School holidays are here again, which means that children will have a lot of time on their hands. Instead of filling their time with TV shows, streaming, games, phones and the like, it might be a good idea to try to get them out of the house for a bit.
Children are spending an excessive amount of time on screens – so says the 2018 Healthy Active Kids South Africa (Haksa) report. The report notes that children in South Africa spend more than three hours a day on a screen – and this doesn’t include schoolwork. This was pre-pandemic and we’re well aware that children (and adults) added more screen time to their days when they were confined to their homes as a result of lockdowns and restrictions.
For many parents, screen time for children offers a break, some relief and a distraction as adults try to juggle work, life and other responsibilities. But we are all aware of the dangers of more screen time for children and the unhealthy habits that this might set for them in life.
During school holidays children of all ages will have more time on their hands to be attached to phones, tablets, computers and televisions. Make an effort to decrease the amount of time your child spends staring at screens and instead get them out and about.
Here are fun and creative ways to get your children off screens and outside these school holidays.
1. Plan nature walks and hikes
Depending on how old your child is and what their fitness level is, you can plan for mild to moderate walks and hikes. If you are in an area that is close to a nature reserve, a mountain or some parks, you could head out as a family to do a walk. If you are not close to any such place, a walk around the block will even do wonders for all of you and will give your child some fresh air and a break from screens.
2. Go on a bush break
If you have the means to, plan a holiday in the bush for the family. There’s no better way to keep kids off their devices than to physically take them away from them or into an area that encourages disconnecting.
3. Enjoy your own backyard
If you have outdoor space in the form of a backyard, you can make the most of these school holidays. Get the children to make bird feeders and to top these up when they get low. This not only gets children outside, but also excited about doing their part for nature. You could give your child vegetables and plants to start an outdoor garden and teach them how to tend to it over the holidays.
4. Sign them up to volunteer at an animal shelter
This one is more for the older children who probably need the screen break more than their younger siblings, if we’re honest. Animal shelters are always in need of volunteers to do some cleaning, walk the animals, help with playtime and more. You could sign your child up to volunteer at one of these organisations – especially if they are animal lovers themselves. Various reports also suggest that, when children are exposed to pets and animals, it can help with confidence and self-esteem. It also teaches responsibility and can assist in teaching empathy.
5. Set up outdoor play dates with other parents
The great thing about school holidays and being a parent is knowing that there are hundreds and thousands of other parents going through the same thing as you. Most parents out there are wondering what on earth to do with their children these school holidays. So, why not set up outdoor playdates and activities together? Each day could be a different parent’s responsibility to come up with something fun. And it doesn’t have to be the whole day, either. It could be an hour-long treasure hunt in someone’s backyard, a picnic in the local park, a walk along the beach with other parents and children, or even a creative and messy play day where children get to do arts and crafts and are encouraged to get messy.