SIX ANTIDOTES TO SCREEN TIME & IDEAS FOR INCREASING FUN & MOVEMENT
Michele Dausman, Occupational Therapist at Oakwood
I would not be saying anything new to remark that these are unusual and challenging times. In my own family, we have worked to be mindful in establishing new routines, to try new and creative cooking options, to stay safe, and even to make sure that we still like each other from day to day--there are a lot of “together” minutes! In addition to all of that, we are working from home, and teaching from home, and learning from home. Though valuable, this amounts to a great deal of sitting/screen time.
So, in this unique moment, I offer some quick, low-tech options for movement activities. We all know that our brains work more efficiently, and we function better with movement—it energizes us, gives relief from visually-close screen time, and also calms us physically and mentally. While some of these ideas offer a connection with your child(ren) in paired or group activities, some are easily done individually by a child, which gives you, the parent, a little breather.
Activities to do together
- Paddle game activities: you can play a “formal” game of badminton, volleyball, etc., or you can be creative and make up a game of your own—this is especially effective in adapting a game for younger players. Any kind of paddles will work: beach paddles, longer badminton rackets, ping pong paddles, or your hands. Of course, these activities can be played with a typical ball or birdie, but using a balloon or beach ball will slow the action down for younger kids, and will provide a longer time to visually track and respond successfully.
- Taking a walk in the neighborhood together is good for getting some sunshine and fresh air. Make it interesting and interactive by making a list of items that you think you might see along the way—you could even turn it into a “Walking Bingo” game and mark off items as you notice them.
- For 10-15 minutes, try cloud gazing—this is a super antidote to the close vision needed for screen work. Talk with your child about what you each see in the clouds (great for visualizing and creativity) and see how it morphs into a new “something” as the breeze changes the formations.
Activities to do alone
- A large-size or mini-trampoline is a great way to expend some energy after a session of sitting—this can be done to music or a favorite video geared towards movement—a popular one with which most Oakwood students are familiar is GoNoodle (https://www.gonoodle.com)
- Mini-trampolines can also be stood up on the side vertically with a small tilt to provide a “pitch- back” for a ball. The child stands at a distance of 5-7 feet, tosses a ball at the vertical trampoline, and it rebounds towards them for a catch. The larger the ball, the easier it will be to catch. While there is a little bit of a learning curve in gauging how hard to throw and where to stand to catch, it is satisfying for kids to practice and “get it” over time. There is some great muscle memory and motor planning work in this activity.
- Suspend a Wiffle ball from a doorway, swing set, or another outside area on a sturdy string. The child uses a paddle for 1-handed hits, or a dowel or rolling pin for 2-handed hits to track the ball and hit as it comes towards them.
The take-aways here are simple: (1) these should feel like fun; (2) competition should be low or non- existent; (3) you are building memories!
Balancing our on-screen time with strategies that help us to stay strong, focused, and energized will be beneficial to all of us in the long run. In times that are challenging (and we all know that’s where we’re at), if we can come out on the other side with some positive memories of the time we spent together, perhaps it won’t be quite so bad when looking back.
Stay safe, and well, Oakwood families. Michele Dausman, OT at Oakwood School