The App Age: A Parent's Guide To Keeping Kids Busy Without Electronics by Dawn Marcotte
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The App Age: A Parent's Guide to Keeping Kids Busy Without Electronics by Dawn Marcotte is exactly as the title suggests. It is ideas on how to keep your children busy doing fun things without them glued to the computer or game system. Although some suggestions are not that 'fun' or doable if your child is an 'only child' (ever try and play tag along?) many things can be done with just one other person, even an adult and if your neighborhood has multiple children in it, then the problem is solved.
The book does cover suggestions for both indoor fun and outdoor fun. Let's face it, every day is not an outdoor day and as a child I remember those were the times I was a bit bored and that is when we mostly watched TV (there were no computers or gaming systems then). If you live in Florida for example, an occasional rain day is not such a big deal but hurricanes and such can have lasting effects and dangers so sending the children out to play is not the best idea. For those who live in the North, snow days can be a problem as they can last for an extended time. Out West, it may be too hot to go outside. No matter where you live there will be days children have to be inside and if you don't want them glued to electronics the entire time this book has some great suggestion. My personal favorite (for smaller children) is the cardboard boxes and duct tape section.
This book is of suggestions for things to do, it is up to you as the parent to supervise your children to keep them safe and use your own instinct/judgement because no one knows your child's curiosity or behavior better than you. Although I have seen where the author many times cautions about letting young children use scissors and other such sharp instruments, there may be dangers in doing any of the suggestions. For example, the author suggests doing different activities for different areas and one of these is sand. If the sand is in a sandbox this isn't an issue (unless you have one huge sandbox). In short, the author suggests making castles and roads for toy cars and if the sand is moist you can make bridges and tunnels for them as well. Innocent enough but the problem is if you are on a beach, I can already see (to me it is natural for a child to do this) that the child/children not stopping there, they will want a bigger castle or tunnel, one they can go through or fit in and this is a very real life and death situation. Adults and children have done this in the past only to have it collapsed on them and they suffocated when they couldn't breathe and/or inhaled the sand even though their parents and/or other people were trying to dig them out. Sand is heavy and digging a person out (and some were not completely covered, just the chest up was covered) wastes precious seconds. Many already died from doing something so natural as digging in sand or making sand castles, please learn from their mistake and under no circumstance let your child build and/or go into castles/tunnels made of sand.
Over-all I like the suggestions and remember many of them from my own childhood and there are some games I never even heard of. The author does a great job explaining how to play each of them. Once more, remembering these games from my childhood reminded me of other games we played (which were not mentioned in the book) so it serves as a 'memory jogger' also. For example, an outside game we played is 'Tops' when I was about 7. Now I realize Spinning Tops (wooden top with a string) are not easy to find but I have seen them at Cracker Barrel (I saw "Jacks" there too!) in the past and I know they are still available at different sites on-line. We would draw a circle (about 12" round for the three of us using sidewalk chalk) and put a dot in the center. The more people the merrier, just make the circle a little bigger when needed. The ideal was to spin your top inside the circle all at the same time and once all the tops stopped spinning, the one closes to the dot in the circle wins. Remember though, tops don't spin in one spot and they can bump each other out of the circle. Once you get the hang of it, you can spin your top to move and/or stay put which makes it even more challenging. You can take this whole game and use a piece of paper with a circle and dot drawn on it (or you can put any object on the floor as a 'target' object) and use marbles instead of tops. Only difference is each child has more than one marble (10 is good) and they take turns trying to knock the person who went before them away from the 'dot' or 'target' so when all the marbles are played, they are the one closes so they score the point. You can agree on how many points make the game before playing these games.
Again I have to stress to use common sense, if you have a little one who puts everything in his/her mouth, don't buy marbles for the older sibling unless your positive they can be kept away from the baby. Also, tops do have a metal point (which really isn't a point, more like a rounded numb) and I remember having to glue mine back on (well, my mom did) because of all the use and banging the toy got (believe me, we were not delicate with our tops). This can be a chocking hazard for a child so be sure to remind the older children to let you know immediately if the 'point' comes off. Also remember, it is made of wood and wood causes splinters so depending on how rough you are on it, they do need to be checked occasionally to be sure the wooden part of it isn't splintering. For the most part, we just had mom sand the damaged part (easy to tell, it is where there is no paint) and re-painted it and they lasted at least a year (with lots of use) but there comes a point where the 'balance' gets thrown off and at that point, it needs to be replaced.
As far as the negative about the book, I only have one and it is that it is too short. (Of course this is just my personal opinion but after all that is what a review is) The book is about 30 pages long and the price and length/content don't agree for the amount being charged (currently listed for $9.99). I would have been very disappointed if I paid that much for this book considering (I figure) at least a quarter of the things suggested are things most people already did with their children. Granted, there are variations on different games that maybe we all didn't play but for the most part we all played tag, visited the local attractions, etc. If more suggestion were given so the book was at least twice as long with more fun games (e.g. I Spy, Mother May I, Licence Plate Game, ABC Game, and those are just ones I can think of off the top of my head) then I could possibly see the price.
To sum it up, it gives good information, suggestions, and ideas to get your children away from the electronics but I'd wait until it goes on sale. Although there are some suggestions for (to me the most difficult age group) 2-4 year olds, I wish those ages were covered more. (After contacting the author, she is considering a book just for that age group). The games/crafts covered are varied and fun while many of them I am familiar with, many I am not, and some I will be trying with my grandchildren. I enjoyed the book.
*I received a free copy of this book for my honest review.
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