Favorite Childhood Pasttimes
I was born in the 1960's. Video games became popular when I was an older teenager. Our television received three channels. And the idea that most homes would soon have a personal computer wasn't introduced until my freshman year in college. It seemed preposterous.
My four children have two types of video games. They each have their own PC. We have dozens of television channels. But they still spend a great deal of time playing games they've made up themselves. How did we accomplish such a feat with all of the electronic competition for their attention?
First, only educational television is allowed until 4:00 p.m. each day, except for Saturday mornings. You might be tempted to think that the children turn on the television at 4:00 and keep it tuned in until bedtime, but in reality, they developed great choices in watching educational programs and learned how to fill their days with other activities. Sure, we get a lot of Hannah Montana still. But I'm just as likely to find a nature show on or the television turned off.
Our children are homeschooled, so they have more free time to develop their own interests. To get the same effect, you may need to make the television times more restrictive.
Our second pratice is to have family night once a week, virtually every week. We use this time to play board games, go outside and play kick the can or other traditional games. Sometimes we watch a movie together and make popcorn. But other times we bring out games from our childhoods.
Third, we read together as a family. Sharing the stories together is a very different activity than reading a book individually. I believe that the stories jumpstart the imagination. Our children built a club house in the woods and named it Bithia-terra - after reading Bridge To Terebithia.
Listening to stories as a child is one of my fondest memories.
Reading together also helps develop the art of conversation. The story is a starting point for many discussions including allusions, words we didn't know, what ifs, and more.
Fourth, we keep our scheduled time down so that boredom has a chance to do its job. Boredom was the mother of invention for me and my peers when I was a child. Downtime allows your mind time to be creative and to find pleasure in simple activities like building a dam with mud and running water to see if you create a lake or waterfall.
Fifth, we openly critique advertisements and subtle messages that our culture gives us about what we should be doing and thinking to encourage our children to make up their own minds about what is fun, what is worthwhile, and what is a bill of goods being shoved down their throats. We praise creativity, support their building activities, and see making a mess as sometimes a necessary part of living a good life.
So, eliminate easy but meaningless distractions, practice great habits together both in playing and reading, don't over-schedule, and don't passively accept popular choices as the best choice for you life. You'll see those meaningful childhood memories develop before your very eyes.