acepuppets


I have a love/hate relationship with technology.

I love new gadgets. I am an internet-oholic. I use social media regularly. I can spend hours on Youtube. I am always within close proximity to my smart phone.

Sounds like I’m a fan doesn’t it? For the most part yes I am but at the same time our dependence on technology is starting to worry me. I worry about it mainly for the effect it has on our kids. They are growing up in a very different world to the one I grew up in and indeed to anyone over the age of about 20. I’m thankful we didn’t have all this to deal with when I was younger! I dread the day my son wants to join Facebook and have his own phone and learns how to use the internet properly. I think most parents want their kids to stay kids and retain their innocence and happy outlook on the world for as long as possible but unfortunately that is becoming less and less easy nowadays. As an adult obviously I am less impressionable and more wary of the world and the people in it but now kids are exposed to so much more at earlier and earlier ages and it’s pretty difficult to prevent that.

We’ve all heard cases of online bullying, stalking people, jealousy, negative views and opinions, bragging, trolling, hacking etc – all of the bad things. Of course it can be a great and useful learning tool too. It helps raise awareness of certain causes e.g The ALS ice bucket challenge, Kony 2012 that otherwise we would not hear about but I would rather the vast majority of learning was done in school.

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You’ve probably read debates about social media making us less social and I would have to agree with that. It is uncommon to take a walk around and not see countless people on their phones/ipads etc playing games, checking Facebook or texting etc and forgetting how to actually talk to people. In all honesty I’m sure that without sites like Facebook I, and I think most people, would have a lot more face to face interaction.

 

There aren’t just the social issues to think about. For kids, spending time on devices can also lead to other health issues and concerns such as:

Childhood obesity – Unsurprisingly, use of technology, video games and TV is linked to obesity as it leads to decreased physical activity.

Sleep deprivation – Screens give off blue light which interferes with the production of melanin which controls the bodies sleep and wake cycle. Also, the brain can become overloaded with information from different technology sources which makes it harder to relax at bedtime.

Delayed development – Using technology restricts movement and often social interaction which can have a bad effect on development.

Mental Illness – Studies show that overuse of technology can play a part in a number of mental disorders in children including depression, anxiety, attention deficit, bipolar disorder and [problematic behaviour.

Addiction – With people becoming more and more attached to their devices and less to each other, addictions can develop between a child and their technology.

Aggression – Media and video games with violent content can lead to child aggression.

If you want some heavier reading on the subject here is the big study by Common Sense into children’s media use and the effects it has: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013

All of this sounds a bit scary to me and that is why I both love and hate technology and the internet. I just hope we don’t become any more dependent on it than we already are. I don’t know about you but I am going to encourage good old fashioned outdoor play for as long as I possibly can!

Are there any other parents out there who are share the same thoughts?

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I think all parents struggle when it comes to bedtime (some much more than others!) The bottom line is that most children, whether this is every night or just some nights, hate being made to go to bed. This can be for a many reasons but to name a few;

  • They may feel like they are going to be missing out on something if they do
  • They might have older siblings who have a later bedtime and so don’t see it as fair that they have to to bed earlier.
  • They might actually not be tired (or just think that they aren’t)
  • It might mean ending their favourite activity of playing or watching tv etc.

The bottom line is that bed time is boring and seen as a negative thing to a child. It is not until we get much older that we appreciate it so much more!

I think it is harder in the summer time as the evenings stay light much later into the night which can make kids feel like they are going to bed in the middle of the day. Being back at school helps quite a lot as it tires them out and means they are getting up earlier in the morning as well. However, sometimes they still might not have had a tiring enough day to be ready to go to bed at your decided time.

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Did you know that the majority of children do actually suffer from sleep deprivation?

On average, it seems as though children are getting around 2 hours less sleep a night then they should be. I find this quite easy to believe actually what with the amount of stimulation through computer, tablets, phones, televisions etc they have in front of them, it can be hard, as you may know yourself, to switch off from all of that.

The reason things like that prevent a good night’s sleep is that their screens give off blue light. Blue light is particularly bad at night because it suppresses the production of melatonin which affects the wake and sleep cycles. It is also over stimulation for the brain seeing so many different things and trying to process so much information when it should be winding down.

Experts say that exchanging ‘screen’ time for ‘green’ time can work wonders (again, this is quite easy to believe.) Getting your child outside playing is linked to a much better night’s sleep. Regular doses of natural light are much better for them than blue light from a screen. Get ready for the vaguely scientific part – daylight covers a much broader spectrum of light and it helps us stay more alert during the day, acts as a mood elevator and keeps our body clock in check.

Another reason outdoor play helps is because it acts as a stress reliever almost – there are no pressures of the classrooms or of trying to finish a difficult level on a game but rather a sense of freedom and fun.

Finally, another huge advantage I can think of for outdoor play is the exercise that children get from running around, which is much better for them than being parked in front of a TV! It also promotes all of the physical (and social) skills like balance, strength, agility and more that are important to get to grips with at a young age.

It is great that most children have an opportunity to run around outside playing on the outdoor playground equipment they have at their school during breaks but if for whatever reason they don’t get to do this each day then it can be a real benefit to get them outside at some point to burn off some excess energy and get some fresh air!

 

Here are some useful articles about sleep habits in children and teenagers if you want some further reading!

http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/sleepdeprivedkids.jsp

http://sleepfoundation.org/

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children

http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/156/getting-enough-sleep-is-no-easy-task-for-todays-students


I am continuously (and pleasantly I must say!) surprised by new playgrounds and play areas. Some of them are so imaginative and fun they are almost more than just a playground.  This is great for inspiring and encouraging kids to use their imagination whilst playing.  Along with the benefits that exercising and using and developing a lot of their skills such as balance and coordination.  Any playground equipment which encourages unstructured play is fantastic, after all, playing is learning and the more there is around to simulate that the better. I’m a big fan of natural looking playgrounds, ones that cut out much of the metal and fencing and instead include timber, little hilly mounds, logs and big smooth boulders to play on. I think overall they give children a much more freeing experience, not feeling as though they are in playground environment but rather out in the wilderness exploring.

I understand that they can’t be quite as impressive and state of the art as the ones below but I think they are great!

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The more creative the playground equipment is, the more creative it makes the child!


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My son is thankfully interested in learning all there is to know about everything and appears to have developed his own set of learning objectives that he works on at home.  I once mentioned that I had been a teacher so now he sees me as a very useful resource in his pursuit of knowledge.  I thoroughly enjoy the process of being a hippy teacher at home using everything as a learning opportunity in spontaneous and completely informal ways – the school can do the boring bits.

Leading up to Alistair’s birthday in May we were unsure of the best present to buy for him because quite often they just end up abandoned and forgotten all over the house.  I found this article by Playdale Garden  about gardening with your children which gave me the idea to buy a selection of gardening tools so he could do gardening whenever he liked.  The local garden centre didn’t have children’s versions of tools so he has trowels, forks, etc that will last him for ever.

I am very good at delegating when it comes to Alistair’s home education and never resent anyone for showing him how to do new things.  One of the best bit of delegating is related to gardening as Alistair’s granddad is a very keen gardener and frequently likes to share his pearls of green fingered wisdom with everyone.  So armed with tomato seeds and sunflower seeds my son learnt how to make things grow.!

It is now the end of the season and we have had a continuous supply of juicy tomatoes and three successful sunflowers smiled down at us throughout the summer.  I wonder what delights he will grow next year.


When I was about two years old a man told my grandmother that I would make a good rugby player – when she informed him that I was actually a girl he just said, ‘Pity help you then’. I proceeded to be a pretty fearless person who was quite prepared to risk physical injury to do what I wanted, in fact I have broken my nose so many times that it has actually become straight again.  I managed to avoid any serious injury but did sprain my wrist while putting the breaks on when I went over a ramp – I never did that again.  When I was a child I used to love climbing trees and getting into territorial battles with other groups of children relating to the ownership of our den.  In fact we were definitely more, ‘Lord of the Flies’, than Cbeebies.

As a young adult I have tried climbing, abseiling, caving, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing and many other activities that involve a calculated risk.   I always considered bruises to be a sign of being adventurous and had no hesitation in showing off amazing purple patches on my legs and arms to show how courageous I had been.  However since having my son I get really bothered if he has bruises or evidence of risk taking on his body for fear that it looks like I haven’t been looking after him properly. Even my own mother worries about him hurting himself in a way she didn’t when I was a child.  My son doesn’t seem to have inherited my fearless genes and tends to consider the consequences of every action meaning that he always takes calculated risks.  I am having to quash my protective instinct and actively allow him to get hurt and scared in playgrounds and in the countryside so that he can learn from his own mistakes.

The Early Years is the most important time in a child’s initial development and although the government has being producing a nicely decorated early years curriculum apparently children are still not prepared for school at five years old.  This is after they have spent a year in nursery and a year at school, does this indicate that the educational environment is not conducive with the way a child develops?  Maybe children really can’t learn in a mass production environment after all.   The Government perpetually makes staying at home to look after your own child either financially impossible or socially unacceptable.  Studies are starting to show that children from deprived areas are going to underachieve in schools whether the school is graded, ‘Outstanding’, or lower.  This really points to a child’s crucial learning time to take place within the home environment, the government however has made this increasingly difficult for parents who need advice and assistance by either closing or reducing the hours of Sure Start Centres that provide valuable information on how to help your children learn and develop.

Everything in life is quantifiable and graded in a way that a child can be given a grading at five years old.  In order to grade a child you have to make the environment they are in clinical and organised and play becomes formal rather than spontaneous episodes of learning.  No child ever learned to walk by sitting still and listening – they took risks and persevered until they achieved their goal.  The only way a child can learn about their own body and world around them is by taking risks and experimenting with every aspect of their being.  For many years failing was part of the learning process but now children have to achieve their goals or they have failed in some way.  A school is a failure if their SATs results aren’t up to scratch but you can’t grade compassion and emotional support.

The only way we can ensure that children have the opportunity to take physical risks away from the academic intensity is by giving them the opportunities when they are at home.  We all cannot afford to have a child’s climbing frame in the garden, some don’t even have a garden so it is fundamentally important that there is provision made in the form of communal playgrounds for parents to allow their children to take risks in a safe environment.  Growing up is about knowing your strengths and weaknesses  and being able to interact with people who are friendly and of course those who are hostile.  There is nothing like a confrontation in the playground to teach you about human nature.  We need to stop over protecting our children and let them learn from their own mistakes and the education system need to remind itself how we do learn in those exciting early years!

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The Child’s climbing frame featured in our main picture is available from www.playdalegarden.co.uk.


We don’t have much play equipment in our garden. Other than a sand pit we never really have had. Is this wrong? My son’s new school friend is the proud owner of a (very impressive) garden climbing frame set. It comes complete with swing, slide and rope ladder, something quite like this one, and the kids absolutely love it. Everyday he wants to go round there to play, though if I allow him I’m quite sure that soon the parents will think we are starting to take advantage. It is a wonderful thing though, fantastic for the imagination as well – one minute it’s a pirate ship, and then it’s a cave and then they are climbing a mountain, it is rather quite fun to watch!

piarte ship

I’m not sure he’s a fan of the rope ladder but the swing is definitely popular, lower to the ground and something that can be held onto tightly. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting something for the garden in the past but then fear that as soon as it was there in his own garden he would lose interest in it (which is usually the way)….Maybe it would be best to just start with a swing and see how it goes from there!


On the school run this morning I realised that Autumn is here. There’s something special about a nice sunny, quiet Autumn day with a cold, crisp start to the morning and orange leaves on the ground. Just because the temperatures are dropping it doesn’t mean it’s time to come inside for the Winter. It’s great to fit in as much time outside before it gets either too rainy or too cold, which to be fair, in the UK could be anytime now.

Autumn is the time for dressing up warm and getting out into nature. Going out for a walk, jumping in the leaves, finding some conkers and then coming back for a hot drink indoors. Sounds pretty good to me. Conkers were always a big thing in Autumn when I was younger, it was the ultimate playground game with some of my peers taking it very seriously and trying out different methods to try and make their conkers superior! A row of jars filled with vinegar and conkers was a regular sight in my house, though I’m not sure it was actually proven to work! (Info on how to play conkers here if you are interested).

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