Technology is wonderful, right? No more paper maps (that never fold back the way they are supposed to), no more clipping coupons, no more waiting for ... well, anything really. With the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips, just one tap, swipe, or voice activation away.
And yet, technology pulls us away from the world. We see everything through a screen and are bombarded by information, most of which we never actually wanted. Rather than watch an event we pay hundreds of dollars to attend (like a concert), we watch it through our phones. We see birthdays, first steps, and even our food through the lens of a phone.
This new world is our children's world. And frankly, I think it's a terrifying one.
Not that I'm against technology. I love streaming movies just as much as the next person, but as we connect with the rest of the world, we disconnect from the world itself. You know ... trees, grass, dirt, nature? Sound familiar? Most of us have memories of playing outside as children, letting our imaginations run wild as we create pirate ships out of fallen logs, slay dragons with our mighty broadsword branches, and do all the things kids are supposed to do.
Now, instead of playing pretend, many children are checking their social media accounts, watching YouTube videos, and are growing up far faster than ever before.
Is that a good thing? Time will tell, but many are saying no. No it is not.
So how do we fix it? How do we disconnect from the world of technology and reconnect with the world around us? Stillwater Outdoors has a few suggestions to help you and your family get started.
1. Lead by Example
This one can be hard, but it is by far one of the best ways to get kids excited about the world around them. Schedule some technology-free time for yourself and do something that interests you - ride your bike, visit a park, read a book, take a walk. If your kids see you doing it, they'll be more likely to do it as well (or at least may groan a little less when you make them do it since you're following the same rules).
2. Plan Themed Activities
Pick something that interests your kids and then for that week/month, plan activities around that interest. If your kids like water plan a visit to the local pool, a trip to the aquarium, a craft activity creating fish out of various materials. Letting your kids pick the topics or activities gets them involved. Utilizing the same theme for a longer period of time allows for a more in-depth look at the topic and more time for fun activities.
3. Community Service - As a Family
This one is perhaps one of the most important ways to reconnect. It helps to teach kids compassion, empathy, and kindness (and parents as well). Although there is nothing wrong with donating to a local shelter or food bank, it can be beneficial to go one step further and donate your time. Having children work to help others, to see how their efforts can change someone's life, is truly an awe-inspiring experience. It lets kids know that what they choose to do in life does matter, that they can make a difference, and that everyone, regardless of background, deserves respect.
United Way helps communities all around the globe by focusing on education, income, and health. On their Get Involved tab, you can search for volunteer opportunities right in your community.
4. Visit Somewhere New
This is a wonderful way to spend a weekend. Have the family choose a new spot (or take turns picking the next location) and go explore. It could be a park, a national forest, a beach, a library, anywhere really. Set boundaries early on (miles from home, cost, and so on) to keep things fair.
This is a particular favorite of mine as I tend to frequent the same places again and again. It's not that I'm adverse to change, but habit oftentimes gets the best of me. By choosing new locations to explore, I'm expanding my comfort zone, having new experiences, and am showing my daughter that the unknown doesn't have to be frightening. Sure, we may have no idea where to park, how to participate, or what to buy, but by figuring it out as we go, we are teaching her how to solve problems, be flexible, and, most importantly, have fun.
5. Try Something New
This could be a new type of food, a new game, or even participating in a new event. As I mentioned before, it's easy to slide into the same routine day after day, week after week, so why not schedule one day where the family does something different? Food is an easy way to start. Pick out a new recipe, have everyone help make it, and then try it out. Not every choice will be a winner, but it's a great way to spend time together and make a few memories. If you don't know which recipe to start with, why not have your kids choose an ingredient to give you a starting point. It helps make grocery shopping a little more exciting when they get to choose the secret ingredient. Then have the kids research what it is, how to cook it, and pick a recipe.
6. Visit Family
I know, I know ... it's not Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. But when did it become the rule that visiting family only happens on holidays? Go visit a family member you haven't seen in a while, but go with a purpose. Do they have a particular skill that the kids might find interesting? Do they have family stories (even embarrassing ones about yourself) that the kids might love to hear? As a child, I used to love sitting around the campfire, listening to the adults in my family tell stories from their youth. There is something oddly satisfying in learning that your father used to tease his sisters as much as you tease yours.
There are a million other ways to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the actual world and what works best for you and your family may not work for others. Hopefully, this list will give you a few ideas to try the next time you see your kids staring at a screen or hear them complain about being bored.
We'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for reconnecting. Contact us today or join our mailing list for more information.