Hi, I'm Kristen. I'm a former classroom teacher, turned homeschool Mom. I live in Houston, Texas with my super fun husband, two beautiful kids, a scottie dog, a white cat, parakeet, Beta fish and various other creatures that my kids collect.
Early on in our parenting years we knew that we wanted to limit our kids' screen time. Before we had children, we occasionally cared for three young children while their parents traveled. It shocked us when their instructions to us were: "no TV." Honestly, neither of us had ever heard of such a thing. Fast forward a few years and we found ourselves facing the same choices. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the value of a fun cartoon, movie or iPad game, especially when I need a few quiet minutes to make dinner. However, as kids get older, the tendency is often more and more and more screen time. As we fight this continuous, uphill battle, we've had to work a little harder for engaging activities for our children.
Here is a round up of a few things that we've found keep our 11 year year old boy, Henry, happy and busy.
Puzzle Cubes: one of the best "toys" we ever bought Henry was a Rubik's Cube. We found some videos on YouTube that taught him how to solve and the rest is history. Henry carries a cube everywhere we go, always working to memorize another algorithm or pattern, so as to become faster at solving. This has turned into a full time hobby for him, so much so that we've starting attending competitions where he can compete against other solvers.
Games: many boys are competitive by nature, or at least enjoy challenges, thus they love games! Over the years we've picked up a great collection, mostly from thrift stores and garage sales. It's a great opportunity to work on problem-solving skills, strategizing and speed. Henry's current favorites are Dutch Blitz (so much fun!), Rummikub, Monopoly and the many, many games that can be played with a good old fashioned deck of cards. Speed, Spit and War to name a few.
Creatures: boys love taking care of animals. By around 2 years of age Henry would be outside collecting bugs and worms to be his pets. At first I was like: "uhhhh, how about if we leave the beetles outside," but I quickly realized how much joy he experienced collecting them, setting up habitats and taking care of these small creatures. Over the years we've had pretty much every backyard bug, worm, frog, turtle and lizard in our house.
Creativity: I've found that if I keep a supply of blank journals and fresh Sharpies on hand, he is very likely to use them in a creative way. If we are reading aloud a great book, like Harry Potter or The Hobbit, he'll often create a Wizard's Journal, design his own Hobbiton, or sketch some of the many creatures that he's collected from the backyard.
Time: boys need TIME to be boys! My husband and I try really, really hard to limit our kids' daily screen time, whether it's movies, computer or iPad. We also have a screen-free week every few months. I (and they) continue to be amazed at how quickly both our kids will tap into their creative and adventurous selves without having the pull of the screen. Removing the temptation of technology is worth it, and is a great way to experience spontaneous fun and bonding as a family.
There is so much more I could add - stop motion animation, Legos, Mindstorm Robot building, woodworking/woodcrafting and collecting (boys LOVE collections, amiright?). But for time's sake I'll stop here. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear it!