Nowadays, pre-school aged children are inundated with technology. Most parents juggle multiple jobs, entrepreneurship, their household, family obligations…it’s no wonder they need help from their friend the iPad! Technology has become the new baby-sitter in some ways and monkey-see, monkey-do; when parents see other parents giving in to screen time, they often cave too!
But, what does all of this screen time or tech time do to our children?
I’m the first to admit that we use screens for travel days and some quiet time at home. And I don’t see anything wrong with it. Sure, my parents didn’t use screens in cars or planes and they were able to travel everywhere without much issue. But, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for our generation to use tech time in transit.
In fact, it’s arguable that it’s important for children, today, to understand technology. They’re often asked to use screens and apps in school (elementary school ages) so why not teach them how to use them and be tech-savvy? Navigating a screen, doing a google search, using online translators…they’re all helpful life tools in the modern age.
Our issue is when screens replace all of the old-fashioned childhood fun. Board games and Play-Doh have been around for decades for a reason: they’re educational, they’re fun and they encourage family bonding. So, it’s important to us to find the balance between it all.
(1) Board games and crafts encourage interaction and bonding, whereas technology is more independent and isolating. Finding a balance between the two types of activities will help kids develop in all areas.
(2) If you think back to your own childhood (yes, Nintendo and Sega existed when I was a kid), very few memories are of actually playing video games. Instead, I remember building forts with my neighbours, bike riding, playing Lego, board game marathons etc. So it’s important that we give our kids the same things that made our own hearts and minds soar.
(3) Parents and kids can bond while playing board games or doing crafts together. You work through problems, develop strategy and see how everyone’s personality differs. When it comes to screens, even if we’re snuggled around an iPad trying to watch a show or play a game, it just doesn’t feel the same. There’s really only one “doer” at a time with screens (meaning one person can use/touch the screen at a time).
(4) Siblings bond better when they’re engaging in a real activity – something that requires their patience, skills and dialogue. We have a two-year-old and a four-year-old and when they’re watching a screen, they sit together, but they don’t engage as much as they do when they’re doing a craft. Sure, they fight more when we’re trying to play a game or do Play-Doh together, but that’s all part of social learning and development, in my opinion.
(5) Doing activities with your kids keeps you young at heart. It sounds so cliche but it’s actually quite true. There’s a quote from a movie (can’t remember which one but I saw the preview the other day) and it says, “you don’t stop playing with you get older. You get older when you stop playing.” I find so much meaning in these words. I see it in Rick’s dad and my mom. Both of them engage and interact with our kids like they’re big kids too. They play. climb up playgrounds, do crafts etc. My father-in-law is in his 80s and he’s more active and fit than some people in their 40s.
So, don’t be shy. Let your hair down, run through the rain, chase your kids, crawl around your house, play hide-and-seek, build a Lego tower…anything. Sometimes, you end up being the last person standing (meaning the kids have left the area and you’re still playing with their toys). It’s a beautiful thing and one of the best attributes you can role model for your child.
We’re not saying NO to screens (gosh no!) but we’re encouraging families to find that balance. Get back outside. Play in the mud. Get horrible grass stains. Make a play-doh monster etc.