let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting

fred rogersDear Mr. Rogers taught us a song that we sang quite often when my kids were young:

Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting
while we’re waiting for something new to do…
Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting
while we’re waiting til something’s through…

Go ahead and listen to him sing the whole thing ! Brilliant.

Learning to creatively, patiently occupy yourself during the waiting OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtimes in life — riding in the car or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room; waiting for your sister to get ready or your mom to pick you up or the meeting to end or the airplane to arrive — is a lifelong skill that can produce happiness, contentment, self-control, imagination, and much more.

from hello hello by matthew cordellIn the last decade or two, with the proliferation of handheld gaming devices, iphones, apps, ipads, DVD players in vehicles — our children’s waiting, and our own waiting,  has been massively taken up with electronic entertainment.

I find that distressing.

Many of us have been trying to sound the warning bells for years about the negative outcomes that occur when children and adults are essentially hooked on electronic media, when that wonderful commodity called “down time” or “space to think” is swallowed up by digital distraction, when virtual life usurpschildren playing in harlem from kweeper dot com juicy, real life, and we all suffer the resulting setbacks intellectually, physically, and emotionally.

Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics released their first new media recommendations since 2001 stating that, “television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2” — that’s entirely avoided — and that “children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content.”  You can read their entire statement here.

We chose to purchase zero electronic the-relatives-came cover artgames for our children throughout their years at home and mostly lived below the guidelines for electronic entertainment listed here by the Pediatricians.  I’m not saying, “And so should you,” but I am here to say, it is possible! And highly rewarding. We also led a life that involved a great deal of travel — long car rides, long airplane rides, lots and lots of whiling away the hours.  

Maybe you have some family travel days coming up this summer? Or on-going visits at a hospital or nursing home where the kids aren’t free to run and shout.  Really, waiting and finding ways to pass the time when nothing razzamatazz is currently happening, is an inevitable part of life for all of us.

In the next week, I’ll be posting first, a listing of books that function more as games, which make terrific substitutes for screen time, and second, a grab bag of other Children Knitting 2 from meetmeatthecorner dot orgideas for car rides and waiting rooms you might find helpful as you make these critical efforts in replacing electronic entertainment with healthier, life -giving pastimes for your children.

Meanwhile, I have a title to recommend if you want to learn more about these topics including the impact of electronic entertainment on children’s brains which many of us are stressing over.

mauricesendakposters2 from brainpickings dot orgEndangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It, by Jane M. Healy — I read this book 20 years ago and it changed the way I parent. It has been updated in the meantime. 

I’m making it easy by linking this to Amazon, but if your local independent bookseller carries it, I recommend buying it there instead.

I’ll see you back here with some positive suggestions for what to do while you’re waiting 🙂