Clinic promotes summer activities

FAIRMONT — Summer vacation barely has begun, but some parents already are searching for ways to keep their children occupied in a way that does not involve an electronic device. Mayo Clinic Health System has come up with an answer — actually, 130 answers — with a new program called “Slim Your Screen Time.”

“It’s an 8-week program that runs from June 1 to July 31. Anybody can participate,” said April Poolman, certified nurse practitioner with Fairmont Mayo.

Participation guides are available at the Fairmont clinic and online at https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/slim-your-screen-time.

“They give you a list of 130 different ideas to encourage you to participate in different activities so you are not in front of a screen,” Poolman said. “There are many things that you can do that cost nothing. They are free.”

The simple activities range from making a blanket fort to writing a story to playing flashlight tag. Some activities that will be especially easy in Fairmont are playing disc golf and fishing.

“These are things that many of us did when we were younger, when we didn’t have phones,” Poolman said. “They were no-brainers to us, but as parents, when we get busy, they just aren’t on our radar anymore.”

Poolman has registered her five children, ranging in age from 8 years old to a 19-year-old college student home for the summer. While the activities list spans all ages, her children also have found specific things to do individually. Her 13-year-old daughter likes to paint fingernails so she volunteers this talent at a nursing home. Her sons prefer fishing.

The activities suggested by “Slim Your Screen Time” don’t require anyone to be the fastest, strongest or smartest, but they do offer the chance to learn and have fun.

“A lot of it is relationship building,” Poolman said. “When kids are on their electronic devices, whether it’s a video game or a phone, they are not interacting with other people. They are not learning friendship skills. They are not learning how to solve disagreements with each other. These are skills they need to learn. If they don’t learn that as children, we are going to have a mess when they get older.”

Poolman added that parents are not immune to overuse of screen time either.

“When we put our phones down and watch our kids, we can see their facial expressions when they see or do something neat,” she said. “If we are on our phones, we miss those exciting things, or we miss their exciting story. We are missing the opportunity to build their minds by asking questions.”

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to get away from our phones, but Poolman suggests setting a designated time when every family member unplugs from electronics.

“Nobody is going to have a phone. Shut the TV off. Be fully invested on spending time with your kids. Just enjoy each other,” she said.

“This is a perfect opportunity to really engage with your family. At the end of the day, the most important people in your life are your family. We are missing that. We only have our kids for so long, and we really don’t want to take that for granted.”


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