A Return to Good Old-Fashioned Fun with StartRite

How much time have your children been sat in front of screens this summer holiday?  How much time have you?  Recent research amongst 7 to 11 year olds, conducted by Start-rite Shoes, revealed that many wish their parents would put down their phones, tablets and laptops and spend more time interacting with and playing with them instead.  In a culture which regularly produces alarmist stories about how long children spend immersed in technology, Start-rite have turned the tables and asked the children instead.  A shocking third of the children surveyed said they thought their parents spent too much time on gadgets.  How depressing is that?!

Sophia's first go at juggling!

I'm absolutely appalled that 93% of the children own some kind of digital device - not going to happen in this family!  And just under half of the children surveyed think they spend more time online or watching TV than chatting with their family (???), with 4 hours a day or more being common.  Apparently children don't even look out of the window or play fun family games in the car any more, preferring to play games on tablets etc or watch films rather than interact with other passengers.

Contrary to the accepted belief, one of the main things children were looking forward to over the summer holidays was spending more time with their family and playing outdoors, with only 5% wanting to spend more of their time online.  The survey also found that 39% believed their parents/carers spend too much time on gadgets, which makes many of them feel very sad indeed.  If your 7 year old thinks you spend too much time looking at screens, then there is definitely something wrong! 

We've all seen those families at restaurant tables, each fixated on the small screen clutched in their hand; or seen the mum pushing the screaming baby along in the outward facing buggy whilst she chats on her phone, but are we ready to admit that that's sometimes us?

Start-rite's Pass It On campaign centres on good, old-fashioned family fun, not with high-tech toys, gadgets and gizmos, but with the simple things like a skipping rope or a ball.  How many of the games we played as kids do your children know?

If elastics, hopscotch, skipping, and cat's cradle mean nothing to your little ones, or they've never played British Bulldog, Grandmother's Footsteps, Sardines, Rally 123 or 40:40, then why not take some time out to teach them?  With less than three weeks of summer holidays left, what better moment to put the electronics away and spend some proper time with your children?  These traditional games risk being forgotten by the current generation of kids, unless we teach them - and play them alongside - now.  Does 'playing out' really need to be sacrificed in favour of technology?

We all know how vitally important physical activity is for young children, particularly in light of the growing obesity crisis, but did you know that children's foot bones don't fully form and harden until age 18?  Leading Biomechanics Coach and Chartered Physiotherapist, Martin Haines advises Start-rite Shoes and here explains why it’s important to keep our children active:

"That so many children choose to spend over 2 hours per day on a digital device doesn’t surprise me, but it does concern me. A sedentary lifestyle can seriously harm a child’s development as their gait continues to develop until the age of 15. Movement is essential for the body’s physical development so it is important that we encourage our children to lead active lives if they are to develop and grow healthily."

And even better, instead of the £3000 parents estimated they would spend on entertaining their children this summer, many of these games are incredibly cheap or even free.  Start-rite sent us this box of goodies to enjoy, all for a total price of less than £10:

Why not invest in a similar bundle for your children and make the most of the last few weeks of summer?

Technology is the future, we know, but at the sacrifice of childhood?  I hope not.  Let's make real life more interesting, and more important, for our children.  Playing car games, reading real books, playing outside, enjoying old-fashioned games, and spending time with family and friends is far more important, and more likely to create happy memories of childhood than time in front of a screen. It’s not about quality time even, but about real time, enjoying the simpler things in life and having fun!  (Even the adults!)

Of course, the irony of me writing about this is that I make my living online so some days the girls do see me with my face in the laptop.  Thankfully those are the days their daddy is available to take them to the playground, play games, and be the primary carer.  When it's just me, the laptop stays closed.  And we purposely refuse to have mobile phones as we don't want to be tied to the things, or be tempted to tell social media about the day out we're having when we should be 100% present in it with the girls!  With only a laptop and a Kindle at home, and no Smartphones etc, we facetime in real life, enjoy proper uninterrupted conversations, and have lots of fun, often for zero or minimal cost. Family fun over screens every time here; could you make that pledge this summer?

Remember the time when no-one was so indispensable that they couldn't rely on just a landline?! I'm afraid that's us, and even that is rarely switched on.  If you need us, leave a message; if I don't answer your tweet/FB message/e-mail straight away, well as my Twitter profile says, you'll find me at the beach...

Read more about the story in this recent Daily Mirror article.

Shoes c/o Start-rite

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