School is out for summer, but who is watching your kids? According to a study released by the Kaiser Foundation, the answer is electronic media. They report that the average child has over 10 hours per day of media exposure. Granted, that is cumulative hours (watching TV while texting and playing on the computer) but that is still a lot of time spent on electronics. What's a parent to do?
Jeanette Simpson of KidsSpace Interiors thinks the answer is creating a home activity center to keep children engaged in activities beyond electronics.
Rented Spaces spoke to her to learn why and how to make it happen...
Rented Spaces: Why are you so passionate about activity centers?
Jeanette Simpson: Childhood obesity is an epidemic, children's attention spans are shorter than ever, and society is getting more violent. I attribute a good portion of these negative trends to children's exposure to on TV, the computer, and video games.
RS: Why are activity centers the answer?
A child's intellect and imagination are stimulated through all they touch, explore, and build. Giving them a designated area to explore geography, science, art, and more opens up new worlds of discovery for them and fosters increased confidence and competence. They are able to learn while keeping themselves occupied with activities.
RS: Why do they need a specific area for the activity centers?
Having one central location eases the pressure on other busy parts of the home. They don't need permission to begin a new project, or help finding the items needed, as they are all in one convenient location. Many children work on projects at the kitchen table, which can be terribly inconvenient at meal times.
RS: Where can someone locate an activity centers?
A spare room is ideal, but if that isn't an option I love the idea of using a closet with bi-fold doors and lots of shelving. One shelf can be installed as a work surface, and the other shelves can be used for storage. A stool can slide under the work surface when not in use. The great thing is when company comes all you do is shut the door and the mess goes away.
RS: What if you don't even have an extra closet?
You can set up an activity center at one end of a room, in the corner of the kitchen, under a staircase, at the end of a hallway, or even in the garage. Wherever you have a few extra feet and room for shelving that is where you can put it.
RS: Now that we know where to put it, what do we put in it?
First you need a work surface and seating that is both comfortable and easy to clean. You will need storage drawers, shelves, and cabinets to keep everything organized. Next, stock up on paper, art supplies, books, musical instruments, dress-up gear, building sets, science supplies, and whatever else might interest your child.
The elements don't have to be expensive or elaborate as kids can have fun for hours creating with a box full of odds and ends coupled with a bottle of glue. Involving your children in setting it up will get them excited and anxious to begin using their home activity center.
Barbara Green is The Design Diva and owner of Sensibly Chic Interior Design. She creates one-of-a kind interiors for homes, offices, motorcoaches, and yachts. Follow on Twitter @thedesigndiva.