This past Sunday, January 20, 2019, we recognized this year’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. We use this day each year not only to celebrate God’s gift of life and to honor the many lives lost to abortion, but also to commit to protecting human life at every stage and in every circumstance. The original Sanctity of Human Life Sunday was first held on January 22, 1984. Then President, Ronald Reagan, issued the proclamation to coincide with the eleventh anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on-demand in all fifty states. We continue to acknowledge Sanctity of Human Life Sunday every year, but why? Why do we continue to bring focus to the third Sunday in January using a term that for some has been reduced to a cultural, political, or moral slogan—an overused remnant from the 1980’s? The reason is simultaneously profound yet simple.
The word sanctity itself stems from the Latin word sanctus, which means sacred, holy, or inviolable. In other words, as Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, David P. Gushee, explains, “It is possible to argue that the idea of the sanctity of human life is essentially a conferring of God’s holiness or sanctity onto the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings. Humans can have sanctity because God their Creator and Redeemer does, or because God wills that they should be viewed and treated as such.” This is where the simplicity of the sanctity of human life lies. Human value does not depend on financial worth, achievement, contribution to society, or success in any area. Human value is predetermined before we are even born simply because we are our loving Father’s creation.
The complexity of this ideal is multi-faceted. What makes the notion of the sanctity of human life more profound than the fact we are a creation of God, is its universality. The sanctity of life is perhaps one of the most extensive and most inclusive moral obligations we as Christians or as human beings have to one another because each and every human being is included regardless of stage of existence or quality of experience and extending to every type of human diversity imaginable whether it be race, gender, ability, or socio-economic status. What all are included in is a brotherhood of immeasurable worth and inviolable dignity as determined by God. This stunning and elevated ideal of the worth and dignity of all human life is what we mean, or should mean, when we invoke the term of the sanctity of life.
Sanctity of human life is a moral conviction and obligation that continually challenges our efforts to redefine or delegitimize it. Humans will often try to manipulate the universality of the sanctity of human life by limiting its scope of inclusion by eliminating those we deem to be “the others”. Whether the motivation is hatred, convenience, or what we consider reasons of financial responsibility, we can sometimes find it difficult to include within the brotherhood of the truly human those we may not see as relevant or equal—the weak, the enemy, the disabled, the stranger, the unborn, the sinner, the racial other, the poor, or something as benign as the ex-friend. However, each of these human beings has a value that far exceeds our capacity to count or measure. Isaiah 55:8-9 states, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Our efforts to alter the value of human life to fit into our convenient world-view, can never change the undeniable fact that God’s ways are the ones that truly define our existence. God determined we all have value simply by creating us. This blessing from the Creator of all ensures that every life is sacred. This understanding is why the term “sanctity of human life” remains relevant to this day. It will never be a remnant of 1980’s culture, because the worth God places on human life is undeniable and unending.
Now the question becomes: “What do we do with this knowledge?” While the term sanctity of human life is often applied to the abortion debate, the term is much broader than simply protecting babies from abortion. It is not enough to simply ensure babies are born, but rather that they and their entire family are able to live life abundantly. According to Ephesians 1:5, “He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” As the children of God we are also brother and sisters to each other. As parents we teach our children to look out for one another. As brothers and sisters in Christ it is our duty to do the same. We have a moral obligation to protect life as well as to lift each other up so that we may all live life abundantly though Christ. The Caring Pregnancy Center’s goal is to do just that. We seek to protect life by educating the abortion-vulnerable, or providing life-saving ultrasounds. Our nurses have currently performed 317 confirmed pregnancy ultrasounds, and of that, 309 have chosen life. That is a remarkable 97.5%. We seek to lift up families by giving them the tools to make the best choices for their families, pointing them toward spiritual and personal growth, and alleviating material needs by offering the items needed to feed and clothe their babies. Despite all we do, we cannot do it alone. Every life saved or improved is because of God’s grace and goodness, and the support of so many generous souls in the communities we serve.
It is our hope that you will join us in recognizing Sanctity of Human Life Sunday every day of the week and all year long. More than that we hope you will join the community of brothers and sisters in Christ that seek to celebrate each and every human life and do what we can to lift each other up so that each person no matter their circumstance is able to live that sacred life abundantly. Let this year’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday be about more than just a slogan; let it become a call to action.
This blog entry was penned by guest blogger Ashley Taylor of disabledparents.org
Today, more and more people with disabilities are entering into parenthood. In fact, over 6 percent of parents in the US have disabilities and are raising children under the age of 18, according to GPSolo.
Support for new parents who are disabled is growing too. You might, however, still be nervous about bringing home baby. Here is some advice on how to prepare for your new arrival.
Planning For Safety With Home Updates
Caring for your baby when you have a disability may require some planning. In 2013, a survey of mothers who were disabled was conducted by The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. When asked about caregiving, the responses showed that the biggest challenges these new moms faced were night care, bathing, and carrying their babies.
To safely and quickly address all your baby’s needs, you might need to make adaptations or accommodations in your home. These need not be costly or strenuous. Here are some safety changes that can help all parents:
● Install grab bars in tubs and showers to assist in bathing your children. Make sure to purchase the right bathing seat for your child’s height and weight as well.
● Add seamless doorways or shower doors.
● Remove tripping hazards around your home.
● Use non-slip rugs and mats in slippery areas and on ramps.
● Update home safety devices, such as smoke detectors.
Adaptive nursery items can provide parents with much-needed convenience. There are different options available, depending on your needs. For parents who are physically challenged, adaptive baby items include:
● Side-opening cribs.
● Sling baby carriers.
● Swivel-based car seats.
● Adaptive wheelchairs or wheelchair add-ons for carrying your baby.
Here are some adaptations for parents who are visually impaired:
● Label children’s food with textured tape or braille labels for meal preparation.
● Add jingling bells to your baby’s shoes or clothes to help keep track of them.
● Read this article from the National Federation of the Blind for more tips to help blind parents.
Items for parents who are hearing-impaired include:
● Baby monitors like the Babble Band.
● Notifiers or teletypewriters that alert parents when a baby is crying.
Read more must-haves from Disabled Parents.
Thinking Outside The Box
To solve the problems you encounter, you may need to get creative. Modified Mama shares her experience as she became unable to cook for her child. Rather than resort to nightly pizza, she found a solution that kept her child healthy and fit her lifestyle and budget by using a meal-delivery service.
While you can’t always determine every future need, it can be helpful to walk through your home as if you are carrying your baby to discover unforeseen difficulties or obstacles. If you can’t find an existing solution to solve your challenges, you may need to think outside the box and form your own solution. However, it’s important to keep safety at the forefront of your mind at all times. It might be safer to have an item created or customized for you. Certain schools, like the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University, can advise you on where to take these projects.
Reducing Your Stress
Bringing home a new baby is stressful for any parent, but by remembering to take care of your own needs, you can reduce that stress. Take these precautions:
● Get as much rest as you can, but be aware that early infancy provides little sleep for moms.
● Listen to your doctor’s advice on taking care of your postpartum health, and contact him immediately if you start to struggle with depression.
● Remember to eat at least 3 meals a day after you deliver your little one. If you are breastfeeding, stick to a healthy diet to pass on nutrients to your baby.
● Trust your instincts. You and your child will adapt to each other while you are bonding.
Having a disability may make parenting a bit more challenging, but today, you can find the support you need to enjoy life with your baby.
(The following article was penned by guest blogger Joyce Wilson of teacherspark.org)
Anxiety is s term used to describe tendencies of nervousness, worrying, and even fear. For children, there are a number of situations that can cause, as well as exacerbate, anxiety. Schoolwork, peer interactions, and pressure to obtain suitable grades, are all common causes of anxiety among children and youth. Going back to school can invoke a number of anxieties, inducing emotions such as stress and nervousness. As a parent, there are a number of steps you can take to mitigate your child’s back-to-school anxiety.
Listen and Watch
If you want to help your child develop positive anxiety coping mechanisms, start by listening to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Be aware of changes in daily behavior, attitude, and sleeping patterns. If you notice something is out of the ordinary, practice active listening to discover the root cause. This process involves listening, asking questions, and encouraging your child to explore healthy coping mechanisms, which includes avoiding drugs and alcohol to help cope with stress. Remember, your job as a parent isn’t necessarily to help your child avoid the source of anxiety; rather, your responsibility is to help him/her work through feelings and develop healthy responses to emotional strain. Additionally, you can help them focus on the aspects of school that are exciting, such as sports, friends, or teachers.
Make the Mornings Awesome
Homework, lunchtime socializing, and extracurriculars can be enough to make even the most capable adults anxious. If you find your child’s anxiety is particularly heightened in the morning, try to make the morning routine as pleasant as possible. To start, make sure you are not brining unnecessary stress to the morning. If you are grumpy, tired, and ill-prepared for the day ahead, your children will sense it and respond accordingly. Being prepared will also give you more time to sit down with your children to discuss the day ahead. Be sure to take some time to praise your child and offer encouragement.
Easing Back In
After a few months of rest and relaxation, a new year can seem overwhelming. Instead of starting everything in September, try to ease activities and extracurriculars in slowly. Another great way to ease the back-to-school tension is to plan a few fun activities. Just because it’s September doesn’t mean trips to the lake, pool, or water slides have to stop. Planning for a few fun post-summer exertions can give your children something to look forward to. For parents of teenagers, consider encouraging him/her to do things they like such as seeing friends, going to concerts, or taking a day trip.
When anxiety and disorganization co-occur, children can be left feeling even more stressed, exhausted, and nervous. For children suffering from anxiety, it can be difficult knowing how to get and stay organized. On top of that, disorganization can exacerbate anxiety, thereby creating a destructive cycle. To help your child build organizational skills, encourage him/her to create to-do lists, limit clutter, and plan for each day the evening before. Next, consider investing in a few handy organizational tools. A desk, dresser, and large master binder can all play an important role in organization. For your tech-savvy child, consider investing in a laptop. Laptops are increasingly being welcomed into schools as valuable learning tools and can ensure all homework and to-do lists are kept in one place. The bonus is you can protect your own laptop from sticky hands and spills.
Back-to-school should elicit a feeling of excitement rather than stress and anxiety. To ensure your child is off to a great school year, try implementing some of the tips above.
The following blog article was penned by guest blogger Amanda Henderson of safechildren.info
Children rely on parents to ensure that they are safe in and around their homes. There are many hazards in the home, but there are also opportunities to help enable your children to make healthy decisions in their lives. In addition to doing your part as a parent to minimize risks, you can also teach good habits and decision-making processes that will benefit your kids, and your family, for years.
Make safety and planning a part of your family culture
One way to foster safety is to encourage your children to participate with you in developing a safety plan. Most organizations, even small ones, have detailed manuals and guides for all sorts of worst-case scenarios and hazards. Your family is just as important and the risks are higher, so why not follow their lead and introduce organizational skills to your children?
For any hazard in the home, such as the potential for a fire, a backyard pool accident, or other injury, you can develop a plan. There were 1.3 million house fires in 2015, resulting in 3,200 deaths, 15,000 injuries and $14.3 billion in losses. Even with these large numbers, most families seemingly rely on luck and smoke and fire detectors solely. Online templates for family fire safety plans are widely available. Follow the lead of these plans and tailor them to your family situation. These guides are especially helpful as the panic of a fire often makes simple decision-making difficult, and having a chart or map to safety, in hand, for example, might make the difference between life and death. And safety plans are helpful for everyday risks and hazards as well.
Hazards in the home
There are numerous sources of danger in the home, from risks of poisoning to serious bodily injury. Assess your home and how childproof it and its contents are. New parents often relish baby-proofing their home, zip-tying cabinets and putting outlet covers everywhere. But by the time the kids are teenagers, the covers are missing and the liquor cabinet is left accessible to all. Even the best kid whom you swear would never drink may still be a risk for experimenting with alcohol. And the risk may come from a visiting friend. Locking up alcohol is helpful, but speaking candidly with your children about the dangers of alcohol - especially accidental overdose - is essential and can become a component of your home safety plan.
The same degree of caution is necessary for medicine. Through sports injuries, children may be at risk for painkiller exposure and addiction. Keep your medication away from curious eyes and hands.
Other home hazards include handguns, kitchen implements and tools. Handguns should be locked and stored so as to limit their access by youth. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms publishes a Youth Handgun Safety Act Notice. If you are a gun owner and wish to pass responsible gun ownership practices to your children, share the information in the notice with them and incorporate the information into your home-safety plan.
For other objects that might present a danger. Teach your kids how to properly use those that are age-appropriate. For example, have your children help you prepare meals and learn basic kitchen knife skills.
Through assessing and planning, families can reduce risks at home, while teaching skills and the ability to plan and make decisions.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
This month's blog entry was penned by guest blogger Jenny Wise from specialeducator.com.
Dealing with grief is one of the most traumatic experiences any person can face. The pain caused by loss affects not only those who knew the deceased but their friends and family members as well. Factor in the complications that come with parenting special needs children and the burden can strain even the stoutest soul. We can't erase your sadness or undo the past. We have no quick solutions or easy answers. But we can suggest options that might make the burden easier for you and your child to bear. Let's do that now.
Understanding the Mind of a Special Needs Person
Many factors make coping with loss profoundly difficult for those with special needs. These include:
● Impaired ability to process emotions. For example, autistic individuals often find themselves frustrated by circumstances most others regard as routine. A major life transition can overwhelm their cognitive processes, leading to verbal outbursts and other behavioral issues. As a parent, it's important for you to remember that these actions entail no disregard for your feelings. Your child is using the only coping mechanisms she has.
● Pronounced dependence. Persons with special needs need the help of caregivers to navigate their way through life, according to AARP. This dynamic can provoke deep set anxiety in your child, especially if the deceased was a source of aid or comfort.
● Limited emotional resources on the parent's part. We know what you're thinking: "I would do anything for my child, no matter how trying." We're not questioning your commitment; far from it. But all of us must face facts. Caring for a special needs person takes a lot out of anyone. The difficulties caused by a time of grief may exhaust your already limited reserves, unless you make time for yourself, more on that in a bit
Now that we've looked at the challenges before you, let's explore how to rise above them.
● Give yourself a break. It's easy to blame yourself if your behavior during hard times is less than ideal. But, as we pointed out before, you're only human. So stop punishing yourself. The fact that you care so much about your child shows you're a good person at heart.
● Find a support network. You're far from alone when it comes to have a special needs child. Millions of other Americans are going through similar trials. You can find advice, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on by linking up with other caregivers, either in person or online.
● Get professional help for your child. A capable grief counselor can make all the difference in the world to how things turn out for your child and yourself. If possible, choose a counselor who is trained in dealing with special needs people.
● Do what you can to provide for your children's needs over the long term. Not only will this provide solace to your child, it can help you to have control over the situation.Trust funds and other financial vehicles are options, not only for the wealthy, but for people of average means as well, according to Investopedia.
Healing Takes Time; Let It
There is no "normal" period of time for the grieving process, despite what you may hear or read online. Your emotions may range from calm acceptance one day to anger and despair the next; and that's okay. In the end you'll look back on this time as a period of discovery and growth for both your child and yourself. So keep your head up and your eyes on the future, knowing that this too shall pass.
In a few days we will celebrate that day set apart for us moms, Mother's Day. As busy as we sometimes feel our lives are, it is important to make sure we take the time to appreciate every aspect of our little ones lives., It may sound cliché, but the time really does go by faster than we think, and we need to make sure we pay attention and notice before we miss it. The following is from one of our clients trying to do just that:
"My daughter's birthday is June 10th. We decided on having a Rainbow Theme Birthday Party because she loves all sorts of colors as well as the My Little Pony Rainbow Dash. Birthday planning for a two-year-old party that arrives in June makes a mom reflect on how much her life has changed. There are so many firsts within the first two years of your child's life that it is amazing to watch. I thought the first year flew by fast, but I was wrong. My daughter has changed so much from year one to year two. She did her first trick-or-treat during Halloween, understood what opening presents at Christmas is, participated in her first egg-hunts, among so many other adventures. She has made new friends, gained more skills, and her vocabulary is sky-rocketing. She is our little sponge and she loves learning. I am so proud of her for trying new things and being excited when she gets it. She is in the process of learning numbers and alphabet. She is interested in learning about potty-training. She is everything girlie and more!
With Mother's Day approaching, I'm glad to say that she is the one that made me into a mom. She makes our world a little brighter and a lot more fun. I can't wait to see what's in store for Year Two and how much she grows. We know she is going to have Terrific Twos! If I could give my daughter three things, it would be: the confidence to always know her self-worth, the strength to chase her dreams, and the ability to know how truly, deeply loved she is."
Being a mom is hard work. There is no denying that fact. This Mother's Day may we urge you let go of the busyness and hard work of motherhood to reflect on those little ones that gave you a reason to celebrate this day. Take a breath and revel in the cliché. It really does go by too fast.
When looking up the meaning of Labor Day, one will find that on Google it states, "a public holiday or day of festivities held in honor of working people in the US & Canada on the first Monday in September." It is a day to relax with the family and friends as well as enjoying the nice fall weather. Labor Day is a day to recognize the hard work that people put into the community and remember the beginning of the Labor Movement. With being a first time mom, this year I've been thinking more on reflection on actual labor that moms go through. Every labor is different. Some are quick and natural, others are scary and cesarean. It all depends on how the baby wants to enter the world & each labor is a blessing no matter what the circumstances.
Here is my labor story: I started to get contractions on June 10th at midnight and they kept getting stronger so we drove to the hospital and got there at four in the morning. I found out that I was five centimeters dilated which was better than what I was at during my due date checkup five days before. We were supposed to have an induction day on June 12th, but baby girl was not going to wait anymore than she already did. I waited out having an epidural for five hours and received it at 9:00am. The epidural was one of the worst parts for me because I'm not a fan of big needles or doctors who try to tell jokes when you would rather get the procedure done and over with. Once the epidural was in, we waited. And waited. Waited some more with no more dilation progress. Nurses did the usual checkups, gave more pain meds, changed my position in the bed, yet still no progress. The doctor broke my water hoping more contractions would start. Around 3:45pm we started to notice the baby's heart monitor wasn't in a good spot. During the entire pregnancy she was near 140 bpm, and now her heart beat would drop around 60 and 90 then back up to 140. It continued like this for a few more minutes before my husband went to get a nurse to examine it. She said to keep watching and that she would get the doctor. We waited, but didn't like the looks of the numbers so my husband went to get the doctor this time. The doctor decided to do an emergency C-Section because he believed the baby was in distress and could have the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which we eventually found out she did. They called for a C-Section at 4:15pm and our beautiful, healthy baby girl was born at 4:31pm on June 10th. The hospital staff had to put me completely under because of it being an emergency, so I didn't get to have that initial first meeting with my daughter when she was born. It took me awhile to wake up from the anesthesia. It was an hour and a half to be exact, before I was reunited with my husband and brand new daughter. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, but it was all worth it in the end.
Here is a quote by Jane Weideman that definitely fits this topic -- "Giving Birth Should Be Your Greatest Achievement, Not Your Greatest Fear". I can truly say that becoming a mom is the greatest achievement I have done. I have a wonderful life, loving husband, a great college education with three degrees, great family & friends, able to dream big, and most of all, enjoy a new chapter in my life with a sweet baby girl. My husband and I are so proud of all that our daughter has accomplished and she brightens our world everyday. We have so many dreams and goals for her future, and we are so blessed to call her "Ours". We look forward to every minute we have as a family and wouldn't change it for the world. The one day of labor turned into a birthday that we get to celebrate every year. It's a "Labor Day" that we will never forget because it changed our lives forever.
Nothing can quite compare you for motherhood. Even for those who always envisioned themselves as mothers from a young age, no amount of forethought, planning, or dreams can compare to the reality of welcoming a little one into your arms. One of our clients has touched on just this ideal in a beautifully written article. The remainder of this post will be turned over to her thoughts and experiences and she encourages each new mom, and perhaps even experienced mothers, to sit back and "cherish the MOMents".
"As a first time mom everything is brand new with all sorts of emotions. Time seems to go fast and slow all at the same time! I have always wanted children ever since I was a little girl playing with my dolls. When I found out I was pregnant I couldn't believe it! One of my goals and dreams was going to become a reality. My husband and I found out that we were going to have a little girl in January of 2015, and she arrived on June 10, 2015. That date changed our lives for the better and we can't picture our lives without her! She has hit so many milestones within her thirteen months of being born, and she is advancing with her learning abilities. It is absolutely wonderful to watch her grow and change into a beautiful little girl.
My favorite MOMents with her are making her smile and laugh, watching her play with her Daddy, watching her dance to music, babble and talk as if she has a story to tell, discovering a new talent or ability and my absolute favorites: big kisses, hugs, and her little voice saying Mama. There's nothing quite like it to have so much unconditional love for someone that is a part of you and your significant other. I love exploring the world through her eyes and capturing every little thing I can through videos and photographs.
Some advice I have for future mommies out there is to write in a journal throughout your pregnancy. It helps you get connected more with you little one. I wrote in a journal every other day, explaining what was going on in our lives while she was in my belly. I have two more pages to write in; one for her 10th birthday and one for her 16th birthday. I plan on giving it to her as a present on her 16th birthday. I try to stay in the MOMent as much as I can and cherish everything that comes out of the day!"
That phrase is often followed by squeals of delight and the pattering of little feet as children run to be scooped up in the loving arms of their father. However, not all children get to hear this phrase. For some, they are left wondering who daddy is, and why daddy isn't there. There is a troubling trend of fathers being absent in their children's lives, a trend that has long reaching consequences. Studies have shown that the absence of a father in a child's life can affect a child in a very negative way, and has further consequences on society. A report in 2011 in Psychology Today published these sobering statistics:
Beginning in October of 2015, the CPC has been offering the “Fatherhood Bootcamp” class to our male clients. This class provides new or expecting fathers with the skills and knowledge they need to help take care of their child. It also helps prepare them for when their children grow up, so they know what to expect and can lead their children down the right and righteous path. Most importantly, it teaches fathers how to love their children, and sacrifice themselves for their children just as Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Too many mothers have been forced to play the dual roles of mother and father. While single mothers usually strive to do all they can for their children, parenthood was never intended to be a job performed alone. Being a man is not easy. Being a father is more challenging. Being a godly father is even more challenging still. However, the rewards are exponentially greater than the challenges. Every father should experience the joy of scooping up their child and having little arms squeeze his neck; just as every child should be filled with joy, love, and excitement when they hear the words, “Daddy's home.”
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
(This blog entry was penned by one of our male volunteers.)
That title might sound a little strange at first, so let me begin by providing a little backstory. My four year old nephew loves dinosaurs. Now when I say he loves them, I mean he has a complete and total preoccupation with them that borders on obsession. It is actually quite impressive. He can tell you what kind the dinosaur is, when it lived, whether it was an herbivore or carnivore, and about any other tidbit of information you may ever want to know. I once made the mistake of calling a dinosaur he was playing with a Tyrannosaurus Rex when it was not one. He looked at me with his big blue eyes and effectively made me feel like an idiot with the retort, “I’m not playing with a T-Rex. This is an Indominus Rex.” Well then. Now I know.
My sister does a great job encouraging his passion. Coloring books, toys, and t-shirts adorned with dinosaurs galore fill his closet. This obsession with dinosaurs has caused a few headaches and embarrassment at times though. My personal favorite example of this would have to be the time my sister took my nephew for a walk down the main street in their small town. My nephew refused to answer to his name, and in fact would only respond with growls and roars. This would be okay had he not been roaring as loud as he could at every person they passed complete with dinosaur-style walking. If you can imagine an elongated, high stepping stride with hands drawn into his chest startling elderly women and making other toddlers cry as he roared in their faces.
As embarrassed as my sister may have been, I find the situation as equally wonderful. We are a society completely inundated with technology. This technology can be a great tool when it entertains and assists us. Yet, children today spend more time in front of a screen than ever before. My nephew’s dinosaur demonstration on the sidewalk was a display of creative and active play that seems to becoming more and more rare all the time. A generation ago screen time was limited to the television. Now in addition to watching televisions kids are surrounded by PlayStations, Xboxes, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, iPhones, tablets, laptops, and more. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children today now use electronics at a rate of more than four to five times the recommended allotment. When a child’s first reaction to “I’m bored,” is to grab the nearest electronic, then Houston, we have a problem.
Numerous studies show the undisputed benefits to creative and active play that just cannot be replicated by anything with a screen. On the other side on the coin, overexposure to electronics can have devastating effects on the developing brains of children. Between the ages of 0-2, children’s brains triple in size and continue at a rapid rate until age twenty-one. Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010). While that fact alone may seem scary, children who use too much technology also have higher rates of obesity, mental illness, aggression, addictions, and sleep deprivation (Anderson 2007, Rowan 2010, Mentzoni 2011, Tremblay 2011, Boston College 2012).
So, what exactly is creative play? Creative play includes games, painting, building, drawing, pretending, or any other artistic or imaginative activity. The benefits of creative play are endless. Specifically, creative play helps build intellectual curiosity in skills such as math, geometry, measurement, and more. The creative process helps kids develop critical thinking skills every time they ask themselves questions such as, “What color should I use when drawing this picture?” or “How high can I build this tower before it would fall over?” Physically, creative play helps small children master fine motor skills through actions like holding a paint brush or taking two Legos apart. In addition, creative play can give children a positive opportunity in which to express their feelings therefore promoting emotional well-being.
Active play has some of the same benefits as creative play. Playing outside gives children the opportunity to learn about nature and the world around them by exploring. Active kids have far less rates of obesity and juvenile diabetes (Tremblay 2011). In fact, kids with an electronic device in their bedroom are 30% more likely to be obese (Feng 2011). Team sports or other athletic opportunities not only possess the obvious physical benefits such as gross motor skill development, but also have social and emotional ones as well. Children who belong to a team have better cooperative skills, tend to make friends easier, and are less shy.
These facts can seem overwhelming. What are parents to do in a world that seems to thrive on technology? Like anything in life, moderation should be key. Technology doesn’t need to be outlawed, but parents should definitely keep responsible expectations in mind for its usage. Take this as an opportunity to invest in your child’s interests. Go for a bike ride, paint a picture together, play a board game, make a blanket fort, play catch, and by all means, walk down the street with your hands drawn to your chest and roar together like dinosaurs. After all, “Rawr!” is just dinosaur for “I love you.”