Teenage boys can turn into slugs over the holidays. And I get that. They are exhausted after the end of a long year at school and, thanks to puberty, many are swarming with hormones which means most of the time they just want to chill out and sleep for inordinate periods of time. They are generally also happy eating nothing other than cheese toasties, pizza and Nutrigrain for eight weeks straight. However, the holidays also means that many will spend way too much time on their devices, playing computer games either solo or tapped into a group session. Of course teen girls can be exactly the same, but in my experience it seems to be more prevalent with boys. I’m not suggesting technology be ditched completely, but many child development experts now agree that for optimal health ~ both physical, emotional and spiritual, teenagers should have no more than one hour of screen time (outside of formal learning) per day.
So, if you want to get your son off the couch and engaged with some unplugged activities, here are some ideas that might help. Your teen girls are just as likely to enjoy most of these as well.
- At least three times a week send him out to walk the dog. Not just around the block. Do not take no for an answer, instead arm him with several poop bags and tell him you don’t want to see him for at least an hour. If you don’t have a dog, a long walk to a park to kick a footy with a friend will do.
- Remember Meccano? Far more sophisticated and mentally challenging than Lego, it can perplex and delight in equal measure. Consider buying your boy a starter’s kit and let them at it. A basic kit will set you back around $30-40. I was quite addicted to this as a young teenager.
- Build a board game from scratch. All he’ll need is a large square piece of cardboard, some colouring in pens/pencils, a ruler, a die and something to use as counters. The board game might be inspired by Snakes and Ladders or a treasure hunt, or a simple numbered board game. Themes could include reaching the end of a rainbow, their favourite adventure movie, following a trail to find treasure, a bushland adventure (over mountains, through rivers, avoiding snakes, etc.). The scope of the game is limited only by your child’s imagination.
- Encourage your son to have a mate over for the afternoon, build a makeshift tent, cook a pizza from scratch and sleep out overnight in the garden.
- Have him pull something apart and put it back together again. It could be an old radio, a toaster or an old computer. Watch out for kerbside clean ups as all sorts of gadgets are likely to be on offer.
- Give (or let him choose) a regular task and have him stick to it. Mowing the lawn, watering the garden or washing the car are all good options. Use a reward chart if necessary.
- Read a book for half an hour each day. This is an easy one if your son is a natural reader. If not, try and make the time to sit with him and read a book yourself. Slowly, slowly will win this race.
- After Christmas, suggest he make something out of the wood of the Christmas tree (if you have a real one). Rather than tossing it onto the nature strip awaiting council collection, your son could strip the leaves from the branches and set up a wood-working area in the back garden. Needing nothing other than sturdy gloves, secateurs, a saw, a hammer, some nails and a dose of common sense, he is likely to create the most unique piece of craft from the wood. Safety rules are required here. This doesn’t have to be restricted to a Christmas tree; any pieces of old wood can be used.
- Together visit your local nursery and buy the ingredients needed to make a terrarium. There are a myriad of instructions available on the internet. They can be as simple or as complicated as your son desires and shouldn’t cost more than around $20 for the entire thing. The upside is they are very easy to look after and should last for years.
- Ask him to cook something from scratch. He could try making some bread, a simple chocolate cake or even a whole meal for the family.
- Have him spend an afternoon cleaning his room from top to bottom, including his school bag and wardrobe. This will do him no harm and bring you great satisfaction as it means that you won’t have to put your hand into the bottom of his school bag ~ a truly frightening prospect.
- Encourage him to start a photography project. Suggest a different subject each day and then send him out to capture some funky images based on that topic. Subjects could include; ‘something red’, ‘water’, ‘movement’, ‘summer’ etc. He could print out the images and make a collage of those that he likes the best or start a perpetual journal and make this an ongoing project.
- Suggest some craft using found objects. It could be making beetles using gumnuts or shells, leaf printing or stencilling. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. The options are endless here.
- Buy him a simple chemistry kit and let him at it. Again, a basic set shouldn’t set you back much more than about $40, but if his interest is piqued he may never pick up an iPhone again.
- Candle-making can be a great rainy day activity. It is not at all difficult, the ingredients are relatively cheap and there are many, many tutorials available on the internet.
How do you get your kids off technology and do you think it’s important?
Until next time…
For more ideas and tips on finding wonder in the everyday and getting your kids to unplug, consider buying my new book. You can purchase it via the link in my sidebar above, or at all good bookstores and online and as an e-book. For interview opportunities please contact Jackie Evans on 0407 776 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org