It’s Screen-Free Week! Let’s Play Outside!

April 29 – May 5, 2013 is Screen-Free Week, an annual national celebration coordinated by the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a national advocacy organization devoted to reducing the impact of commercialism on children.  Children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days TURNING OFF entertainment SCREEN media (TV, video games, computers, iPads, smartphones) and “TURN ON LIFE.”

Did you know that–

  1. Preschool children spend “an astonishing average of 32 hours a week” in front of screens—and it’s more for older children. CCFC writes, “Excessive screen time is harmful for children—it’s linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, attention problems, and the erosion of creative play (the foundation of learning) constructive problem solving, and creativity.”
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 should watch NO TV and children age 2 and over should watch less that 2 hours per day.  But, on any given day, 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching TV and videos for an average of about 90 minutes.  Twenty-three percent have a  television in their bedroom.
  3. TV watching “rewires” a child’s brain, leading to attentional issues by the age of 7.  The “pace of TV is sped up” leading the young infant to believe that the “quick scene shifts of video images” is normal.  TV watching may over stimulate the child’s brain, “causing permanent changes to developing neural pathways.”  As a child is staring at the TV, these hugely important neural pathways are not being developed.
  4. Developers of children’s apps for phones and tablets restrict screen time for their own children.  More than one of these developers said, “We have a rule of no screen time during the week, unless it’s clearly educational. On the weekends, they can play.  I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”
  5. Some toddlers are becoming so addicted to iPads and smartphones that they require psychological treatment.  “They can’t cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behavior when they are taken away.”  Young technology addicts (some as young as 4 years old) experience the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts and are enrolled in a “digital detox” program that weans children off computer games and mobile phones.

sharron kid watching tv

This information is disconcerting, to say the least, and needs to be taken seriously.  I worry about our children’s social emotional development, ability to interact with others, language development, and their communication skills.  Research shows that children learn one-on-one from people, not from videos and television!

“The skills children will always need to thrive–deep thinking, the ability to differentiate fact from hype, creativity, self-regulation, empathy and self-reflection–aren’t learned in front of any screen. They are learned through face-to-face communication, hands-on exploration of the world, opportunities for silence and time to dream.”~Dr. Susan Linn, Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

sharron kids climbing trees

Screen-Free Week reminds us to go outside and play.  How about committing to 30-60 minutes of active play each day.  Disconnect from all things electronic and do one of the following–

sharron kids running

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

Decorate a Kite, kit for 12 (KIDSKITE)

Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk, 50 pieces (SIDEWALK)

Shapes Walking Rope (WALKROPE)

Kickball Kit (KICKBALL)

Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (SFDISC)

14′ ClassicRider® Trike (REDRDR14)

Excellerations™ Junior Hoop Ball Goal (HOOP3)

Obstacle Course Activity Set (OCSET)

Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)

Trike Traffic Town

May is National Bike Month. A fun way to celebrate with young children is to go outside and set up a Trike Traffic Town course on the blacktop or concrete using cones, traffic signs, chalk road markers, directional arrows and children on trikes, scooters or any favorite wheeled toy. (Don’t forget to provide each child with a properly fitted child-size or toddler-size helmet.) This activity also provides a perfect time to reinforce bike safety and the “rules of the road” on your playground.

Before children attempt pedaling through Traffic Town, teachers should ask them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the side of the course and watch as you direct one child in demonstrating the how-to’s of the course. Verbally describe directions for each part of the course, i.e., “ride around the cones,” etc.

Next, line up the first riders on their trikes, at the start of the course and tell them to follow the leader, while you guide them safely through the course. Emphasize that Traffic Town is not a race and they should not speed through the activities. Stress to the children to keep some space between them. If a traffic jam does occur, tell the children to please wait patiently and not to rush their fellow trike riders.

Materials Needed:
10 Colored cones
6 Cones with Holes,
6 Traffic Signs,
Arrow Spots
2 Nylon Jump Ropes
Bubble Wrap or Textured Packing Material
Sidewalk Chalk

Traffic Town Course

1. Put the GO Traffic Signs, in the hole in top of a cone. Children on trikes begin here. Teachers may want to stagger the starting time of each child.

2. Put ONE WAY Traffic Signs, in hole in top of a cone. Place the 6 Colored Cones about 4-6 feet apart from each other. Using Sidewalk Chalk, make directional arrows around the cones to make a zigzag slalom course. Following the arrows, the trike riders zigzag from the right of one cone to the left of the next, and so on until they complete the 6 cone slalom course.
3. Place 2 ropes horizontally on the ground, parallel to each other and 2-3 feet apart to create a crosswalk. Put the yellow School Crossing Sign in the hole in top of a cone. Set it in front and to one side of the ropes. The trike riders continue traveling but must stop and wait for “pedestrians to cross” (other children or parents/teachers.) If no one is in the crosswalk, riders can proceed forward over the ropes.

4. Place several long strips of bubble wrap on ground. Put the yellow SLOW Sign in the hole in the top of a cone. Set it in front and to one side of the bubble wrap. Tell children that there is “Roadwork in progress. It’s a bumpy road,” as they drive their vehicles over the bubble wrap.

5. Set up 4 colored cones side by side horizontally in the middle of the traffic town. Put the DO NOT ENTER Sign in the hole in top of a cone, and place it in front of the 4 cones. (Tell the children that “The road is blocked! It looks like there was a rock slide!”) Place the Arrow Spots on the ground in front and to the side of the cones, indicating the direction the drivers must turn to maneuver their trikes around the blocked roadway.

6. Put the STOP Sign in the hole in top of a cone. Here. “We’ve come to the end of Traffic Town. Let’s do it again!” Using the remainder of the Arrow Spots, direct trike riders back to the beginning of the course.

Children will want to repeat traveling this popular roadway over and over again. Be alert to children traveling too fast and not being able to manage the curves safely. Children at this young age are figuring out what their muscles can and cannot do.

This activity promotes…

  • Gross motor development (using the large muscles of the legs and arms)
  • Visual discrimination (ability to recognize the traffic signs and arrows to follow directions)
  • Bilateral coordination (using legs to pedal the trike and arms to steer the trike)
  • Spatial awareness (children moving in the space with other children on trikes)
  • Traffic Town also fosters cooperative play and turn taking as well as dramatic play while preschoolers pretend to be “drivers” and following the road.