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)

Summer Mini-Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games will take place from July 27 to August 12, 2012 in London, England. But just don’t let the kids sit and watch, why not hold your own Mini-Olympics? Involve them in all the fun physical activity by staging a kid-friendly version on the playground or in your own backyard.

Opening Ceremonies
Provide materials for each child to make their own Olympic Flag (FLAGS). Kick-off your Mini-Olympics Day with a parade as the children march around holding their flags. Play music, such as the Olympic theme or “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Events
In setting up a developmentally appropriate Mini-Olympic Day for young children remember to provide opportunities for every child to voluntarily choose from a variety of Olympic-style events. Set up stations where children can move from one event to another at their own pace and rate. Remind the children that finishing first is not as important as having a good time. The emphasis is more on fun than on skill.

Before starting any of the events, lead the children from station to station and explain and/or demonstrate the “how-to’s” or challenges of the event at each station. To get started, divide the class or group into equal numbers according to the number of stations set up. This eliminates children standing in a long line and waiting for their turn. For example, if you have 6 stations and 24 children, you would put 4 kids are each station. With a blow of a whistle (WHIS), children begin the physical challenge of the event. When they have completed that event they move on the next one and so forth until they have completed all the stations. And, of course, they can go through them again and again!

Let The Games Begin
Target Toss (Archery): Draw a large circle on the asphalt using sidewalk chalk (SIDEWALK). Make smaller circles or place shape spots (SHSPOT) inside the large circle as targets. The players take turns tossing beanbags from a specified throwing line until they hit a target. 

Running Races (Track and Field): Set up start and finish lines about 15-30 feet apart. Challenge the racers to run, walk backwards, gallop, crab walk or creep on hands and knees to get from the start line to the finish line.

Throwing for Distance (Shot Put): Use a small sensory ball (SENBALL) or a tightly wrapped ball of aluminum foil for your makeshift shot put. Show the kids how to hold the ball near the ear and launch it forward by extending the arm. They cannot move their feet. How far can they throw the ball? 

Jumping (Equestrian Jumping): Set up two cones fifteen feet apart. Have kids “saddle up” a ball hopper (horse), hold the handle and jump to the opposite cone and back again.

Disc Toss (Discus Throw): Using a Frisbee or flying disc (FLYD), child will throw the disc (throw away from the waist with a flick of the wrist) as far as he/she can. How far did it “fly?”

Kicking (Soccer): Set up a soccer goal (GOAL) a least fifteen feet from a specified kicking line. Players stand behind the line and kick a soccer ball (SOC) into the goal.

Gymnastics (Olympic Gymnastics): Put out a tumbling mat (TMAT) and encourage children to freestyle dance with a streamer ribbon, do a trick with a hoop, and perform simple acrobatics (tumble, twirl, spin, etc.)

Canoe Race (Canoeing and Kayaking): Set up five cones for children to weave through as they ride (sitting, kneeling or prone position) their scooter board or roller board kayak or canoe.

Closing Ceremonies
It doesn’t matter if there are no medals distributed for this Summer Mini-Olympics. What’s really important is how much fun everyone had as they played together and cheered each other on. Remember, the Olympics are a celebration of friendship, unity and peace!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Canvas Flags (FLAGS)
Whistle (WHIS)
Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk (SIDEWALK)
Target Toss Game (TTBB)
Shape Spots (SHSPOT)
Colored Beanbags (CBB)
Whopper Hopper (WHOPHOP) and Mini Hopper (HOP)
Sensory Balls (SENBALL)
Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)
Soccer Ball (SOC)
Soccer Goal (GOAL)
Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (FDISC)
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Angeles® Tumbling Mat (TMAT)
Roller Board (ROLLIT)
Colored Cones (SETC)
Start to Finish (STRTFIN)

Tumbling and Wrestling and Roughhousing, Oh My!

Preschoolers Sally and A.J. are ready to engage in some tumble play, also sometimes known as roughhousing or wrestling. The tumbling mat is out and they are in the starting position, on their hands and knees facing each other. Shoes are off and other items are removed — glasses, name tags, belts, jewelry or other impinging articles. We have gone over the rules for this kind of contact play:

1. No hitting
2. No kicking
3. No biting
4. No pinching
5. No choking
6. No hair pulling
7. Respect one’s face, eyes and other sensitive parts of the body

At the signal, ringing of the triangle or bell, the action begins as Sally and A.J. tumble and wrestle each other. When one of the pair is off the mat, the action ceases. It’s now time for another pair of children to take their places on the mat, facing each other on their hands and knees.

“Roughhousing,” as we called it, was always a positive part of my preschool curriculum. On those days when we were pent up inside due to inclement weather or when there was a buzz of high energy in the room, I would take out the tumbling mat, place it in the middle of the circle time rug or carpet, and announce that it was time for roughhousing.

Children who wanted to participate would sit around the edge of the mat and talk with their friends who had joined them about who was going to wrestle with whom (participation was voluntary and children could pick their own partners). An adult was always present. We would go over the rules and demonstrate the difference between a hit or punch, with a closed fist, and a soft push with an open palm or soft shove with a shoulder. There is a world of difference and it is necessary to illustrate it.
Usually, I would ask one of the children or one of my colleagues to demonstrate with me so that I could visually show the group what is acceptable and what is not appropriate behavior.
The children would pick a partner, usually someone who matched their own weight and height, and those two would take their place on each half of the mat. I always had the children start on the ground at the same level.
If you feel an activity like this might be appropriate for the children in your care or classroom, it’s important to note that play that involves tumbling and roughhousing is meant to be active and fun for both participants, not a time to knock each other down or intentionally hurt each other. There are differences between aggression (hostile, injurious or destructive behavior) and roughhousing (rowdy, uproarious play or behavior). When aggressive, children frown and fixate on hurting the other child. In rough and tumble play, children willingly participate while smiling and laughing. At the ring of the bell they begin and at the next ring they end (when one of the children is off the mat). The entire “match” lasts between 30 – 90 seconds. The children return to their places around the edge of the mat, ready to wrestle with another friend. After 15-20 minutes, we would be done and the mat was put away.
Children who learn the difference between play wrestling/tumbling and aggressive fighting also develop important social skills. It can, over time, improve a child’s ability to solve problems that arise in social situations — the give-and-take mimics successful social conversations and interactions. Physically, children are benefiting from the intense physical exertion of rough and tumble play which supports cardiovascular health. Tumbling and wrestling can also help develop gross motor coordination, spatial orientation, directionality, laterality, body image, visual motor control, body awareness and eye hand coordination. After active play such as wrestling/tumbling, children are much more able to sit still and concentrate because they’ve been able to participate in some physical activity.

Many boys and girls enjoy the experience of the big-body play that tumbling/wrestling offers. The preschool period is a critical period for children to develop both physically and emotionally. Tumbling and wrestling for preschoolers can indeed be developmentally appropriate and if you feel it can be appropriate for your youngsters, I encourage you to give it a try!

Ready, Set… RUN!

It’s official: This week marked the beginning of summer! Summertime means more time for outside play, and when children go outside they naturally want to move—and not just move, but run and run! Running is a fundamental motor skill that helps children move from one place to another. Once children learn how to crawl, creep and walk, running naturally follows in the developmental order of learning locomotor skills. And when children discover that they can run, they usually can’t get enough of it.

Running’s benefits include the promotion of gross motor skills, vigorous physical activity, and the development of the components of health-related physical fitness–muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. Here are some activities that will get you off to a running start in helping children in your classroom or home to master movement:

Run Like the Wind
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish Lines 15’-24’ apart. Have children run from one line or boundary to another holding a crepe paper streamer, scarf or Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band. They will automatically return to the start line and ask to do it again and again!

Flying Paper Plates & Newspapers
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Have children place a paper plates or sheet of newsprint (9” x 12”) or newspaper (11” x 12”) on their chest and start running. As they run faster and faster they will discover that the newspaper or plate will stick to their chest… a lesson in science, too! Another option is to put a paper plates on the palm of each hand and start running to see what happens.

Run & Roll
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Place a tumbling mat or playmat a few feet in front of the finish line. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” runs to the mat and falls, rolls or tumbles to a stop. Without even directing children to the start of the running course, they will be in line just panting and waiting for another turn to “Run and Roll.”

Non-Competitive Red Rover, Red Rover
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Two people at the finish line hold a sheet of newspaper (~ 22” x 24”) with two hands on each corner. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” (with the palms of his hands touching and pointing forward) runs and bursts through the newspaper!

Tails
Set up boundaries using ropes or cones in the available space. Each child tucks a scarf or Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band ribbon into their waistband behind their back. The scarf or ribbon is now their “tail.” The game starts when the music starts and the children run in the available space. The game is played like tag, but instead of tagging each other, children pull the scarves or ribbons out of others’ waistbands and drop them on the ground. The child whose scarf or ribbon is pulled, picks up his scarf (tail), goes to “the tail repair area” (a designated spot, such as a classroom door, tree, etc.) to replace the scarf in their waistband. Once the scarf is secure in their waistband, the child returns to the game and resumes pulling “tails.” The game ends when the music stops. This group game promotes cooperative play, vigorous physical activity and offers lots of laughter!