By Angeline Barnes, Outreach and Education Coordinator
These holidays I want my kids to experience a kiwi summer that resembles the summer break I had as a child. Move over ‘life inside glued to a screen’ – it’s time to get childhood back on track.
Like other families, screen time, whether it’s time on a tablet, computer or television screen is a desirable activity in our house.
We know that ‘screens’ are the way of the future, so they have a place in our house. But the challenge for me, and all parents, is to balance a child’s digital and physical worlds. In other words, balance their ‘screen time’ with their ‘green time’.
To help kiwi families keep track of green and screen time this summer, DOC has produced a simple fun colouring chart.
On the chart, you will find sketches of seven native animals and seven screen/box images scattered amongst a tree. These sketches represent a chunk of time spent outdoors or on a screen. The goal is to record your time by colouring in the sketches and keep your tree balanced.
Over the last few weeks, my family has been testing the tool with great success.
How it worked for us:
We decided each box was worth one hour of time – so for every hour of ‘green time’ my kids enjoyed they coloured in one native animal on the chart, earning them ‘one hour’ of screen time. Once redeemed, they coloured in a screen box on the chart, our tree was in balance!
We also agreed on a ‘green time family treat’ as a reward for completing our chart that week – we shared a fabulous day at Zealandia, hanging with the takahē, riding the boat and giggling at the silly kākā.
I learnt was this chart was a powerful motivator for my children. When I first introduced this, they were motivated to rack up their ‘green time’ purely because it earned them screen time, hard for me to accept; but a reality.
As time passed, interesting things happened. The more ‘green time experiences’ they had, the more they wanted, their motivations changed and the light bulb went on! It was through their outdoor experiences they realised how much fun they could have outside exploring the natural world.
Our charts took pole position on the fridge and served as a reminder to get outside and explore. At last check, our charts were out of balance, ooops! But not as you may expect; the native animal sketches were coloured in and the screen boxes remained empty. Bingo!
Our green time activities were varied, some facilitated by me and others came from young curious minds.
By my definition, time in the natural world is not only about visiting parks and reserves; it’s time in our garden at home, a trip to Zealandia or a swim at the beach. It’s lying on the grass watching clouds; it’s picking strawberries before the birds get them and the smell of freshly cut grass. It’s making mud pies, studying insects and the more hours spent up a tree or hanging upside down on the monkey bars the better.
Time spent in nature is vital for children’s physical, mental and emotional development. It is also essential to ensure another generation of kiwi kids experience what we had and build positive childhood memories that one day they too will pass on.
Use the chart, it’s free, fun, and simple to use. It’s easily adapted and is ready to print right now over on the DOC website. Enjoy!