Time to Play: Balancing Electronic Fun with “Old-Fashioned” Play

When I was 11 years-old, my parents could not keep me inside the house. Hot, cold, rain, or shine, as soon as homework was done, I would run outside and meet my neighborhood friends. I don’t remember exactly what we would do, but it did not matter. We wanted to play. We wanted fresh air, our bicycles, and each other. Today, it seems almost impossible to get my 11 year-old son outside or playing with anything that is not electronic.

I think it’s because playing outside or with anything that is not electronic seems so “old fashioned” to kids these days. Our new age kids are addicted to their electronics. Whether the game is on a tablet, handheld, or hooked up to a television, my oldest son is connected to it and wired in. It’s really starting to drive me bananas. Too much gaming is not good for children. Children need to be active, and need to use their imaginations; playing outside and enjoying the fresh air and socializing face to face with other kids is a must. Seems so simple, right?

Well, not so easy these days. Not when you have a tween that prefers to socialize and play via social on-line gaming websites. The only way my tween seems to want to hangout these days is by communicating with his other friends in imaginary worlds and via a chat screen.

So I did the mean mom thing, and I placed limits on just how much time my son can spend on a computer, handheld, or other electronic mobile device. After doing a little research, I read that two hours per day is the recommended cap for kids to play with electronics. The rest of the time should be devoted  to active play or imaginative play. Hopefully both. When I broke the new rules to him he nearly had a fit. I kept the conversation short and told him he now has more things he can do with his time. He can draw, build, create, do jumping jacks around the living room if he so chooses. Just get moving, and playing.

It’s been two months since I instituted this new rule. I wish I could say that he resisted only at first. Nope. He still complains when I tell him his two hours is up. But I’m okay with it. When he is outside tossing a football, chasing his friends, or riding his bike, I see he is having good old-fashioned fun. The fun continues indoors too. We bought some new board games and I started setting them out on rainy days or if it was too hot to be outside. We have Checkers, Scrabble, Chess, and other games. Turns out, board games are not so boring either. My son and our neighbor had a few checkers tournaments this summer and they had fun. I noticed eye contact, laughing, and conversations. You can’t do that communicating with avatars on a screen.

Turns out that good old-fashioned play time is still a hit among kids–imagine that?!

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