Words of Wisdom From an Occupational Therapist in the making
Hey everyone! I know you are used to hearing from Ann in the blog posts but today the blog is having a guest post from me, Alayna Ricketts! I am an occupational therapy student from Ohio, and I have had the absolute pleasure of continuing my learning with Ann in beautiful Maryland for a clinical fieldwork placement. A million ideas came to mind about I wanted to share with you all… there are so many important topics and concepts that I gained first-hand experience in during my time with Ann. When searching for some blog post inspiration, I thought of a family I saw walk past my porch one evening...
There was a dad pushing a double stroller with two little girls in it and a boy just older than the girls walking alongside. The girls were giggling and the boy seemed to be explaining something very important to his dad. Then I noticed it… the SCREENS. The two girls were laughing at whatever they were watching on the screens, and the little boy was trying to convince his dad to let him have a turn to watch something. I was shocked! They were outside in the neighborhood with tall trees and native flowers all around, and they were choosing to look at screens.
Now, before you get defensive, I am not here to bash screen time. Electronic devices open a wide world of opportunities. There is educational programming, socialization with far away relatives and friends, access to books and music, game playing with friends, and many more things. Screen time can give parents a much needed break too. As long as your child is engaging in active play at other times during the day, not obsessed with and controlled by screen time, and not using screens near bedtime, screen time can have its place.
My reminder for the day:
Don’t forget to put away screens when you have the opportunity to develop senses, build relationships, and gain skills, especially outside!
There are so many opportunities to hone your child’s (and your) senses while you are outside. The sights, smells, sounds, movements, touch sensations, and even tastes are SO varied.
SIGHT -You can play games that challenge you eyes to track flying butterflies or fireflies, search for objects of a specific color, focus on trees near and far, or spot differences between plants.
SMELL -There are scents to identify like mulch, flowers, herbs, or rain.
HEARING -You can identify large and small vehicles by sound, differentiate between birds, or talk about sounds in your area that are different from sounds in other areas.
MOVEMENT -Walking uphill/downhill, gravel, grass, uneven surfaces, and narrow/wide paths offer different movement challenges. You can even see who can run to the next mailbox fastest or who can jump off the tree stump in the coolest way.
TOUCH -Flowers, trees, grasses, pavements, and hands all have different feelings when you touch them. Some plants are even edible!
A walk is a SENSATIONAL experience… so let it be one!
If I haven’t sold you yet, let’s talk about building relationships. Yes, it’s possible to have pro-social experiences while using screens, BUT developing trusting, positive relationships with friends, parents, and siblings happens best when we aren’t looking at a screen. Having safe and fun experiences builds connections. Laughing, playing games, and doing activities together builds bonds and opens communication in relationships. Showing you care by spending time with your child and not on your screens also contributes to creating a secure attachment and a positive relationship with your child.
As a shameless plug for the outdoors, I will also say that unstructured, free play outdoors provides children with the opportunity to work on self-regulation and problem solving in a way screens cannot.
They may discover sensations or activities that calm them or make them more alert. Children will begin to understand their bodies, their limits, and how to challenge themselves. Outdoor play can be VERY motivating and creative.
Imaginations can run wild… bushes turn into fairy gardens… trees turn into overgrown broccoli… the ground turns into lava… who even knows. There are boundless opportunities with many twists, turns, and endings.
Children problem solve to create toys from found items, how to get everyone from the bush to the house without touching the ground (because it’s lava, duh!), or how to get so-and-so from down the street to stop hogging all the sidewalk chalk. Outdoor play has so much to offer!
Remember, this is all about moderation for you and your child. You don’t have to throw away screens all together… you just have to find and enjoy the moments without them! Make opportunities to take a walk, to play kickball or play with dolls, to dig in the garden, or to catch fireflies with your child. These experiences are jammed packed full of sensory honing moments, skill development, and relationship building.
So, give those screens a rest and take a walk outside tonight :)
Alayna hard at work as she works as she helps provide an environment for meaningful play outdoors.