Hands Free Kids

These tips for getting time away from electronic play are brought to us by pediatric Occupational Therapist Cindy Utzinger.

Are you getting tired of looking at the top of your kids’ heads as they look down to play their electronics? Have you had enough of talking to kids only to get no response because they are so immersed in their video games?

hands free kids pic 1

I’m going to admit….it drives me nuts! I would love to throw them all out and start a campaign called “Hands Free Kids”. I would need to put a little more thought in to it, but my slogan would go something like this….“Turn them off and tune back in.”

I feel like when kids have their electronics in their hands, they are tuned out to what is going on around them.

While I know video games and electronics can be great at times, they rob kids of vital life experiences. Experiences such as being bored and having to use their imaginations, using their hands to explore the world around them instead of manipulating their character on the screen, and communicating face to face with people instead of doing it via electronics….opportunities for sensory and cognitive exploration and socialization are missed.

While I realize it is the twenty-first century and I may not have many takers in my “Hands Free Kids” campaign, I would love to give you a few ideas for ways to cut back on electronics:

  1. We need to be good models for our children– If all our children see is the top of our heads, we are teaching them that this is the way things should be. If we “grown-ups” can put our PDA’s down and be more present, we can set a great example for them.
  2. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing– This summer I started to find it was getting harder and harder to get my kids off of the electronics. I wanted to throw them all out but realized a little electronic time is OK. So instead of doing something drastic, I decided to start a new system. My kids have to earn minutes on electronics. They earn 1 minute of electronics for every minute they spend reading or working on writing or math workbooks. It’s great!!! It gets them excited to do some summer learning some days and other days it makes them realize that electronics aren’t that important to them (because they don’t want to do the work involved to get their minutes). Either way, it gives them control and alleviates arguments!
  3. Fill their hands with other fun activities– It seems like times when waiting is involved are when we rely on those PDA’s the most. Think back, though, to what we did when we were kids waiting in a restaurant or a doctor’s office or on a long car trip. We played tic-tac-toe, hangman, “I Spy”, or the license plate game. My campaign would bring those things back!! Melissa & Doug have some great games and activities for these times that are both portable and fun. I like to rotate activities but make sure I always have one or two of these with me.

Get kids unplugged!

My kids love them and I feel good about the fact that they are doing an activity that will teach them great cognitive, motor, and problem solving skills (and the fact that we are doing something together!).

It is OK for them to be bored– Remember that kids learn a lot from being bored. Instead of video games to occupy them, let them be bored and see what great things their imaginations can come up with.

Join me in my “Hands Free Kids” campaign.  Let’s get our kids to “turn them off and tune back in” so we can see their beautiful faces again (and not just the top of their heads!).

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Cindy Utzinger is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, handwriting tutor, and founder of Building Write Foundations LLC.  She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children (a son and a daughter).  In her free time she can be found running through the streets of her neighborhood to get some exercise or enjoying time on the lake with family and friends.  Through her website (www.cindyutzinger.com) she provides parents, teachers, and caregivers with information regarding the importance of building each and every child’s sensory foundation and provides ways to help build their sensory foundation and their foundation for learning.  Through her website she also blogs and tackles issues dealing with handwriting problems, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and diagnoses on the autism spectrum.

You can follow Cindy on Facebook, Twitter and her blog!

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