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The headmaster of a leading independent school hit the national headlines recently when he encouraged his pupils to complete a week-long digital detox over the summer holidays.

As a parent of two girls ages 9 and 6, I thoroughly support this school of thought, particularly as given the opportunity my youngest would happily sit in front of the television all day long.

She’s not alone. According to a study by the market research firm Childwise, children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen. There’s no doubt about it that’s a lot, but in the holidays it’s potentially even more, as parents look to ways to keep the children entertained so that they can get on and do things themselves.

We are almost half way through the summer holidays now and I’m proud to say my children have not broken me – yet! Although of course six weeks is a long holiday to fill and planning and preparation are definitely what’s needed if I’m going to survive the last three weeks.

Personally, I like the idea of this list of things to do. Heavens, as a somewhat tired mum(!) fresh impetus is always gratefully received. Of course, you may have a nanny, or planned childcare over the summer, in which case your children’s activities will be carefully planned out and they will be able to continue their social, intellectual and physical development with lots of activities, both indoor and outdoor lined up. But for those of you that don’t, you may want to scroll down to the list below for inspiration!

The list by Martin Stott is 30 screen-free things for five – eleven year-olds to do. He said it was to both help parents keep their children entertained but also to avoid learning skills going rusty over the long break away from school.

An advocate of limiting screen time for youngsters, Stott said the holiday hit-list was aimed at activities which were fun but also enhanced learning, confidence and independence.

“It’s not easy to keep children occupied over summer but it is also a long time away from the classroom and we do see skills that have been built up over the school year going rusty during the holidays,” added Mr Stott who is headmaster at The Old Hall School in Wellington, Telford.

“During term time children are working hard and so are parents to support their educational journey and I felt it might help to create a list of things they could do that doesn’t let all that hard work go to waste and is fun to complete.

“I would love to see children get out and about and learn more about their own community and yes avoid too much time on a screen.”

Mr Stott said, “We find the children who are happiest and learn more successfully at school are the ones who feel confident at school and are independent. Several of the tasks on my list are aimed at giving children that confidence and it is surprising how little things like knowing how to get dressed on your own and looking after your personal belongings can help a child approaching school with the best possible attitude and get the most out of it.

“I do hope the list helps and that people enjoy going through it and ticking off each one. Some activities are given an age-appropriate suggestion to help mums, dads and child carers. ”

Bravo! Mr Stott is brilliant for making the news with this. There’s no doubt the Internet has changed the way children engage with information, many now even known to multi screen – using more than one device at a time – but when they’re reported to be watching on average over six hours of screen time daily, isn’t it vital to remind them and us of what life was like before the digital era, and of the stuff that childhood used to be made of?

1) Navigate a car journey without using a sat nav.

2) Take stuff apart – a broken appliance will do.

3) Learn to tell the time.

4) Skim stones.

5) Clean your own shoes.

6) Ride a bike/Do a park run.

7) Learn to get dressed and change outfits independently in a timed race (ages 5-7).

8) Learn personal data including address, phone number, birthday.

9) Complete a 500-piece jigsaw (7-11 years).

10) Send a postcard or letter.

11) Get muddy/Climb a tree.

12) Write your own top ten list – things to do, favourite characters, foods or songs.

13) Prep and Pack a picnic and choose a location for it.

14) Cook a meal, have a sausage sizzle or make a sandwich (according to age).

15) Build a den/sandcastle.

16) Fly a kite.

17) Enter a competition – of which there are many in magazines – which has a task element, such as drawing a picture.

18) Write a poem and learn one off by heart.

19) Follow wood trails in woods near you.

20) Join a free sports team.

21) Read a book/Make up your own fictional character or story.

22) Camp out /overnight – back garden will do.

23) Have a water fight.

24) Paddle or swim in the sea.

25) Visit the library – enter a reading competition.

26) Plan a playdate including menu and activities.

27) Lead a walk using a map.

28) Take a picture of well-known landmarks in your area.

29) Play football in your local park.

30) Plant something in the garden – lettuce and carrots can be planted in the summer.

August 17, 2017

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