We live in a time when technology has transformed everything from communication to transportation and entertainment. Almost everything you need can be accessed with the tap of a screen.
While technology is convenient and enjoyable, it presents a dilemma for parents. Kids today are hooked to their electronics, often preferring to browse through social media and play video games over anything else. These things are fine in moderation, but kids should also be exploring and playing outside of the screen.
As a parent, how can you get your little couch potatoes moving when electronics have such a strong pull? It takes time, but these five tips will help your kids embrace all the wonderful things life has to offer.
The main reason kids are less active today is due to the prevalence of electronic devices. Television, video game consoles, smartphones, and tablets command most of their attention every day. It is difficult for parents to peel their children off of these devices without encountering a lot of resistance.
A potential solution for getting kids to put down their devices is gamification. This is a method that many businesses implement to make work more fun for employees. Regular tasks feel more rewarding and enjoyable if you’re able to spin them into little games.
Think of some ways you can gamify daily activities for your children. This may include a weekly task list that grants them rewards upon completion. You might purchase a kids smartwatch that tracks steps to promote exercise in a more engaging way. You could even join them for a friendly competition to see who can complete their tasks first.
How you present the idea of daily movement is extremely important. If unplugging electronics is always seen as a punishment, you’ll receive a lot more pushback from your children. Instead, try to encourage a positive attitude when it comes to physical activity.
Start with your tone. If you’re excited about going to the local park, your kids are more likely to join in your enthusiasm. If you take away their video games and force them out the door in frustration, they won’t be so positive. Kids feed off of their parents’ energy, especially if you remain consistent over time with the same activities.
After completing an activity, make sure to be just as jazzed as you were when pushing to do it. Ask your kids what they enjoyed about their time away from their devices. Validate and reinforce the positive feelings they had in an effort to encourage more time off-screen.
Telling your kids to power off their devices and go play something else is easier said than done. If the motivation isn’t there, running around outside or playing with toys won’t be so appealing every day. A better way to fill some of that time is to enroll your kids in extracurricular activities.
Sports are an obvious way to get your kids active and exercising. Organized sports also teach your kids valuable lessons in teamwork, sportsmanship, diligence, and more. These groups are also great places to make new friends to play with even after the season has ended.
Extracurricular activities don’t necessarily have to be sports-related. Art classes, chess clubs, and even theater are groups your kids can join to pursue something outside of video games. They may even find a skill or hobby they enjoy and wish to continue thanks to one of these groups.
If you haven’t already, try to establish scheduled screen time for your kids. However, for this to be successful, you must remain firm about the schedules you create. When screen time isn’t on the agenda, your kids will know they need to be doing something else.
An explicit schedule assists you in two ways. First, it helps to fill up your kids’ day with activities and tasks before electronics are allowed. Secondly, if you have a planned stop time, it prevents screen time from going too long.
That said, don’t be afraid to deviate from the schedule when you have the opportunity. If your kids are happily playing, reading, or crafting, there’s no need to remind them that their screen time has started. But play fair — if screen time starts 20 minutes later than normal, allow them the full amount (unless it interferes with dinner or bedtime).
With every tip listed above, the common denominator is to be involved every step of the way. Set an example by not bringing your cell phone to the dinner table. Play with your kids at the park when you take them there. Find ways to be a part of the activities they participate in.
By being involved, you will provide the support your kids need to leave the couch more often. You’ll be able to answer questions they have about why it’s important to “unplug” sometimes. In addition, participating in activities with your children can make them much more fun and memorable for everyone.
Getting your kids off the couch may prove difficult in the beginning. However, if you stick to your plan and keep encouraging them to be more active, it’ll become easier going forward. In the end, your children will be grateful for the effort you made to promote their overall well-being.