Do you live near a Home Depot?
If so, I highly recommend checking out the FREE do-it-yourself workshops for kids offered once per month (usually in the morning on the first Saturday of each month, with an extra event around the holidays). A wonderful friend introduced us to these workshops around Thanksgiving, and our boys now look forward to attending the monthly activities. Children are provided everything they need to complete a project (with help from an adult) to include materials (wood, paint, stickers, etc.), access to tools (usually a hammer and/or screwdriver) detailed instructions, a commemorative pin, a Home Depot apron (on which children can proudly attach their commemorative pins), and a certificate of achievement. Once a child has completed 25 workshops, they receive a special commemorative pin!
Dominic Jones, pictured above, is only 6 years old but has already achieved his "25th Workshop" pin (pictured in the gallery below!). Since workshops are available all over the United States, Dominic has been able to attend the DIY workshops every month for over two years, even if traveling out of state with his family. After seeing first-hand how comfortable Dominic is with tools, paints, and project assembly at our local Home Depot workshops, my children are each working towards their own "25th Workshop" pins! I recommend these events for both boys and girls, ages four and above (though a younger child might be able to complete the projects with additional parental assistance).
Benefits of DIY Workshops
I am not at all affiliated with Home Depot, but I have found there are a lot of reasons to attend these fun workshops. Clearly, the top reason is that the workshops are fun and children enjoy getting to take home projects such as toy vehicles, helicopters, picture frames, or the "block calendar" that is being offered in January 2018. Here are a few more reasons:
-Children become familiar with tools in a safe environment
-Gets the kids out of the house when the weather isn't conducive to outdoor play
-Provides time away from electronic toys
-A fun way to bond with a parent or other relative
-No mess! Home Depot sets up a spacious workspace and cleans up after the event!
-Fun with friends! It's free, so invite a friend and have a great no-cost play date!
How do I sign up?
Visit www.homedepot.com and select "DIY Projects and Ideas" and "FREE DIY Workshops" to see what is available in your area. Register ahead of time and show up early if you want your best chance to complete the monthly featured activity -but don't worry, if the store runs out of the featured monthly project they always have back-up activities on hand.
If you have attended a Home Depot DIY Kids Workshop, please share your experience in the comments section below! Have fun!
"Screen time" has changed.
My first son was born 19+ years ago. Parents were already wary of the "electronic babysitter," but I kept an open mind. I still remember the moment I popped in a "Baby Einstein" video for the first time, when he was 7-8 months old; it instantly captured his attention. By age two my son was reading, writing simple words, and drawing detailed pictures so I assumed whatever I was doing was working. I never considered electronic toys anything but an asset to his early education.
Tablets, smart phones, YouTube, and more...
When my 7 year old son was born, I thought our experience with electronics would be similar, if not better. Wrong.
Initially, I allowed a few kids videos (Baby Einstein, the "Signing Time" series to teach my little ones sign language, etc.) but shunned certain toys as being "a bit much" for a young child. What child needs a tablet? Eventually that changed. When my husband and I embraced smart phones and tablets, our kids wanted to use them, too. We eventually let the kids play some of the popular electronic video games that many of their friends were playing, and experimented with what we thought would be a safe, friendly, educational children's app -YouTube Kids.
The addictive reality.
The nature of many popular electronic toys and television programs today is different than what I expected, and highly addictive. If parents do not set a timer for screen time, children can power through a series on Netflix at the speed of light -and many new programs are a far cry from the slower-paced shows that my oldest son grew up on. Worse yet, many of the videos on YouTube Kids are long advertisements for toys with zero educational value and a lot of questionable language. Sure, there are some gems out there, but if children are left to browse videos on their own they can easily be sidetracked by low-quality programming.
Should you just say "no" to electronic play?
It wasn't possible for my oldest son to click a smart phone button and instantly access "garbage programming" disguised as a "kid friendly" show -but that is exactly what happens with kids today. So what is the solution? For some parents, it is to turn their back on electronics entirely. I know at least one family who doesn't allow any television or screen time at all, and I respect that, but the reality is most parents are looking for moderation. My family's current solution to occasionally ban electronic play entirely, but most of the time we simply manage screen time with timers and a rule that our kids can only play with electronics at the end of the day.
We have banned a few things altogether. Our children are no longer allowed to watch YouTube Kids unless it is a video selected by an adult. In a few days, we will completely remove video games that do not involve physical activity (meaning we will allow "dance" games or exercise games such as Wii Fit Plus, but we will not allow games that encourage our kids to zone-out such as Minecraft). While our children initially were not happy about new restrictions on electronics, they understand that we are becoming more strict in this area out of concern for their well being, and not as a punishment.
I have always believed that it is important to give your children choices, but to remember it is the parents's job to control the available choices -and this applies to electronic entertainment. What role do electronic devices play in your home? Have you made any changes to acceptable "screen time" in your home? Experiences welcome!
Kristina Johnson is a homeschooling mama who is passionate about childhood education and the quest for a healthy, clean lifestyle. Visit the "about" section to learn more about Kristina, her family of seven, and the mission of the "learning and laughing" website.