LOOKING OUT ON THE WORLD
If your family wants to reduce screen time, why not tune in on real-world “viewing”? It gives your eyes a much-needed change of perspective. It does as much for your brain, broadening mental horizons by shifting focus into real time and three dimensions.
Try the following activities as a family.
The View From Your Window
Most of us have played some version of the “observation scavenger hunt,” where a group walking or driving together competes to spot the first red bicycle, or the first business sign with the letter Q, or the whole alphabet in order. Why not try the same thing at your living room window (or on your porch or balcony), letting the world pass by and bring its sights to you?
Depending on location and season, your “spot it first” list might include:
- A woodpecker
- A gray squirrel
- Someone walking a dog
- Someone on horseback
- A white car
- A windblown piece of paper
- A commuter wearing a blue backpack
If you’re short on ideas, just give everyone a pencil and paper and let them write down interesting sights they observe for half an hour. Then share your lists and see who has the most unique entries—and what ideas they give you for future “observation hunt” items.
The View Over Your Heads
Looking for pictures in the clouds is an old favorite. So is nighttime stargazing and moon-gazing (try making your own sky map of how things change from night to night). Other sky-watching ideas:
- Look for soaring vultures and hawks, especially in fall and spring when the hawks are migrating. Talk about how you must look to them from up there.
- Get up early and watch the sun rise. Observe how the whole sky changes color as the light increases.
- Eat supper outdoors while watching the sun set. See who can spot the first star/planet/airplane light as the sky gets darker—and who can name the source of that light.
- During a thunderstorm, practice estimating its distance by counting the time between lightning and thunder (five seconds equal one mile). Figure out which way and how fast the storm is moving.
- Look for rainbows after the storm is over.
The View at Your Feet
Most people absentmindedly walk by hundreds of interesting little things every day. Try slowing down and observing what’s in your own yard—or on your own windowsill.
- Make up color names for the different shades of wildflowers growing through the sidewalk.
- Try to count the individuals in a line of ants. Guess (or make up stories about) where they’re going and what they’re working on.
- On a windy day, watch for ripples in puddles or patterns in blowing grass/dust.
- Play “don’t step on a crack” on a strip of sidewalk, pavement, or dried mud. Or reverse the classic game and make a rule that every step must touch a crack.
Look up, down, or straight ahead. Just remember to look: you’ll all learn more than any virtual classroom can teach about the world and our place in it.