CHILDREN | BC Family Day: Face time trumps screen time

Mary Forbes enjoys ‘face time’ with daughters Phaedra, 2 3/4 years, and Abigael, 11 months, at the historic Potato House in Williams Lake. Photo: Leslie Rowse Photography

 

By LeRae Haynes —

Mary Forbes, teacher naturalist at Scout Island and mother of two, says it’s great that B.C. has declared Family Day a holiday, but that every day’s a good day to ‘unplug’ your kids from electronics and technology and get them outside to play.

“February is a great time of the year to spend time with your kids outdoors,” she says. “If you feel overwhelmed by the slush go outside and make a Quincy hut in the snow with a shovel. You just dig a tunnel inside a big mound of snow and have a tea party inside. It’s warm and fun, and you’re outside in the fresh air—and boy, do the kids ever sleep that night!”

She adds that one of the things she likes doing outdoors with her kids is hooking 8-Ball the family Basset hound up to an old family heirloom dogsled and letting him pull the kids around in the snow while she runs alongside to keep up.

“We recently took the kids to Bif’s pond at Val and Wayne Biffert’s house to go fishing,” she says. “It was all about getting a fishing rod in your kid’s hand and having fun with them. Other great options are Bull Mountain and Scout Island—lots of fun for kids.”

Forbes says every day is family day, even if it’s after work. “You can go for a moonlight walk and look at the stars; bring flashlights for the kids and find a place to read a story,” she says. “We also love to follow animal footprints—animals like dogs, moose, and deer. We find out where they went and where they’ve nibbled on plants.”

Unplugging your children and interacting with them is so important, she explains. “Our babies need us to look in their faces. It’s up to us to teach the next generation and let them know that they are loved,” she says. “Your children’s childhood goes by so fast: there’s only now.”

Limiting children’s exposure to ‘screen’ technology like cellphones, computers, tablets, TV, and electronic games is strongly suggested by the Canadian Society of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a recent article by renowned BC occupational therapist Cris Rowan, posted on www.movingtolearn.ca, it was stated that infants ages 0-2 should have no exposure to ‘screen’ technology and children 3-5 should be restricted to one hour per day. Children 6-18 should be limited to two hours a day. Rowan notes that delayed development, epidemic obesity, sleep deprivation, mental illness, aggression, addictions, and radiation emissions have been linked to excessive technology exposure.

 

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow

For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow;

So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

—-origin unknown

 

 

“Texting and blogging can wait ’til tomorrow

For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow;

So quiet down Facebook and Tweets go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

—my version

 

“Activities that require interaction are far more beneficial than those snuggle times in front of the TV. Those times can be lovely and cuddles are great, but it’s the face-to-face interactions that help develop self-awareness, empathy, communication abilities, and so many other life-enriching skills,” says Beulah Munson, manager of children’s services for Women’s Contact Society.

“A great place to spend face-to-face time with your kids is at the pool or the skating rink,” she says. “There’s always sledding, building a snowman, staying home doing a craft, reading a good book, or baking cookies. One of my children’s favourite things to do from the time they were little is playing board games—sitting around laughing, joking, and telling stories.”

She adds that even something as simple as inviting friends over for a bonfire and a wiener roast or going for a night walk with glow sticks can enhance your family unit.

“Looking back when my own children were young, I am very grateful that I valued a trip to the park far more than I valued a freshly-vacuumed living room,” she says. “My children, who are now adults, have such great memories of play dates. Those are the memories they recall with fondness—none of them ever mention that I didn’t vacuum every single day.”

She says there are wonderful opportunities for families to have fun and interact in the Cariboo, like Family Fest, National Aboriginal Day, National Children’s Day, the Winter Carnival, and Children’s Festival in Boitanio Park.

“We’re lucky to live in a province that supports Family Day on February 9 and recognizes the importance of face time with your children,” says Beulah.

“Every kid needs a champion in their life. Champions are created in face-to-face moments, or bonding moments, like when you’re playing Chutes and Ladders and Daddy just slid all the way to the bottom. Or when you’re sledding and you slide the furthest into the trees. These moments shared with your children are the ones where you capture their hearts and become their champion.”

       For more information about programs and events for children and parents, including a free, fun literacy workshop for parents and care providers on February 18, phone Women’s Contact Society at (250) 392-4118 or visit www.womenscontact.org. To find out more about free family activities at Scout Island go to www.scoutislandnaturecentre.ca or phone (250) 398-8532.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.

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