Over the past three months, children in the Boothbay region and across the country have found themselves inundated with virtual interactions. Classroom lessons arrived by email, and show-and-tell required sitting still and paying attention to a screen populated by rows of tiny faces. Instead of warm hugs from grandparents, kids had to suffice with Facetime. And while parents scrambled to get in a day’s work, they often turned to more technology to ‘babysit’ in place of what had once been enriching afterschool activities.
While doctors and child development experts have long stressed the importance of limiting screen time particularly among young children, it seemed that there was little choice given the constraints of our new world. This dilemma was recently highlighted for me during my nine-year old daughter’s virtual well-child appointment. Her doctor could not help but share a sympathetic laugh after asking the standard question: how much time do you spend in front of a screen each day, and I found myself shocked and uncomfortable admitting the answer.
Parents and children alike breathed a collective sigh of relief when arriving at the end of this school year. And now, with several months of summer weather stretched out in front of us, the time is ripe to help our children disconnect from technology and provide them with more authentic outlets to excite their imaginations. Luckily, in our quiet coastal community, we have the perfect alternative to screen-time right outside of our front doors.
Nature with its incredible variety and diversity provides the ideal venue to stimulate a child’s curiosity. The endless intricacy of the natural world invites children to use all of their senses, to move and to run, to observe and experiment. Countless studies have pointed to the benefits of nature for a child’s development, citing brain stimulation, improved concentration, better communication, increased creativity, and improved mental and physical health. The consensus is clear — kids have everything to gain from getting outdoors!
We are fortunate to live in the Boothbay region where nature abounds. In our community, most families have at least a small yard, and Boothbay Region Land Trust offers access to outdoor spaces that are within a short drive of all areas of our peninsula. So now is the time to encourage your child to get outside for at least an hour every day, but more if possible. For children, there are few if any screen-based resources that could offer more enrichment than a grassy yard, a stand of woods, or even a gravel driveway.
This summer let them run, imagine, dig, get wet, get muddy, hike, bicycle, explore, take risks, and be bored. In a world that is overflowing with heartache and strife, our community can at least ensure that kids throughout the region have a summer to disconnect.