“Ban Russian Bots.” The words shone brightly projected across Twitter headquarters. Not long after, a listener of NPR’s 1a wrote: “Wish there was a national movement, like a Quit Facebook day. If they lost a million plus U.S. users in 1 day, it would give reformers inside the company the momentum they need.” Then came the medical community. At a research summit on how technology affects kids, a health policy expert issued a call to action: “Urge companies to first Do No Harm.”
It’s happening. People are finally realizing technology doesn’t always operate in our best interests and they’re doing something about it.
Did you know elementary-aged kids have about half the core strength kids had only a decade ago? Overall creativity has also taken a hit. The way we use technology gives us more reasons than ever to sit down. Like us, kids don’t move around as much and have less free time to use their imaginations. What’s the solution for more healthy and durable young bodies and minds? Plenty of free play outdoors in the sunshine and breeze!
For year-round adventure, these amazing parks in the Washington, D.C. area don’t have swings, slides, or other typical playground equipment, but guarantee a healthy whole-child workout.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA is a gorgeous destination for the whole family where—amid hundreds of ornamental and native plants and the occasional nosy goose—there’s a garden just for kids, perfect for little ones to touch and smell the herbs and flowers, stow away in hidden spaces, and host imaginary tea parties.
Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, VA features Nature Playce, a free-play utopia where kids use hay bales, sticks, and rounds of wood to build forts and castles they can knock right down when they are finished if they want to. Here, kids use all their muscle groups and build skills they can’t in the classroom.
Constitution Gardens Park in Gaithersburg, MD is a completely accessible urban hideaway with tons of sand, a water play area, and whimsical structures to climb, all made from local sycamore wood. Kids of all ages have plenty of space to explore and move to their own playtime agenda.
Parents want to raise well-rounded kids who are comfortable in their own skin and with navigating in the natural and digital worlds. These advice books help parents and other care-givers to achieve that goal or to care for themselves in the process.
Author Devorah Heitner is thoroughly respectful of both sides of the equation and never talks down to, judges, or belittles anyone. Her book is chock-full of practical use-‘em-now tips and she gently instructs and builds the confidence of kids’ first and best digital mentors: their parents. This book doesn’t just skim the surface, it gets gritty and granular, supplying the words and tools we all need.
Among Heitner’s most important points:
Choose mentoring your child over simply monitoring what they do online.
Have clear, consistent boundaries and explain them to your kids.
Pay attention when your kids need you, or as Heitner says, “Be here now.” Why that’s absolutely crucial.
One of the beautiful things about kids is that they’re unencumbered. Their minds are tabulae rasae—fertile, open fields. The job of parents, teachers, and other caring adults is to direct their exposure to seeds of knowledge and experience, and to help tend what takes root.
The idea, says Dr. Michael Rich—a pediatrician and founder of Children’s Hospital Boston Center on Media and Child Health—is to:
Build a menu of diversity which makes them a richer, fuller person.