Photos: Parents capture their kids learning the lost art of unplugged play

Jesse Burke’s daughter Clover in Newburyport, MA., July 2015.
Jesse Burke’s daughter Clover in Newburyport, MA., July 2015.
Image: Jesse Burke/Childhood Unplugged
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The negative effects that television and video games have on early brain development are well-documented. Unstructured play, on the other hand, has been shown to help children grow into creative, emotionally intelligent adults. But as technology encroaches on our lives, it can be hard to heed this information. Childhood Unplugged, a photography blog dedicated to inspiring parents to make time for off-screen and outdoor activities with their children, was born from one mother’s effort to do this.

“I started the blog back in October 2012 out of a need to see my kids get back to good, old fashioned play,” Monica Calderin, the mother of three boys and the founder of Childhood Unplugged, told Quartz.

Along with the blog, Calderin started an Instagram account by the same name. It now has 37.8k followers. A collective of nine parents, most of whom are professional or amateur photographers, helps Calderin run the Instagram account, while anyone can use the hashtag #childhoodunplugged to join in the fun.

Jesse Burke is a member of the collective, a professional photographer, and father to three. “I take pictures of my kids in the process of introducing them to the natural world,” he told Quartz. “Inevitably, I think that’s my connection to the group—as a photographer who is living the dream.”

Burke said he and his wife decided early on that nature would be a part of their family life, and that they have always been proactive about getting outside.

“Once you see the reward, you are more inspired to do it,” he said. “If you were hiking in the woods with my daughter, she would know what kind of tree that is and what bird just flew by. It’s not even a thought to her, it’s part of her make up.”