7-year old Elias Bernal collected leaves on a scavenger hunt, made bracelets and made a woodpecker out of paper. And just like him, around 65 other kids and families spent their Saturday morning outdoors at the Yokut Park in Northwest Bakersfield at the Unplug and Unlock event. It was organized by the Ford Dream Builders and Dignity Health.
“We wanted to take the initiative and encourage kids to get off the technology, spend a little less time in front of their screens and get out, enjoy nature, unplug and unlock their potential,” said Heath Champagne, with Ford Dream Builders.
They also organized various activities around the park including badminton, corn toss, rock painting, a reading corner and more. Organizers said this event is especially important now after the pandemic where screen times drastically increased as school and work went online, and more people needed screens to connect them to loved ones.
According to a study published by Jama Pediatrics by the American Medical Association, screen time in teenagers nearly doubled from before the pandemic at almost four hours, to almost 8 hours now. But experts say that being outdoors and doing activities like these, can help stimulate mental development.
Isabel Pineda, who was there with her family, said she enjoyed working on the crafts with her siblings and cousin. “It’s fun, it’s nice spending time with your family instead of being on technology on your phones all day,” she said.
Benjamin and his mom, Susanne, also spent the morning at the park. “My favorite part was drawing,” Benjamin said. Susanne said she enjoyed being able to spend quality time with her son this way.
“We’re lucky to live in a community that has these sorts of events, where we can come together and get to know new people in the community; and spend that time that we’ve been missing over the last couple of years,” said Susanne.
But even though this is was event for a few hours on one day, organizers hope the kids and families who attended can take away the concept of detaching from devices.
Some other things that the organizers recommend you can even do without an event but to help uplug are reading a book, going outside and getting some fresh air, playing a sport, exercising, cooking or baking, being creative with crafts, dancing or singing, have a picnic, or even gardening.
“We’re going to conduct our own scavenger hunts in our backyard and continue that forward as well as some more arts and crafts, we’ve got some great ideas over here,” said Susanne.