If you type the words “screen-free activities” into Pinterest, hundreds of results will appear at your fingertips. From nature-based ideas to crafts and science experiments, you’ll find enough technology-free fun to keep your kids busy for months. You can happily pat yourself on the back and refer to this arsenal of activities any time your kids get that zombie-like stare.
But what about you?
When talking about going screen free, a lot of people overlook the fact that it’s not something to just consider for our kids — we should think about it for ourselves, too.
How many times have you found yourself scrolling through Instagram and only half listening to what a real live human is saying in front of you? How many times have you gotten sucked into a video and snapped “hold on just one second!” when your kid asked a question? How many times have you not been fully present because you’re struggling to get the perfectly angled photo of something spectacular happening in front of you?
The new picture book You’re Missing It! by married duo Brady Smith and Tiffani Thiessen (yes, Kelly Kapowski co-wrote a children’s book!) tackles the idea of technology-obsessed parents. The story revolves around a little boy and his father taking a walk in the park. While the dad stares at his phone, his son encounters increasingly unusual scenarios.
First, a roller-skating dog walker loses control of his pack and the whole crew gets tangled up with a jogger. Next, a butterfly lands on the boy’s face and leads him and a new friend (whose mom is also lost in her phone) to an egg, which soon hatches a baby bird. And to cap it all off, the kids encounter a sneezing rhino that escaped from the zoo.
Throughout the story, the boy yells, “You’re missing it!” as he tries to get his distracted dad’s attention.
The lively pen and watercolor illustrations will draw in little readers and make the boy’s adventures seem even more exciting — and the dad’s obliviousness even more ludicrous.
Kids will get a laugh and be reminded that we’re part of a great big world with so much to see and do. Meanwhile, this book is sure to strike a different sort of note for parents. You’ll see yourself (at least a little bit) in the distracted, oblivious parents.
I’m not here to tell you that picking up your phone is wrong or that you’re a terrible parent for getting distracted, and I don’t think Smith and Thiessen are either. Nor is the message that you should never so much as glance at your phone in the presence of your kids again. That’s completely unrealistic — and I can’t speak for the authors, but I’m just as guilty of scrolling Instagram and answering emails at the park as the next person.
Instead, we should take this book as a bright, colorful real-life notification. With so much technological connectivity, we risk missing out on human connectivity. We can all stand to take in the world around us a little more, so we don’t look up from our screens one day and realize our kids have grown up.