Gaming Unplugged Term 3 2019


Gaming Unplugged has arrived at the Lower Mountains Neighbourhood Centre! Every Friday through the school term, from 3 to 5pm, kids aged from 9-19 have the opportunity to play their favourite board games with like minded friends and peers.

The ‘unplugged’ component of the program of course means no devices or screens. This means strictly the good old fashioned technology of cardboard and dice, paper money, mystery cards, tokens, spinners and an array of pieces of all shapes and sizes – but with plenty of strategy, tactics (use of the grey matter!) and fun thrown in. 

If you are a nostalgic parent who wants your child to play the ‘old’ way (with the added bonus of getting them out of the house and socialising with other kids), or have a child who’s siblings won’t play board games with them at home (our issue!) then Gaming Unplugged is for you. We have all the old classics to the latest trends, with over 35 games to choose from, and for all age groups. You can even have your child bring in their own game, so feel free  to encourage this if their favourite is not on the list below (playing subject to a quick supervisor check of the content naturally).

For the creative kids (and future board game designers) there is also an option to make and play their own game. 

We feel the timing of the program is convenient straight after the primary school pickup and also enough time for the high school kids to get there for a good hour and a half of play before home for dinner.

Afternoon tea is provided, and all for a cost of $20 a term. New kids can have a trial for the first session to decide if it’s for them. You can also join mid term, just paying the balance for the number of weeks left. 

If you want to know more or have any questions at all please call Gavin on 0447 752 111 or simply turn up on the day with your child to check it out.

We are located in the Sharon Burridge Hall, at the Lower Mountains Neighbourhood centre (where Blaxland Library is), 33 Hope Street, Blaxland. Parking is available off Short Street.

Current Games include: Rise to Power, Coup, Jaipur, Quantum, Brass, Star Wars – Outer Rim, Pandemic – the cure, Keyforge, Dice throne, Tic tax two, Scrabble, UNO, Monopoly junior, Monopoly cheaters edition, Payday, Chess (American Civil War, Harry Potter and Traditional versions), Lord of the Rings, Soccer Dice, Bounce off, Catch phrase, Panic Attack, Kingdom Quest, Star Wars Guessing Game, Head Banz, Twenty questions, Cranium, Dominos, Pick up sticks, Jack straws, What’s the Word, Say what you See, Luck plus, Ratuki & Quoit.

Click Here for Gaming Unplugged Facebook Event

Managing Screen Time

Managing Screen Time by Gavin Latz

So the school holidays are over and the kids are back to school. The end of device related screen time tantrums right? As parents we can only live in hope.

I’m the dad of 3 boys, aged 15, 13 and 10, so have had my own fair share of ‘disagreements’ over devices with my sons. So much so that we have recently read up on a couple of books about teenagers and technology, and to put it bluntly, it’s pretty scary reading. Devices and gaming IS addictive. There are even screen time ‘disorders’ being officially recognised. This blog may look a little on the long side, but if you are a parent with kids and devices, bear with me as I have some tips for dealing with this particular challenge facing all of us, and hope I can provide some practical help.

There is no doubt screens are taking a seemingly bigger share of our kid’s week, but how much is the ‘right’ amount and what can we do about it? We certainly can’t chuck all the devices away much as we might like too at times. This is because devices are practical tools for our kids and these days, a big part of the social structure within their friends. That’s just the reality of kids living in 2019, and we are talking age 8 upwards as well.

Let’s face it, we also spend time on our screens and it’s part of life now. Like everything, I guess it’s all about moderation. So what did we as a family do as a result of our research? We implemented a ‘screen time’ policy in our household earlier this year – and although our sons think we are psychopathic demons ruining their lives, we do believe we are making a positive impact. So, as a result of our experience I would love to share what I’ve learned.

l’ll break it down to 2 sections: Gaming Consoles (e.g. Xbox) and Handheld Devices (smartphones and iPads).

Gaming Consoles

I have to confess for the purposes of this blog we are a 100% Apple household, and only have an Xbox. I am not familiar with PS4 or Android but they do have I am sure their own equivalent of what I will talk about below.

Also, it’s important to distinguish that we didn’t classify ‘TV’ as ‘screen time’. That would be going a little too far I think.

Before I talk gadgets themselves we also implemented 2 ‘gadget free days a week’. This was partially inspired by the movie ‘Ready Player One’. Your kids have probably seen it. Ask them about the concept – they will no doubt start to look worried. We voted and chose Sunday and Tuesday and after a couple of weeks they got used to it. They don’t ask any more on these days.

The Xbox

If you have an Xbox, your child will have set themselves up a gamer tag (their own account basically). As Xbox is owned by Microsoft you can set up your own Microsoft account in minutes, and link each child’s account to it. They then become part of your Microsoft ‘Family’.

Depending on your child’s age, there is research on ‘how much’ screen time is ‘enough’. On reading Noel’s book ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Screen Time’ we worked out 7 hours a week was where we would start – and we decided this was just for the console. So we gave the kids a weekly calendar and got them to work out their 7 hours (no more than 2 hours in a block). They actually took to the task very well (only about half a dozen arguments….). Once we had the times (and they didn’t overlap) we simply booked in the block on our Microsoft account for each child, and the kids quickly memorised it. It soon became ‘the way it is’. We were amazed. It reduced the ‘get off the Xbox now’ arguments by 100%. The bonus was the kids also made it to dinner on time!

You can also link your child’s PC / Laptop in exactly the same way – for example you can ‘lock’ any usage after say, 10 pm and then unlock it at 9am. Useful as they simply can’t log on to the computer in their rooms = no late night gaming you don’t know about.

Smartphones and iPads

So once we established the console usage times and blocks, we turned to the iPhones and iPads. For this each child needed their own Apple ID. You can do this from your own iPhone quite simply. Just like with Microsoft, Apple then allows you to ‘join’ your family (to your own Apple ID – the one parent setting it all up I might add).

Once everyone is linked, and assuming they have a device that is about 5 years old to have it included in the update, you can use the ‘Screen Time’ functionality in the ‘Settings’ section of the device. You can set up a password (pin) and control the times from your own phone, or theirs. What is good about this is you can also set up a ‘Downtime’, which means they can’t use their phone after a certain time (avoids blue screen issues and the link with poor sleep). So for us, at 8pm the phone is effectively locked. Another good feature is that there is an ‘always allowed’ app section, for example Facebook messenger, or YouTube music (which my 15yo can’t live without). Other apps like ‘messages’ (texting) and the actual ability to make a phone call (what it was designed for!) is always accessible obviously.

The ability to limit time on other apps is really powerful. Right now for instance ‘Brawl Stars’ seems to be the game of the moment. I have set 30 mins a day for this particular game. They know this and once the time is used it’s gone. Same with Instagram, setting a time limit puts an end to constant endless scrolling. My son would most likely do this for hours on end if he was able. I believe this limit setting may even help them with time management. If something becomes a ‘scarce’ commodity, it is used productively. These app limits are on top of the 7 hours console time, but again, there are no arguments or ‘get off your phone’ yelling matches. They know their limits (pun intended), and we are comfortable as we set them (based on an open discussion with them as well I might add).

In Summary

It sounds hard, but setting up our household in this way has definitely reduced the Xbox drama of ‘I can’t turn it off now because it won’t pause and I’m in the middle of an important battle’ type scenario. The kids have boundaries and clarity on how much time they have and when it’s going to end so they have learnt to deal with it. Same with the devices via the ‘screen time’ function. They know what they can use each day and it’s up to them to manage it. Once it’s up, it’s up. It’s ‘use it or lose it’ and no ‘carry over’ to the next day.

We do of course have exceptions to the limits (to show our kids we can be reasonable at times and we are not trying to destroy their life). If our son/s is playing with friends and in the middle of a mission or chapter of a game we can extend the time easily enough. If he’s playing alone, then it’s generally time up. It’s been hard but we have accepted that a good chunk of their ‘social life’ outside school nowadays is online.

So why have we done this and has it worked? We’ve done it as we’ve seen the signs of addiction already. We’ve also seen the early ‘withdrawal’ symptoms of ‘coming off’ the screens. We wanted to put a halt to these behaviours as early as we could. You know your kids, they are all uniquely different and wonderful in their own way.

Has it worked? For us, absolutely.

What works for one may not for another but have a plan. It’s worth the initial pain of implementing it, I promise you. They will whinge for a bit (about 2 weeks haha) but it is worth it in the long run. Good luck!

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Unity Studios runs a programme called ‘Gaming Unplugged’ every Friday during term time from 4.30pm to 6pm. As the name suggests the kids play all manner and range of board games and no devices allowed 

If you are interested in trying out a Gaming Unplugged session for your tween – teen. Please email us at


Useful (very new and up to date) Books on screen time and adolescence

Calmer, Easier, Happier Screen Time: Noel Janis-Norton

Teen Brain: David Gillespie



Rock and Water

Rock and Water Program presented by Nathan O’Donohue


Nathan O’Donohue has run the 10 week Rock and Water program in local schools and has seen the positive results this program brings. Nathan ran a 1 hour session for Unity Studios in 2018, introducing our students to the main principles of Rock and Water. His next session with us will be Monday 1st July, 2019 at our Blaxland location.

Rock and Water principles align with the Unity Studios Mentoring Philosophy, as at Unity Studios we at all times 

seek to always encourage, empower, expand communication skills and build self confidence. We also think there is power in handing over the teaching to Nathan O’Donohue from Rock and Water for the sessions and having our students learn and participate alongside their own mentors.


Rock and Water is a method for teaching boys and girls from 5 to 18 years of age, to develop self regulation, self confidence and self awareness skills.









Rock and Water teaches:

  • Practical anti bullying strategies
  • Self confidence, self awareness and selfCommunication skills and interpretation of body language cues
  • Alternatives to aggressive verbal and physical responses
  • Thinking and being in control through grounding, centring and mental focus
  • Boundary awareness
  • Mindfulness strategies



  • Recognise, develop & appreciate their personal qualities
  • Develop social skills and resilience
  • Gain control over their body, emotions and thoughts
  • Reflect  on actions
  • Develop understanding of, and relationships with, others
  • Learn strategies to control anxiety

We are looking forward to having Nathan visit us and teach us again in week 10, Term 2. If you are not enrolled in Unity Studios programs but would like to book for Rock and Water, please email .

What is Art For?


What is Art ‘for’?

By Marnie Latz

When pondering recently ‘What is Art for?’, I came across a book by Alain de Botton, who set out the convincing argument that Art is a tool. Art performs a function that we cannot do for ourselves, much like using a knife due to our inability to cut things with our hands. Here are a selection of 5 things Art can help us with:

  • Remembering

Like our current obsession with taking photos of everything, art captures every detail of a particular moment, as our memories cannot be trusted to record everything. The artist decides which of the details to include and which to leave out. In doing this, they not only capture the experience, but also the essence of the moment.

Art as a Tool: a corrective of bad memory

  • Hope

In a world continually reminding us of all the sad things that are happening around us, it is important to have a tool to help us stay positive and hopeful. This category of art is the most popular and most frowned upon by the art world, as it comes across as frivolous and shallow. If we were all more hopeful, this category would not hold our interest or affect us the way that it does. For a good life, we need hope.

“Art is the highest form of hope” Gerhard Ritcher

Art as a Tool: a purveyor of hope

  • Sorrow

We have a tendency to lose hope easily and feel lonely in a sea of people. We have an unrealistic sense of how much difficulty is normal and think that sorrow cannot be part of a good life. Art highlights that we are all in this together, acknowledging our grief and allowing us to find meaning in sorrow.

Art as a Tool: a source of dignified sorrow

  • Rebalancing

Most of us are unbalanced – too scientific, too light hearted,  too trusting, too serious. Art that moves us, contains something that we are missing. That’s why we are all drawn to different types of art. Art reminds us of balance and offers to make us whole.

Art as a Tool: a balancing agent

  • Appreciation

Art reminds us of the value of what we have but have become desensitised to. A major cause of unhappiness is not appreciating what we already have. The minute to yourself for a cup of tea, the satisfaction of a well stacked dishwasher or completed jigsaw puzzle.

“ Art does the opposite of glamourising the unattainable; it can reawaken us to the genuine merit of life as we are forced to lead it.” Alain de Botton

Art as a Tool: a re-sensitising tool

Join us for Unity Art in Term 2, where we will explore ‘What is Art For?’.

We will follow inspiration found in this Blog by Marnie Latz’s on the work of Alain de Botton and John Armstrong in the book Art as Therapy and Blogging the process.

*Subscribe to our Blog to follow our journey this term!

We will look at art as a tool. In the book Art as Therapy de Botton and Armstrong outline seven functions of art; remembering, hope, sorrow, rebalancing, self-understanding, growth, appreciation.


We will be explore and make art on the following functions –

Session 1: Week 1 & 2

3/5 & 10/5: Remembering (bring along a picture to work from or a favourite memory)

Session 2: Week 3 & 4

17/5 & 24/5: Hope (create a visual representation of what brings you hope)

Session 3: Week 5 & 6

31/5 & 7/6: Sorrow (a cathartic release to create a unique work of art)

Session 4: Week 7 & 8

14/6 & 21/6: Rebalancing (art that moves us, contains something that we are missing.. what are you missing, what moves you? Create a work that moves you)

Session 5: Week 9 & 10

28/6 & 5/7: Appreciation (what do you value? Create a work inspired by what you value)


$27.50 casual rate

$50 for each session

$225 for the term

To register click here and select Unity Art from the Creative Arts section of our expression of interest form.

Link to register for UNITY ART in Term 2 2019 (select Unity Art from the Creative Arts options)

Link to Facebook Event for more information