Spring is here and that means it's also time for Spring Break! Thank goodness, we are not in the same position as we were in 2020, but we are not entirely out of the woods either. While many schools are slowly transitioning to in-person classes, many students are still learning remotely. This means most students are still spending more time on screens and less time engaging with others in person or going outside. Fortunately, the warmer weather and Spring Break will give everyone a chance to take a breath, step away from screens and recharge!
While this may sound like obvious advice, it is also worth noting that it may be easier said than done. First of all, many families may not be vacationing or traveling during this time because of legitimate safety concerns around Covid. Secondly, many families may have fallen into the routine of using screens as entertainment which may make it feel like it requires more motivation and creativity to make staying at home during Spring Break feel different from the regular daily schedule. In addition, while it is true that a little bit of screen time is ok, many families have relied on it so much during the Pandemic, that it has gotten harder and harder to get some children to go back to wanting to go outside or socialize with friends the way that they used to do before Covid. However, the good news is that it doesn’t take much effort to get children to have fun away from the screen.
The hardest part of stepping away from screen time is making the decision to limit it and then follow through with it. Once you have done that, give your children the opportunity to have some unstructured time for free play. Unstructured play means there are no fixed guidelines or schedules and children are free to determine the games and rules they want to follow. This helps children develop creativity, imagination, social skills, and problem-solving abilities. Free play doesn’t require the adult to do anything except provide a safe place for children to explore. Now that the weather is getting warmer, meet some friends and head outside to a playground, backyard, or any open space where children can climb, run or create their own games using anything that might be available. Don’t worry if you can’t get outside - spaces inside the house can be just as fun for playing. All you need are a few materials to spark the imagination. For example, remember how fun it can be to make a fort out of blankets or create a “house” out of cardboard boxes? You can also use this time to do a little spring cleaning of your children’s old toys. If you and your child do this together, you may be amazed at how easily and how quickly they will rediscover a forgotten plaything as something they want to play with again.
It can be easy for parents to feel that they have to keep their children stimulated with an endless amount of activities, but one of the benefits of unstructured play is that it lets children take the initiative for their own development. However, moving from such a structured routine of remote learning and activities may make it a little challenging at first to go back to unstructured time particularly for older children. Parents can expect to hear, “I’m bored” or “There’s nothing to do!”. Don’t give in to parent guilt and feel the need or responsibility to entertain your child. Boredom helps foster independence, resilience, and creativity and forces your child to figure out what he or she really likes and what interests them.
Spring Break gives all of us a chance to unwind with some unstructured time away from screens so we can benefit from the sense of renewal, growth, and hope that the season and the warmer weather bring. Have a fun, safe and relaxing Spring Break!
Any questions? Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com. Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.