Smartphones, tablets, computers are a part of our lives and the lives of our families whether we embrace it or not. The American Academy of Pediatrics, developed guidelines to help parents make decisions about how and when to incorporate screen time into a child’s life. Under the age of 18 months, they do not recommend having screen time other than video chatting with family. Any age over that parents need to engage in a family media plan that will set boundaries on when, where and how media and screens will be consumed.
Although, technology is here to stay, it doesn’t mean we as parents have to give in to it. Our children still need time to play outside in mud puddles, be bored, and read.
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On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, the author Beatrice Alemagna explores the complicated relationship parents, families and children have with screens. On a rainy day a mother and daughter go to a cabin in the woods while the father stays in the city. The mother works and the daughter mindlessly plays a videogame which irritates her mother. Who tells her, “Is this another day where you do nothing.” She takes the game and hides it, but the daughter finds it and goes outside. What she discovers is a world she couldn’t find in her video game.
Alemagna’s book reminds me of my youth spent exploring the woods and creek outside my front door. We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day and at that age I wouldn’t want to. Boredom isn’t lethal, but sometimes as parents we act as it is. My kids are forever asking me to watch T.V. or play on the tablet or have “screen time” because they are bored. We set strict limits that works for our family but even with the limits it doesn’t stop the kids from asking to cure their boredom with so easy to digest media.
The book doesn’t just provide rich discussion about how to combat boredom it also has rich, lyrical vocabulary filled with imagery using metaphors and similes. The book uses a lot of directional/positional language which is great for young preschoolers beginning to understand the concept of over, under, top, bottom and etc. But the book can also be used with older preschoolers/kindergarten aged children with its sophisticated vocabulary.
As you read this book with your child you will notice that the narrative skills are developed strongly throughout the text. It focuses on imagination, discovery of the natural world, parent relationships, and yes screen time. This will help foster a conversation between you and your child and even family about how to handle the balance between t.v., games and quiet times without those screens. After reading the story talk about how you find quiet time in your day without screens. And if that isn’t something you do, maybe as a family you can learn to incorporate media free times together.
Our kids need space to explore the world independently in a safe and unstructured way. They need time that isn’t scheduled with activities. They need time to be bored so they can create, develop and grow. Play is one of the most important times in our child’s day. It is where the most learning takes place. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day will take the story of a boring, rainy, dreary day and encourage our children to go explore a fascinating and ever changing world.
After Reading the Book
Go outside. Even if the weather is terrible. Dress appropriately and go explore.
As you walk with your child, ask her what she notices? How is today different than other days? What is the same? And if it is age appropriate, go to the backyard or a park and allow them some free range time to look around and play on their own.
A good picture book is one that not only makes kids think and learn, but parents as well. There is a lot in this book to make us think about how we spend our time. The work/family balance, our relationship with phones and screens, and how we include time for ourselves to explore, create and dream. Use this book as a starting point for discussion about how your family will handle screens. Each family is different, so do what works best for you. We have decided that screens are limited to weekends, but during the week we will watch movies or a T.V. show together. And during school breaks, the rules are relaxed. But if the kids have screen limits, it is only fair to see how grown ups should too.
Articles on Screen Time
Common Sense Media
What do we do all day
Books on Wonder, imagination and exploration
Do you have a favorite book about play, imagination or boredom? Share in the comments at the end of the post.