By Tania Gaffney – Deputy Principal, Primary and Rata Teacher
This newsletter article picks up where my last one left off, sharing some tips about what you can do at home to help nurture tamariki.
This is a very simple tip perhaps for older children and teens who have electronic devices. When children are in bed, place all their electronic devices are in the kitchen to charge. This reduces the temptation for them to be up playing games or checking messages at all hours of the night and missing out on sleep that is so vital for their functioning the next day. Studies have been done showing just how much sleep is being lost by children because of their screen use and it can be as much as 2 or 3 hours a night. There have also been studies showing that those who have screen time right before bed take longer to fall asleep, so it might be a good idea to turn the TV off and put all the devices in the kitchen well before bedtime to help with the winding down process of getting children (and us also!) ready for bed.
Another simple idea (in theory, often harder in practice!) is to give children the gift of time. Try not to have your children’s lives so crammed full of things to do/places to go/people to see, that they never have any down time (and, in this context, ‘down time’ does not mean screen time). Children need time to be bored. When a child says ‘I’m bored’ we can often try and jump in there and fix it with technology, but if we always do this, we aren’t giving them the chance to listen to their own promptings. They need time to run and play, build huts in the yard/lounge/bedroom and read – but not all the time, as reading all the time can be just as isolating as being on a screen. They need time to potter about the house/yard just doing nothing much, to make something with that empty box from the recycling, observe or draw that bird or insect in the backyard. These, and anything else they think of, are activities that you don’t need to be involved with. You don’t always need to be there suggesting as this often means the children will rely on you for the ideas. I enjoy this quote from Nancy H. Blakey, a writer and educator, who said,
“Pre-empt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first – a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS – it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision. I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredo m to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty. If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”
We can’t expect children who never have time of their own to organise, to turn into adults who can organise their days.