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.
The school holidays are coming up and, as a result, children of all ages will have more time on their hands to be attached to phones, tablets, computers and televisions. If you plan now, however, you can 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.
- 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.
- 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. The Kruger National Park is an excellent choice for families as kids and adults alike will be captivated by the animals, the smell of the outdoors and the wide open spaces. If you need a magical place to stay, Kruger Shalati: The Train on the Bridge has family rooms in the land-based rooms called Bridge House. These rooms are suited to families with children over the age of eight. Not only that, but anyone under the age of 12 only pays half the price of an adult. In addition to what Shalati has to offer, families can also head to the nearby Kruger Station precinct, which has tons of activities for both adults and children.
- 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.
If your yard isn’t too child-friendly at the moment and in need of some TLC and a clean-up, you can enlist the help of SweepSouth’s outdoor services. With the help of SweepSouth and by using the gardening services booked through the app, you can have your yard ready for child-like adventures in no time. Alen Ribic, co-founder of SweepSouth and dad of three, notes that even if your yard is small, you can make it a fun and enjoyable space for the whole family if you have the right type of help.
You could give your child vegetables and plants to start an outdoor garden and teach them how to tend to it over the holidays.
- 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.
- 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.
The school holidays can be fun for both parent and child – you just have to prepare ahead of time. This not only ensures that you have enough activities to keep your child busy and off their screens for a while, but it also gives you time to adequately prepare for all the games and activities.