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Raising ‘slow’ kids no small feat today

By now most of you have heard of the slow food movement – the growing trend to support local farms and foods and sustainable growing methods.

I’m all for the slow foods movement, but I believe there’s another national treasure – yes, even more important than food – that could benefit from a slowdown.

I say it’s high time we start a slow kids movement.

I’m not advocating that we raise kids who aren’t bright. I mean we should raise them the old-fashioned way, with access to less technology and fewer gadgets.

We need fewer Playstations and Gameboys, and more puzzles, blocks, card games and board games. We need fewer X-boxes – and more cardboard boxes.

We need less lapware (make that zero lapware) and more laptime read-aloud sessions.

We need less screen time and more screened-porch time. More nature walks, backyard camping, lightning-bug catching and lazy conversations with our families.

Most of all, we need less entertainment and more moments of boredom – those moments that spur kids to build forts out of chairs, blankets, and sofa cushions and to play store, school and restaurant. It’s that kind of play that best teaches them to to experience frustration, learn patience and tolerance of others, and practice the principle of delayed gratification.

When my own three children (born in the 1980s) were young, television was the worst of the electronic distractions – and that was tough enough to limit. My girls learned from an early age, though, that “Mommy turns on the TV” and that TV was an occasional treat. It was that simple. As for electronic games and toys, they just never made it into the house (until the youngest was 10, that is, and her ever-indulgent granny bought one).

I’ll admit that like any other perennially-exhausted mom, I had days when it was all I could do to crash on the couch while the kids watched Sesame Street. But those days were the exception and not the rule.

I knew that letting my children marinate hour after lazy hour in front of the TV -- even educational TV -- was doing them no favors if it replaced creative, make-believe activities, outdoor recreation, and hands-on play with three-dimensional objects.

I knew that the very act of watching TV, no matter how good the content, encourages passivity, saps initiative, and shortens attention spans – habituating developing brains to fast-paced, constantly-shifting action.

I knew that kindergarten teachers, on the very first day of school, have no trouble picking out the children who have been regularly read to, and the kids who have been nourished on electronic entertainment. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics sets guidelines limiting screen time to one or two hours a day after age two – and zero screen time prior to two.

I can already see, though, that my daughters are going to face much bigger challenges than I did when they start their families and try to set such limits.

Today, TV’s are all around us: in the mall food courts, restaurants and waiting rooms, and in an astounding number of cars. From the research, I also know that an estimated half of all American children – one study of third graders put the number at 70 percent – have TV’s in their bedrooms.

But if in the rare moments that they don’t have a TV to watch, never fear – kids today have entertainment at their fingertips! I see these children in grocery stores and restaurants, eyes glued to the screens of their cell phones or hand-held games.

I have to wonder, what will happen to this generation of kids that has been pacified from birth with electronic toys, growing up with the expectation that they should never have to suffer without entertainment for even a moment? How will they cope with adulthood when they’ve learned to react to the slightest discomfort or boredom by reflexively seeking an escape from reality?

What will happen to children who have never experienced the frustration of long lines or long car rides, and who have never had to invent games in their head or – horrors – converse with a parent to amuse themselves during these down times?

It’s got to be doubly hard to raise a slow kid today, when the culture has been taken over by electronic gadgets as status symbols and social crutches. But raising slow children can still be done – if parents are willing to buck the norm and be something of a counterculture parent.

So if you’d like to raise a slow child – or maybe just introduce a slow moment here and there into your child’s fast-paced life – let’s talk.

In the coming months I plan to write in this space about the ways 21st-century parents can strive to provide their children with the best aspects of an old-fashioned childhood.

I’d like to get your feedback. What rules do you have (or did you have, if your children are grown like mine) for limiting screen time? How do you encourage reading and outdoor play?

If you’re a teacher, what classroom observations have you made about wired-from-birth students versus those from “slow” homes?

And if you think I’m all wet, and you want to tell me me about your Nintendo-addicted child who gets straight ‘A’s, or who went on to become a successful, well-adjusted adult, I want to hear from you as well.

Until then – here’s to slowing down!

Patty Kruszewski is the mother of three ‘slow’ daughters ages 29, 27 and 23, and the proud owner of Virginia license plate TV FREE. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Calendar

The film “Oliver” will play at 7 p.m. Aug. 1 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Rd. Tickets are $1… Full text

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