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As summer holidays begin and our kids are out of school the ramp up sing-along of “I’m bored” will start in many households.
During my younger years in Saskatchewan as soon as summer hit it was off to public pools, roaming the neighbourhood and overall enjoying the outdoors. Games of kick the can, tag and hide and seek monopolized the neighbourhood. These days for many of us, this new age of technology has ushered in organized events and overall helicopter parent behaviour.
Letting our children roam the neighbourhood is almost faux pas and terrifying for most parents. So we frantically organize play dates, camps and all things to keep our kids occupied. Our trusted devices have become full-on babysitters. So what can we as parents do to change the dynamic?
The first question one might ask is: Do our children need outdoor activities anyway? I thought Minecraft gives the brain a workout in many ways. My answer is emphatically, yes they do.
Nothing can replace nature and the wonders of the environment. Facing the unknown of the neighbourhood are life skills necessary for the development of your child.
There is nothing more wondrous than a walk outside, a bike ride, a stroll down a nature path to stimulate all parts of a child’s brain. Our children are spoon-fed most of their content. Algorithms pelt their brains with what they think our children need to see and do. All of this eliminates the biological desire, need and expansion of their imagination.
Recently, I was listening to a pastor talk about the roots of our imagination. Our imagination is not born in the mind but of the heart.
The exploration of our physical environment outside the cocoon of our homes and devices, allow the brain and heart to imagine and expand. When imagination is stifled, the creative impulse that is derived in our heartbeats quieter. Our logical brains kick in, and we spend a lot of time in “stinking thinking.”
For children, a break from the expected, like binge-watching Netflix for example, allows the creative muscles of their being to expand. For those that live and die by the advantages of Minecraft and gaming: I am not saying your imagination is not flexed during these events, but there is a balance we might consider.
In our current world, our children are losing the anticipation in their lives. We can now “script” almost everything into our lives.
We live in a constant schedule of expectations and events that our lives are losing parts of the wonder of our imagination. Imagination is not something we can script or control, it requires faith, exploration and most of all wonder.
Nature is the place that holds all the wonder of the universe. From the stars at night to the rising sun. Our physical neighbourhoods are not filled with danger and terrorists lurking behind every tree.
In fact, why would they be there when they have so much access to our kids online? Please see any current social network to see how easy it is for someone to reach into your house and speak to your child.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with an officer who was giving a talk on cyberbullying and cyber crimes. He talked about how much accessibility predators have to kids online. He jokingly said our neighbourhoods have never been safer as we drive around in the “white van.”
When we were kids we were told in the 80's to stay alert for “white vans” and stranger danger. Yet our streets were filled with kids and parents and everyone was on guard. This morning, I went for a run with my 11-year-old as she rode her bike.
Up through the mountains, we moved, and we commented on how quiet it was. We passed house after house. Street after street. Do you know how many kids we saw today? Zero. Not one was outside. Maybe it was the wrong time, maybe everyone is on holidays. It just struck me that there were no kids outside. Where did everyone go?
When I first began the journey in the tech startup world this phenomenon of quiet neighbourhoods is what woke me up from my own slumber. I wondered where everyone went? Where was the shinny game? The soccer game? The games of kick the can? When did we all become so afraid of each other?
In 1981, I was six years old when my mother became a single parent. I instantly became the child of the village. In my community in Saskatchewan, there were families from all over the world. Families from Pakistan, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Chinese and many First Nation families. These families had common core values as each took the time to feed and care for me. Many of these families had specific customs I would marvel at as I watched their family dynamics. Yet it never occurred to me, not once, to ever be afraid of them. They were all I had and wow did each family enrich and change my life.
So this summer why don’t we as families in the Okanagan change things up a bit?
Here is my challenge to each of you: Take back your neighbourhood this summer. To infuse love into the blocks where you live. Let’s start a revolution where we meet our neighbours again. Trust me you have more in common with the people around you than you realize.
Meet your neighbours and send in your stories/pictures. Hashtag #meettheneighbours. Take your kids into nature and send in your stories of new spots, new bugs, new trees. Explore something new in your neighbourhood, a park bench, a store, a path. Try one thing new as a family and tell us your story.
All summer long we would love to share the stories of #myneighborhood. Let’s get to know each other again and #lovemore.
If you are seeking advice in the world of tech and how it affects you and your family, we encourage you to send an email to Askada@mazufamily.com and we will do our best to provide practical, insightful advice.
Janice Taylor is a social entrepreneur, mother, speaker, author and online safety advocate. Her credo of compassion, community, and caring drives the vision of her company Mazu, a safe and fun online platform for families. Mazu gives parents a place to communicate, play and connect with their children in a safe engagement environment.