A Device-Free Holiday: Gift Ideas for Kids

It’s no secret that kids today often spend far too much time on their phones or in front of a screen. With experts recommending no more than one hour of screen time for preschool children — and limited time for kids of all ages — it’s important to make sure they have plenty of other ways to enjoy and interact with the world around them.

At LCA, we recognize the importance of limiting screen time while also providing meaningful technology instruction for our youngest Saints. In kindergarten through fourth grade, technology is integrated across all subject areas. PebbleGo, BookFlix, Edmentum and other apps are used, when appropriate, to enhance lessons. Beginning in second grade, students attend tech class once per week.

Fortunately, the holidays are a great time to provide kids with games, puzzles, and other items that will help them learn, have fun, and build skills in offline areas. Here are just a few suggestions for gifts that are fun, affordable, and educational — with no screen required!

For Young Children: Inspire the Imagination

Some of the best gifts for children allow them to use their imagination in a hands-on way. Consider something like a pretend doctor kit that allows them to dress up and check on imaginary patients, or a Kinetic Sandbox set through which they can build shapes and sculptures of their own design. These and other kits — from chemistry labs to art stations — come in a variety of sizes, so you can find the one that works for your child and your budget.

Don’t underestimate the value of a gift that brings the whole family together, such as a new board game. Young children will love the opportunity to play against you, siblings, or relatives, and with the seemingly limitless variety of games out there, it’s easy to find ones that fit your family’s style of fun. You can find educational games for various subjects, or stick with one of the classics that has stood the test of time. A two-person game like chess or checkers can offer more strategic thinking and one-on-one connection with your child, while group games — like Cranium, Ticket to Ride, or Codenames — offer a surefire way to bring everyone in on the fun.

For Older Children: Encourage Their Passions

As children get older, their unique interests and personalities begin to flourish. Help further those hobbies and curiosities during the holidays with gifts tailored to their pursuits. For children who love music, consider getting them an instrument to play for a host of mental, social, and emotional benefits. For a kid who’s obsessed with space and sci-fi, a telescope will allow them to explore the sky — and get their eyes off their phones. If athletics are your child’s passion, consider new gear or equipment to help them practice, which will further motivate them.

Find Ways to Help You Save Money

Some of these gifts for older children, in particular, can get expensive. The good news is that for many things like musical instruments and other hobby-specific items, second-hand choices are available that will offer the same value, while also being more forgiving of a novice’s inevitable blunders. Check out sites like eBay and others for endless used options on everything from saxophones to photography equipment to fishing rods. You can also look for eBay coupons and discount codes to save even further on online purchases.

Whatever you end up getting, remember that the best gift for a child — and the best example you can set — is to give them your time and undivided attention. So, set an example for their screen usage by limiting your time on your own devices, and get in the habit of leaving your phone in another room or turning it on silent when you’re spending quality time with them. You’ll be showing them the importance of real-world connections, and you won’t be too distracted to catch the smile on their face when they open the perfect present.

~Guest Blog Post by Alice Jonas, educatorsupport.org.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Reading Makes a Difference

Here at LCA we work to instill a culture of reading engagement. It is essential that we promote reading as a lifestyle both at school and at home. It is also important that our students see their teachers reading. One way in which we promote this is by posting “What I’m Reading” signs outside our classroom doors each month. Mrs. Greggs collects the titles of books that teachers are personally reading and then hangs the book covers outside of the classrooms. Students have definitely taken notice of these signs and have started talking about them as well.

Our goal is to get students interested in reading by choice rather than by necessity. In the same way in which we teach our students both intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, we want to teach them to appreciate books and all they have to offer. Reading cultivates improved vocabulary, language, communication, and writing skills. In addition, reading also enhances critical thinking and analytical skills, along with improved attention and concentration. Reading allows us the opportunity to learn new things, explore ideas, broaden one’s imagination and creativity, plus it helps to improve knowledge and overall achievement in the classroom. As a Language Arts and Literature teacher for the last 18 years, I can confidently say that the students who read more are typically better writers and overall students than those who don’t read as often.

Ironically, I was not much of a reader as a child. My mom was persistent though and kept pushing me to pick up a book. Eventually I found books that I enjoyed reading, and once I learned how to effectively read, I grew more confident in myself and my performance in school improved as well. At Lakewood Catholic Academy, we will always foster a love and appreciation of reading. We encourage you to do the same at home by finding time to read with your child. Video games, cell phones, tablets, etc. make it easy to move from one thing to the next very quickly. Taking time out of your busy days to slow down, sit, and read can pay dividends to your child’s future success.

~Meghann Campbell, Middle School Department Chairperson