Heather Gordon


Boys and girls ... please step away from the screens! Put everything on mute. Go outside. Saunter to a different room. Do something different! Remote learning is amazing and difficult – all at the same time – and youth (and adults!) are tired of time in front of a computer or other screen. Encourage your children to keep physically, emotionally and socially healthy by thinking creatively and getting outdoors.

Screen burnout during our “stay at home because of COVID time” seems to be a real thing, and children need to add off-screen time to their daily routines. I know parents, it’s more to think about. Well, Jackson County 4-H is here to help make it a bit easier to offer screen alternatives for your children. We’re offering Art, Nature and Crime Scene Investigator Activity Kits for easy, social distancing pickup in two county locations. See the details below.

“Curiosity and creativity go hand in hand, which means parents should encourage their kids to be open to new experiences and ideas, regardless of their interests. Creativity is NOT just for artists,” University of Connecticut Neag School of Education Professor James Kaufman said. “It thrives in science, business, technology and everyday life.”

You can add creative thinking to things you’re already doing. Are you sitting at the table (or in the car) waiting for a meal? Challenge your kids to come up with all the possible things they can create out of a paper napkin. At bath time challenge them to use their imaginations about the soap (it’s a boat, a diving platform, a submarine and more). New experiences and creativity are also just outside your front door. “Find ways each day to allow your child to wander and wonder outdoors,” professor of psychology Dacher Keltner said.

In order to assist families with screen alternatives, Jackson County 4-H is offering three Activity Kits. These activities are geared toward 9-11 year olds, but any age is welcome to use them.

The Art Kit contains supplies for getting your creative juices going such as fun paper, glue, ribbon, craft sticks, pipe cleaners and yarn. You supply the markers and scissors.

The Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) kit contains supplies to conduct easy, at home, fingerprint analysis, dental impressions analysis, chemical analysis (no chemistry degree necessary) and instructions for how to make invisible ink. You supply scissors, clear tape and rubbing alcohol (for one activity).

The Outdoor Explorers Kit contains ideas for ways to observe nature including a scavenger hunt, tree examination, shapes in nature, five senses activity and outdoor game suggestions.

The kits will be distributed on a first come, first served basis at the Caney Fork Community Center from 4-5 p.m. on Jan. 19 and Feb. 9, and at the Savannah Community Center from 4-5 p.m. on Jan. 26 and Feb. 16.

For more information email heather_gordon@ncsu.edu or check our website at jackson.ces.ncsu.edu (click Jackson County 4-H in the red bar). Pick one kit, or choose all three. Be well, be kind and stay safe.

Heather Gordon is Jackson County extension agent, 4-H Youth Development.