Riley Park Splash Park - DadCAMP

DadCAMP appears every two weeks in The Calgary Herald Neighbours section. This was originally published the weekend of July 17, 2014.

My kids don’t need apps to help them bridge the summer school gap. I want them to play outside. While I have grabbed a couple of books to keep up with writing, reading, and some small math problems, I want them outside.

Summer is a time for kids to think differently. They should be exploring. They should be running. They should be sweating.

So I have them in golf camp. Play camp. Bike camp. Skateboard camp. I take them camping. Hiking. Swimming.

We have long road trips planned. We have weekends at cabins planned. We have time away from the parents spent with the grandparents planned.

And then there is the time in between. With nothing. Nothing but a ball and the backyard. Nothing but an empty field waiting for them to make up a random game with their friends. Nothing but a box of LEGO, some costumes, and their imagination. When your kids say “I’m bored,” is when the greatness happens. Don’t hand them an app or turn on a screen, let them sit with that thought for a moment and find their own way our.

When your kids are bored they must rely on themselves for entertainment, and that’s when the magic of creativity flows.

You can’t find that magic in a recreation guide, you can’t find that magic in a day camp, you can’t find that magic in the app store.

Hiking Tunnel Mountain - DadCAMP

That is what summer is about. Breaking the routine, getting your kids outside their comfort zone and finding out more about themselves than they ever knew was possible.

Not On App Store is a brilliant website that sells simple stickers. They say “Not Available On The App Store” with the idea being you slap them around places where kids should be playing. On the bottom of a skateboard. On a tire swing. Not on your laptop.

I’ve cut the sticker out and I’m using it as clip art for our summer photos. A little reminder to me and my friends that when I share a picture of us cycling at Nose Hill Park, swimming at Riley Park, or hiking to the top of Tunnel Mountain, that we were outside. We were exploring. (Yes, I took the pictures with my smartphone and had to edit the photo with an app. There are exceptions to every rule, no?)

I need the analog reminder because my kids are digital natives, there’s no way around it.

When I have my computer open and want to show them a video, they’ll try to touch the screen to make it play.  They grew up with screens they could touch and move and manipulate. The outside part? That’s what we need to work on.

Cycling Nose Hill - DadCAMP

Kids in the US, on average, spend 7 hours a day in front of a screen. For them, watching tv, playing video games, scrubbing apps, is a full-time job.  According to researchers at Iowa State University, if parents can limit screen time, you’ll find your kids behave better, sleep better, and do better at school. The results don’t happen right away, but they build over time.

So this summer, as you worry about how you’re going to stop your kids from having the summer slide by searching for apps to keep up their learning, remember that something not available on the app store is just as good.

We’re heading out for a camping trip in the badlands this weekend, down in a valley where the internet can’t reach, where the hoodoos tower high, and where imaginations run wild.

There isn’t necessarily an app for everything. See you there?

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