We’ve all heard the rumors about the effect extensive screen time can have on a child’s development. Time Magazine reported in January that too much daily screen time can prompt issues with memory, attention and language skills. For these reasons and a few others, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests pretty strict limits on screen time: kids ages 2 to 5 years should limit screen time to only an hour a day, while kids younger than that shouldn’t spend any time behind a screen unless it’s to videochat.
One of the scariest aspects of digital technology’s effect on our kids’ brains is the fact that we still don’t know a lot. As screens become a more and more integral part of our own lives, we start to wonder what the proper age is for our children to begin devoting time to cell phones, tablets and computers. Will it give them a leg-up later in life? Or will it hurt their development?
While we at Montana BSA certainly don’t have the answers to all these screen-related questions, we do know a thing or two about the benefits of spending time outside and away from screens. For example, we know that Montana kids have an entire natural world to explore right in their backyards. We know that the outdoor skills kids learn when they’re young usually stick with them in adulthood — and so does the love and enjoyment of outdoor recreation. And we also know, from experience, that there’s a diverse array of accomplishments kids can make that don’t involve a screen at all.
Here are eight such achievements to get you and your child inspired — all of which are also requirements for various BSA merit badges:
Have their voice heard
For older kids interested in making a difference, participating in local government can be a thrilling and worthwhile experience. City councils usually hold public hearings several times a month to engage community members. Even without participating, kids can gain a better understanding of how local governments operate, thus using it effectively in the future — or even becoming part of it.
Reach the top
Especially in Montana, kids of all ages have the opportunity to pick a mountain or hiking trail and reach the end of it. It doesn’t have to be an outrageous summit for kids to benefit from the exercise, sunshine, time spent outside with friends and family, or sense of personal accomplishment.
Understand their surroundings
Kids have a natural curiosity for their surroundings that we oftentimes lose as adults — it’s important to nurture it! Teaching children about the animals, insects and plants native to their local environment is not just informative, but it also makes camping and spending time outside more engaging and interactive in the future.
Have you ever layered the inside of an apple with cinnamon and butter, and then baked it over a fire? Or maybe cooked perfectly seasoned hamburger that had everyone’s mouth watering?
We know Mom and Dad do most of the cooking, but it’s never too early for a child to start learning from the best. Camping recipes are an easy place to start — help your child to create something delicious for the entire family!
Hit their mark
It takes concentration and attuned motor skills to land an arrow right in the center of a target, making archery one of the most classic and focus-heavy activities an older kid can learn. Make sure your kids practice safely, and get ready to watch them gain confidence with each and every bullseye.
Learn to stay afloat
In Montana, swimming is oftentimes an underrated art. Lakes and rivers are so common here, it sometimes feels like every child grew up with a pair of fins in addition to arms and legs.
But for many kids, learning how to swim (and swim well) can feel like an incredible accomplishment — one that not only makes summer trips to the lake more interesting, but could also protect them in emergency situations near water.
Volunteering presents an opportunity for kids to gain perspective, bond with new people, and give back to the community. There are all sorts of ways to get involved — everything from walking shelter dogs to cleaning up highways to helping out at fundraisers. Pick something that is both fun and fulfilling!
Save a life
Rumor has it that there are new CPR guidelines for 2019. And while the process of earning a CPR certification may sometimes require on-screen training, it was too important for everyone involved to exclude from our list.