Non-screen activities are critical for kids’ development

Non-screen activities are critical for kids’ development

We’re all looking for ways to engage the kids in non-screen activities, especially right now when screens often feel like the only option. There has to be a reason why we’re fighting with the kids about screens all. the. time, right? Georgina Manning, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Director of Wellbeing For Kids tells us why it’s so important that we keep finding them other things to do.

by Georgina Manning

Busy parents often find the work–life balance difficult to master, with the urge to plug in and tune out ever tempting. Under the current climate, this has only amplified – particularly for mums with teens. Among the endless list of responsibilities, we’re already juggling, COVID-19 has successfully doubled the load. Sometimes, technology seems like the only option we have to keep our kids entertained.

Non-screen time for kids like reading and board games

With remote learning now in full swing, Australians’ internet consumption and screen time is at an all-time high. In fact, it’s increased more than 70% since February 2020. While remote learning can be tricky to navigate, encouraging your child to engage in non-screen activities in their free time will not only improve their skills, it can also bring your family closer.

Try some of these ideas: 100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your teen


Which is why non-screen activities like Pictionary and Scrabble have announced a new rule change. All players must now put their smartphones into the empty game box lid at the start of every game. The new rule aims to eliminate any distractions – and potential cheating! – promising a fun night in with your family.

Taking the time for tech-free activities is one of the best things we can do for our children. Playing freely allows the mind a moment to stop and rest and to nourish the brain and body.  Non-screen gameplay also has a huge range of cognitive and emotional benefits.

Educational development

Regular non-screen activities has a powerful impact on cognitive skills and memory. It also helps open the lines of communication, creating lasting positive family memories.

Games like Scrabble can also help with a child’s vocabulary.  Pictionary will help improve fine motor skills while stimulating creativity and self-expression. Board games keep the entire family entertained with some (healthy!) competition and help children keep their brain active, building on their problem-solving and communication skills. 

Non-screen time for kids like reading and music

Plenty more non-screen activities here: 100+ engaging, non-cringe things for teens to do at home


Emotional intelligence

Setting time aside for non-screen activities – and ultimately, face-to-face communication – is important for relationship building and fostering interpersonal skills for all ages.

New circumstances, particularly the one we’re in currently, can bring up feelings of worry. A shared task is a great opportunity to open up conversations with our kids. During these conversations, we are able to validate the kids’ concerns and emotions. Often, just listening is enough to put them at ease while learning the importance of communication for years to come.

Time for mindfulness

Disconnecting from tech when playing board games will help drive mindfulness and wellbeing. It brings people together to enjoy the present moment with our loved ones.

It’s so important: Why mindfulness for kids is more than just a buzzword


Often we find ourselves caught up in the online world, losing touch with the physical world and those around us. This is no different for children. It’s important they understand and distinguish between the two realities and remain mindful to ease any anxiety.

Now more than ever before, it is critical we find ways to connect. We need to set positive examples for our children to follow. Devices can’t always be off the cards, but we need to take regular breaks from screens. Use this time to connect together and be fully engaged in appreciating each other’s company.

And, of course, let’s have lots of fun introducing routines our kids can continue to enjoy.              

Georgina Manning is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Director of Wellbeing for Kids. As a national wellbeing speaker with over two decades of experience working in schools supporting children and parents through seminars and professional development days, Georgina prides herself on reaching effective social and emotional outcomes for both parents and children. Continuing her passion for children’s wellbeing, Georgina created the ‘Peaceful Kids’ and ‘Peaceful Parents’ Mindfulness and Positive Psychology programs, holding training across many states in Australia. For more information on Mattel’s new rule, you can visit Scrabble or Pictionary on Facebook.

Feature image by Suzy Hazelwood; screen time by Julie M Cameron; records by Sofia Garza 

3 tips to get girls reading books again

3 tips to get girls reading books again

We’re thrilled that best-selling author AL Tait has shared her tips to get girls reading books again. AL is the author of seven books for readers aged 10-14 years, including her latest hit out this month The Fire Star. Find a full review of The Fire Star here, or read on for AL Tait’s best strategies to keep girls reading.

by AL Tait

Tweens, teens and reading. It’s a fraught subject in most households, I know, because as a co-admin of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, it’s a topic that comes up over and over again:

How do I get my daughter off screens and onto books? 

Can anyone suggest books for a tween who wants to read YA? 

My 12-year-old daughter used to be an avid reader, but now she’s lost interest. Any suggestions?

These are just some of the requests for help we’ve received over the past few weeks.

So, what to do?

Don’t miss Al Tait’s list of book recommendations: 21 books older girls will like


3 tips to get girls reading books

1. Let her read what she likes

When I was writing my new novel The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery), I wrote exactly the kind of book that my 12-year-old self would have loved.

Full of mystery, adventure, with a clever heroine who does not suffer fools, a secret society, lots of intrigue, a charming hero who proves to be a great friend, and even a noble wedding.

Too often, I think that we try to steer our young readers away from the stories that engage (even engross), amuse and enchant them towards the kinds of books that we think they ‘should be reading’.

Or we worry that they’re venturing out into waters that might prove too turbulent for them in terms of content or themes.

It’s not easy when this happens, but try to trust that she’ll put it aside if it’s too much for her, or at the very least come and have a chat with you about it.

Tips to get girls reading again

2. Offer her books she may not have thought of

One of the best things we can do to get girls reading again is, as I like to put it, throw books at them. Graphic novels, non-fiction, poetry, all manner of books.

Bring them home from the library, swap them with friends, get them from book fairs or bookshops.

You never know which book will be just the right book to make her a reader for life – and it might just surprise you.

AL Tait recommends these books, or try one of these: 21 awesome books for reluctant readers (they won’t be able to resist)


3. Get some help

If you’re struggling to come up with potential books for your young reader, don’t be afraid to chat to your school or town librarian or your local bookseller – they’re the experts and have no doubt encountered situations just like yours, over and over.

But sometimes your school doesn’t have a librarian, or you don’t get to the library often (hello lockdown) or your town no longer has a specialist bookshop. One of the reasons that I set up the Your Kid’s Next Read community was to bring together parents in this situation with not only other parents, but with teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors, and other publishing industry experts.

No matter what kind of book you’re looking for, someone in the group will have the perfect answer. Join us!

A.L. Tait is the author of three epic and engaging series for readers aged 10-14, including The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and The Maven & Reeve Mysteries. Find out more at

Read AL Tait's latest book - The Fire Star

Images by Bron Maxabella

7 reasons why gaming is good for kids (and a few things to look out for)

7 reasons why gaming is good for kids (and a few things to look out for)

Video games tend to get a bad rap from media, parents and society as a whole as the world laments the impact they’ve had on a nostalgic world of books, board games and outside play. Yes, they can while away many hours from a child’s day, promote violent play and misogynistic themes and prevent children from getting the exercise and sleep they need. However, gaming is good for kids too.

By Martine Oglethorpe

They are a valid form of entertainment, storytelling, pastime, social platform and sometimes even a stress reliever that can be a perfectly healthy addition to our children’s lives. Rather than cower in a world of anxiety and fear, constantly clicking on the alarmist headlines, let’s instead take the reins and choose to work with our kids and the technology to ensure it can be a positive addition to their lives.

The Modern Parent by Martine Oglethorpe

Why gaming is good for kids

I first need to make it clear that I would never advocate for a child to play video games non-stop at the expense of their wellbeing. It goes without saying that they should not be playing games so much that they don’t get any homework done, or that they skip meals or sleep or stop hanging out with friends or doing activities they always did.

I am also not advocating for children to play inappropriate and violent games that are sending all sorts of crazy messages about violence, gender roles, breaking the law, etc. 

There are; however, many, many video games out there that are actually great for your child as well as being something they simply enjoy doing. And there has been a significant increase in research into why gaming is good for kids. The findings of researchers such as Daphne Bavelier and Jane McGonigal dismiss the notion of gaming as being mindless and time-wasting, but rather espouse the benefits of gaming to actually ignite positive change to social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.

If your child loves playing games, instead of spending all your energy worrying about how you can stop them from playing, remember that there are some really good reasons why you should continue to let them play. Here are some of the reasons why gaming is good for kids.

1. Gaming provides a sense of achievement

Going through different levels, accomplishing tasks, gaining access to new worlds or environments and creating and making things, allows them to feel the excitement and satisfaction of achievement. For children who may struggle to attain a certain level of success in other more ‘popular’ arenas, the positive benefits of conquering a game or level can never be underestimated for its ability to boost confidence and create a positive sense of self.

2. Gaming increases coordination and tracking skills

The physical benefits of game playing also refer to improvements in spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination and attention to detail. Many careers now use gaming as part of their training to simulate situations and build on these skills.

3. Games provides a sense of belonging

For many children, video games give them a sense of belonging they may not get to experience in other areas of their lives. Not all kids get to feel the sense of community from their peers, they may not enjoy sports and being part of a team, they may not have any other avenue of feeling connected. With over 70% of game playing involving collaboration or competition this also emphasises the interactive nature of video games as opposed to the more passive nature of other screen time activities.

Positive benefits of gaming - collaboration and community

More good advice: 5 common screen time issues and realistic ways to handle them

4. Gaming is good for stress release

When kids get home from school sometimes they need time to ‘switch off’. Having to participate, to be ‘on’, be present and interacting with others all day can be emotionally taxing on many kids. Video games have been reported to have huge benefits for those needing to simply ‘chill out’ for a while and do their own thing without the demands of others.

5. Gaming develops persistence and resilience

Persistence and overcoming obstacles is one of the most valuable skills we can teach our kids. Many video games require you to experiment with different ways to do things. They require you to change tactics, be creative in your thinking and strategy and come up with new ways to solve problems.

6. Gaming is good for cognitive thinking

Gaming is not always about shooting people, or racing cars. And even in these games as well as the many other types of games kids play, there is some pretty high order thinking that is required to conquer challenges, solve puzzles and advance to other levels.

Positive benefits of gaming - sense of belonging

7. Gaming is good for teamwork and collaboration

Many games require players to play in pairs, teams and collaborate with others for the greatest outcome. Negotiating what tools to use, trusting others to have your back in battle and deciding on the best course of action as a team can all be great ways to learn those important skills of working with others, compromise and trust that may well transfer to the work they do both at school and beyond.

How to spot a problem

It’s not all good news, of course. The creators of games know what appeals to our brain and our reward systems and thus they come complete with hooks and never-ending loop systems that make it very difficult for us to put them down.

With the lure of getting to one more level, making one more kill, finding one more bag of loot, crushing one more piece of candy, having one more chance to be the last man standing, the brain of a young person can find it difficult to naturally tell themselves when they have had enough. So we do need to help them with that.

The Modern Parent by Martine Oglethorpe

That means we can have some boundaries around the times they play, particularly if they are having trouble regulating that for themselves. And we must look out for the red flags that tell us our children are struggling to control their time spent.

We want to avoid them heading down the slippery slope to obsessive behaviours that get harder to manage the older they get, and the more entrenched those behaviours become.

Red flags may be:

  • having a tantrum or becoming aggressive when they are told to come off the games
  • skipping meals or losing sleep because of game playing
  • no longer participating in activities they once enjoyed
  • slipping in school grades or not wanting to attend school.


This should help: How to set boundaries on Fortnite and other video games

The problem, of course, is that all of the above can also be seen as normal tween and teen behaviours. But if we think that our child’s game playing is impacting other areas of their life in an increasingly negative way, then it may be time to step in and make some changes. Discuss together those concerns and how you can come up with a plan to help them remain in control and avoid
slipping into those obsessive behaviours.

+  +  +

Martine Oglethorpe is a speaker, author, educator and Trusted eSafety Provider with the Office of the eSafety Commission. She has a background in secondary education, a Masters in Counselling and most importantly, is a mother to five boys. Through her personal and professional work with families she recognises the important role technology plays in the social and emotional wellbeing of young people. Her new book The Modern Parent: Raising a great kid in the digital world is out now.

Have you found that gaming is good for kids, or is it more of a struggle at your place?



Why gaming is good for kids

Feature image  by Teddy Guerrier ;  Nintendo Switch by Howard Bouchevereau; Two consoles by JESHOOTS.COM 

3 Good Things: This simple strategy can help you feel better when the chips are down

3 Good Things: This simple strategy can help you feel better when the chips are down

Pip Lincolne is a top-notch human who has recently released a new book. When Life Is Not Peachy is a gentle guide for navigating loss, grief or other sad times – like right now, for instance? With thoughtful advice on dealing with friends and family; healthy tips for eating and exercise when you don’t feel like it; and a just-keep-yourself-going ‘101’ for when you’re feeling very low. It’s the bolstering force we need to feel a bit closer to ourselves, or find a bit of peace. Here is her 3 Good Things strategy – an easy practice that will help lighten the load.

by Pip Lincolne

When Life Is Not Peachy

The 3 Good Things practice has been super-helpful for me, so perhaps you will take a shine to it, too? The idea is pretty self-explanatory and the benefits are far-reaching.

For 3 Good Things, you simply write down… three good things that you have experienced each day.

For optimal results, you are supposed to write about them in as much detail as possible, but I have found that even writing a very short sentence for each one still yields benefits.

These things may not seem good to you, but they are good to me.

I’ll share some of my ‘good things’ with you, as a simple example. Honestly, these things may not seem good to you, but they are good to me and that’s the beauty of this practice. Your 3 Good Things are just for you, and you don’t need to share them with anyone.

When life is not peachy - a strategy to help you feel better

Some of my 3 Good Things

  1. Noticed that someone had left two biscuits beside a public dog bowl when I was at the shops.
  2. Heard two old gents offering to shout each other breakfast.
  3. Did not leave the washing in the washing machine overnight.

As you can see, my 3 Good Things are very brief because I want to make this easy for myself and I’m seeking to do this daily.

More on this: 5 gentle ways for mums to practise self-kindness


The other beautiful thing about this simple practice is that it helps you look for life’s gems. When you are feeling crappy, it’s easy to cast the entire universe in a dark light — but 3 Good Things tends to shift that perspective to something brighter and provide a little optimism injection. You head into your day with a positive task in the back of your mind, more keenly on the lookout for the good.

The other beautiful thing about this simple practice is that it helps you look for life’s gems.

If you practise 3 good things regularly, you can start to redefine the things that matter to you, which is especially helpful if you’re feeling a bit stuck and anxious.

And science tells us the benefits can be profound. A 2005 study by psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues, published in American Psychologist, found that writing about three good things was associated with increased happiness immediately after documenting the three things, as well as one week, one month, three months and six months later.

So, what have you got to lose?

More of my 3 Good Things

  1. Did not cry during a disagreement!
  2. Had a long discussion with my kid about some interesting stuff
  3. Wrote 1000 words of my book

When Life Is Not Peachy

What would you put on your 3 Good Things list?

Images by Kylo; book images and text from When Life is Not Peachy by Pip Lincolne. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99

A very rough guide to the high school years

A very rough guide to the high school years

Some parents worry a lot about which high school to send their child to, while most don’t have a choice and go local. Parents analyse schools for their results, attitudes, cohort, reputation, ‘values’, uniforms and much more. Just remember what’s important to you might not be for your child and that the school will not define their entire existence. No matter which school your teen attends it can seem like a big scary zoo that your child enters as a tiny, cute, meek meerkat and leaves as a magnificent lion or, perhaps, a gawky giraffe. Here’s our very rough guide to the high school years.

by Sarah Macdonald and Cathy Wilcox

Rough guide to the high school years

Year 7

They start sweetly, with their huge, shiny, proper schoolbag, their pristine uniform and their deep desire to please both you and their teachers. That first day of year 7 is both terrifying and exciting for them, and heart-swelling and heart-busting for you. You must walk away and wait until the end of the day to hear how much the big kids swear and how they got lost and how the canteen is so wonderfully unhealthy compared to primary school.

This might help: 11 tips for Year 7 newbies from older high school kids

Within a few weeks of starting high school, expect your child to be overwhelmed with the workload and the emotional overload of changing of classrooms, getting to know different teachers, making new friends and finding their way around. After finishing primary school at the top of the social heap, they are now often friendless, alone and a small minnow. They might feel lost and confused, or throw themselves into so many activities so quickly that they get overtired and lose it. Be thankful if yours adapts instantly and is openly thrilled with themselves. It’s a big year and a huge transition.

Keep an eye on your baby this year, but you can’t baby them too much anymore.

Combine all that with what is probably their first experience of a smartphone and you can get into a tricky too-much-tech-too-soon situation. Some kids who don’t know anyone can develop a playground screen safety net. Keep an eye on your baby this year, but you can’t baby them too much anymore.

Rough guide to high school

Year 8

Just when they’ve got the hang of high school, made friends and are feeling confident, they might be split up into new classes and feel they have to start again.

Year 8 is also the year they start to feel on top of things and less like babies, so work is often less important than getting an A in socialising or in starting to act up and act out. Some teachers mark this as the year teens can become slightly demonic.

Puberty divides kids into some who look almost adult and others who are still tiny.

This year will see the flowering of the deep desire to want to impress and be accepted by their peers. Lots of girls can get distraught over friendship bust ups, being dropped as a BFF and other sudden tribe shifts. Teens can get mean or confused while trying to manage their relationships and they might stop telling you every detail about what’s going on.

That’s good in a way, but it also means you lose touch with who is who and what’s going on. They might lie awake at night worrying about impending world war, or a war that’s split their friendship group. The group dynamics can become cruel and more physically aggressive. Puberty divides kids into some who look almost adult and others who are still tiny.

Year 9

No guide to the high school years would be complete without acknowledging that Year 9 is a shocking year. In recognition of this, some schools practically give up on academic learning and focus on practical life skills – kind of admirable, as all teens should learn how to iron their own shirt and make you a latte.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that year 9 is a shocking year

There is much going on in terms of their social standing and the school group dynamics can look a touch ‘Lord of the Flies’. Your teen can become rude and disrespectful and too cool for school. This is often the year they are choosing electives and then hate their choice and regret it and spend a lot of time trying to get out of it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Year 9 is a shocking year.

Year 10

Friendships become more supportive and mature in Year 10. Hopefully your teenager will find their peeps, start calming down and focusing on schoolwork.

They will need to choose subjects for the last years of school and this can prove hard for some. How do they know what they want to do, when they still don’t know who they are? Are they sporty? Are they into maths and science? Are they arty? What if they are all or none of those things?

Tell your teen the decisions they make will not dictate their life. Just because they choose chemistry and physics doesn’t mean they can’t go to art college or be a plumber. Then beg them to become a plumber – they cost a fortune and always seem to have too much work to come and fix the screaming pipes in our bathroom.

Year 11

This often starts with a brutal shock at the wave of work heading towards them. Around this time many of them are becoming real humans and better company; they could chat to you without criticising your driving, your clothes and how you walk. Or they might be able to do this with other adults, just not you, and that’s almost enough.

Guide to high school - year 10 things start to settle down

There’s a lot going on in their work and social life. There might be a part-time job, parties, partners and a lot of assignments, so time-management is key. So is the self-control to get off YouTube and focus. Some schools hit teens hard now to get them match fit for final school-leaving exams.

Exciting times: 50+ jobs for teens that will benefit them for life

Final year of school

This is the most stressful year of their life to date. Parents hold their breath until the torture chamber of standardised testing racks them up, measures them and brutalises their brains.

Your job is to be support crew and coach, so try not to start a new full-on job this year or to be away a lot. They are likely to need their favourite food and your presence; the good news is it will be for a relatively short space of time. The bad news is this will be in retrospect. Hopefully, your teen will burst from the exam season as a wonderful, gorgeous adult, ready to take on the world. Good luck with that.

Cover image and text from So… You’re Having a Teenager by Sarah Macdonald and Cathy Wilcox. Murdoch Books, RRP$ 29.99.

What would you add to this guide to the high school years?

So You're Having a Teenager by Sarah Macdonald and Cathy Wilcox book review

Feature image by Laura Louise Churchill; trombone by Craig Robinson; hands on head by Alex Golke; cheer by Rick Carlson / all from Deposit Photos

Pin It on Pinterest