Saturday, 16 March 2013
Ive never really been the type of parent who implements structure.
As babies they ate when hungry and as much as they needed and slept when tired for as long as they required. I had no timetable, nothing was measured and even though my husband and I both worked when my eldest was a baby we still found this the easiest way to handle things. Both my babies were very happy and contented with no health problems.
In our house my kids have unrestricted access to a TV, DVD player and over 100 kids movies ,a computer, a tablet ,internet, personal music player and Nintendo DS.
My little one is attending pre school but R is at home most days therefore allowing plenty of potential screen time each day.
I've been casually observing and noting how much time they spend in each activity, paying particular attention to the days when they are both at home all day. I have discovered that with unrestricted access they choose to spend their time as follows.
For every one hour of screen time they spend one hour studying/reading or being creative and two hours playing outside. In other words given complete freedom they choose to spend most of their free time outdoors in the garden or engaged in a creative activity.
Now of course things can vary. If they get a new game or new movie that they particularly enjoy then they may spend more time than average in those screen time activities, just as if they get a new book or toy they spend a few days / weeks with the new interest, but it always levels back out again once the novelty wears off ,if they are given unrestricted access.
Its always been my philosophy that if kids are given the chance to regulate themselves, they always balance out naturally. This applies to every sphere of life i.e eating, sleeping, studying etc.
The problem is that most peoples lives don't facilitate this theory as kids and parents spend most of their time out of the home at school and work and meeting the demands of other peoples timetables.
If a child is spending 6 hours a day in school they may try to redress the balance with some down time in front of the TV when they get home or by playing computer games. The best a parent can do in this situation is provide a decent choice of alternatives.
The other problem is that we are so used to being told how to do things that we begin to think that we need to be told how. We then believe that if we don't tell our kids how often and how long they can play computer games for, then they wont know.
In many ways its the act of making it a conscious desicion that is the cause of the problem. As soon as we focus on the issue of telly time it becomes a problem. If we expand our interests and don't mention it, its not important and doesn't become a problem.
Its a bit like dieting. As soon as you start focusing on your eating being the problem it becomes even more of a problem. Whereas if you just lead a healthy lifestyle and don't focus on the eating, your weight doesn't becomes an issue so you don't need to think about dieting.
Anyway whatever our view or experience I think we can all agree that spending time outdoors is beneficial to our kids as is reading and being creative.
Here are some facts:-
Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. (Juster et al 2004); (Burdette & Whitaker 2005); (Kuo & Sullivan 2001)
In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008)