Edutainment or educational entertainment for the uninitiated remains an ever popular outlet used by parents to arm their children with the knowledge to excel in their studies. With little supervision required and the fun, engaging nature of such educational programs that can be bought digitally, education as we know it has changed tenfold. How many times have you been on your daily commute to work and seen a child deeply engrossed in a tablet or mobile device or some sort?
Now go back and think when was the last time you saw a child interacting with something other than a gadget? Having a hard time recalling? Yes, you’re not alone as a recent report by Common Sense Media has found that over one-third (38 percent) of children from the ages of 0-8 use electronic devices on a daily basis.
Despite the introduction of various gadgets, the TV still remains an ever popular source of entertainment for kids under the ages of 8, with a staggering 44 percent of them having tubes in their rooms. All of the children surveyed watch on average 100 minutes of television or DVDs per day, as compared to only 29 minutes reading or being read to – despite doctors warning against the ill effects of too much binge watching. “Recently, the American Academy of Paediatrics reaffirmed their position that children under age 2 should not engage in any screen time, yet the data shows infants and toddlers are growing up surrounded by screens,” says James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media.
“This use data is an important first step toward understanding how the prevalence of media and technology affects the development of our youngest kids.”
So the question remains; how do we make sure that our little ones grow up to be upstanding adults, and not couch potatoes? Here are some things that can help your child nick the habit in the bud.
- Engage in crafts every week. Crafts may seem girly, but by cutting paper through careful movements, crumpling tissue paper, and doodling; they help build the hand muscles that kids will need for writing. While it may not be feasible to include a craft session on a daily basis, commit to do at least 3 of them a week.
- Too much screen time is bad. Setting a limit on the hours that your family can spend on electronic devices will free up precious time that can be shared bonding. While detaching yourself from your iPad may be difficult, by leading through example, it will show your kids that even adults need a break from technology once in awhile.
- Engage in a cosy story telling session. Through engaging stories that are either read or spoken aloud, it will open up a whole new imaginative world to your child that extends beyond Bikini Bottom. Even if your preschooler isn’t able to speak any words just yet, hearing a plethora of new stories can widen her vocabulary and help foster a love for the books.
- Engage in outdoor activities. Take time away from technology to invest yourselves fully with nature. With no nagging phone calls or unread emails to distract your family from soaking in the view of the vast landscape, you can enjoy fully enjoy yourselves. This will also help your family take a technological breather and get in touch with the other senses – that are often blinded by TV and computers.
- Invest in open-ended toys. Television, cartoons and video games rob children of their ability to pretend play and imagine a world that exists beyond the one that lies in front of them. Rekindle their imagination with simple toys such as LEGOs, stuffed toys, colouring pencils, and various objects of differing shapes to hone their craft.
- Plan a tech-free family outing. Arrange a day at the park, zoo, beach or botanical gardens for the family, and leave all gadgets at home. Without the distractions of a smart phone, you will be free to engage with your children and be able to make lasting memories.
- Cook a meal together. Cooking skills may seem tough for your child to learn, but through participating in the kitchen, many invaluable traits can be learned and honed. Stirring, measuring the correct dosages of ingredients, and cracking eggs are all safe ways to introduce the concepts of healthy eating lifestyles, teamwork and basic math. Plus, it could even uncover the hidden culinary skills of your child that you didn’t know existed!
While it’s impossible to protect your child from the perilous nature of technology on a daily basis, it is essential to make a concerted effort to show them that life also exists outside the digital screens. Encouraging time away from the virtual world, will show your child how to stay relaxed, be more curious and focused on the things that truly matter in the end; family.