours to creatively demonstrate how children can have fun exploring the outdoors, while improving their physical and mental well-being.

Regardless of age, unplugging and getting outdoors is restorative. Stress levels are be reduced, endorphins are released and studies show children play more creatively, fall asleep faster and eat healthier when they’ve unplugged.

Celebrated annually, Screen-Free Week (April 30-May 6) is an initiative to get families to enjoy more time away from electronics and connecting with each other and nature.

5 ideas to unplug with the family

Play outside: Take a trip to your local park or reservation and take a walk. At home, play hide-and-seek or ball with the kids or the dog in the backyard! Take to the sky with bird-watching during the day to identify what birds are in your backyard, or stargaze during the evening to learn more about star formations and constellations.

Create a piece of art: For adults and children alike, allow your imagination to take over. Paint with watercolors or create a stepping stone for the garden. Draw family photos or create keepsake jewelry with your children.

Read or write: Getting back to the basics, this is something you can do without a screen alone or with the kids. Take a day “field trip” to the library to select a book and dedicate reading time each evening. Write a letter to an old friend or relative, or have the kids write a poem.

Try a new food: Take a moment to learn about a different culture. Perhaps you could learn this from one of the books you’ll read! Prepare a dinner with new flavors from that culture for the family to enjoy.

Clean up: It’s that time of the year — spring cleaning! Teach the kids about reusing and recycling by cleaning out the garage or basement. Teach them what items can be recycled instead of thrown away, and which items could be reused by someone in need through donation.

How will you unplug this week? Find more resources on the benefits of unplugging and how to create a family media plan here.


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