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Unplugging During a Plugged In Pandemic

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Jaime Alls, Child & Youth Development Director, Moffett YMCA, Huntington Beach

It used to be that we limited screen time for our tech-savvy kids. It used to be that we had a firm grasp on setting limits for staring at that blue glow. But on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, our children—and parents—have screens and tech woven into the fabric of their everyday lives. It’s not what we imagined, or set out to be ideal, but over the past 12 months, we have been working to create a balance in this plugged-in pandemic.

National Day of Unplugging is March 5, and a day to ask ourselves, “how do we break cyber addiction now that we have been in the pandemic for a full year?” The question is more important than ever before.

Here at the YMCA OC, we have found a few simple ways that work to unplug despite the ongoing pandemic:

  1. Experts say play is a child’s work. So, get to work! From board games to card games, break out the good old-fashioned and simple games of your own childhood. Card games like Uno and board games like Mancala, Candy Land, Sorry and Trouble have been a big hit with youth. LEGOs and puzzles are also excellent ways to learn through play, engaging problem-solving and fine motor skills.
  2. Gathering the family in the kitchen, assigning everyone a job and cooking a family meal together can be complex, but worth it. Parents learn from the kids, and the kids learn from the parents—and at the end of it all, it’s time to EAT! The power of being around the table together for a meal (screen-free!) is a perfect opportunity to connect and escape the tech. One of YMCA OC’s most-loved programs is “HEPA” (Healthy Eating, Physical Activity), which encourages children to learn recipes, along with active exercise to get moving.
  3. Family walks or bike rides, dance parties in the kitchen or front yard—whatever gets the family moving—is a plus. Movement and exercise not only have been proven to increase mood, but also they also increase metabolism and strengthen the immune system, which are necessary during a pandemic! YMCA OC has developed an ever-popular Adventure Guides program, for ages 3-5, 5-12, and 12 and up, aimed to strengthen family relationships with adventures like father/daughter and father/son expeditions, campouts, fishing, strawberry picking, beach camping, hiking, go-kart racing, and more. Sign-ups are accepted anytime.

Overall, we have seen a significant shift in our youth’s interest in technology over the past year, so at the YMCA OC, we are implementing these activities—and much more—to help children unplug and stay active (and maybe inspire their parents, in turn, too!).

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