“Do kids really need toys? They can play on an ipad..”
Working in a toy shop can be very interesting as you meet different people from all walks of life. Occasionally we meet parents who are convinced that their kids do not need toys as they have electronic devices.
We live in a modern society where electronic devices are used everywhere. We cannot leave home without checking the phone for updates, check if we have a new message, and quickly scan what’s happened on say Facebook and Instagram during the night. Kids see us using the devices and later they become addicted to the electronic devices too. It is obvious that screens lure us and we lose control of what’s happening around us. It is very entertaining and you can learn lots of things quickly.
It seems that parents are very proud that their kids are using devices and quickly understand how to operate them. They believe that their kids get bored quickly with their toys and then can spend hours in front of the screen. It makes me feel sad as I don’t mind kids using electronic devices but they miss on social development and they don’t explore the world around them.
Don’t take me the wrong way, I agree that tablets and smartphones are great tools for keeping kids busy and quiet, especially for parents who have urgent things to sort out rather than attending to their kids. Additionally, these devices can also be as great as a bribery tool. Parents use them to make kids behave, sit quietly on a car ride, get into a stroller, or even go to the potty. However, there should be a limit in the usage and it would be good for kids to learn social skills through communication with you, family members and friends.
During the early years a child’s brain develops very quickly and can be compared with a sponge as it absorbs everything very quickly. So looking at the screen for a long time and having no eye contact with people might be harmful to their brain development. Screens easily distract toddlers from interacting with parents, siblings and other kids and keep them in one spot instead of being active. One or two year olds need to be active to exploring their environment, and not sedentary, getting almost all stimulation from a screen, and not building their bodies through physical play.
It is not new that babies and toddlers learn better with materials or objects which they can touch. Exploring concepts in three dimensions is better than two dimensions for cognitive development.
It is proven that kids around 3 to 5yrs have lower reading comprehension where parents read to them through electronic books compared to real old fashion books. Part of the reason is because the noises from books in electronic devices distract the kids and parents from focusing on the story. However, I saw a study where it was proved that a 2 year old learned the words faster with the app. I guess it is all about the balance.
The technology age is still new and there are not many studies done on the effects of electronic devices on kids. So I suggest the best solution is to make Screen Free hours, days or weeks!
- Find a good family board game.The best solution is to find a game which is suitable for all the players and still fun for older kids. Haba Animal upon Animal or Dancing Eggs games are examples of good entertaining family games.
- Eat dinner as a family, and maybe even cook it together.Pizzas or pasta dishes are fun and easy to cook and everyone can do something to prepare the dinner from choosing and chopping the ingredients to serving.
- Try to raise an interesting topic during dinner.Take turns saying one thing that was good and one thing that wasn't good about your day. For older kids, read one short article out of the newspaper that may interest your child to spark a discussion.
- Read by candlelight.Even if you read regularly with your child, you can make it fresh and exciting by turning out the lights and reading by candlelight.
- Get outside and explore the world.Go for a walk, a hike, or a bike. Try to find an interesting task for the day. If you are on a walk in the bush try to spot an interesting bird. If you are on the beach try to find a beautiful shell.
- Get creative.Try to make homemade play dough or find cardboard, buttons, pipes, sticks, stones, feathers and autumn leaves or any other things from nature to create wonderous works of art. If you feel very ambitious, try to recreate a masterpiece with acrylic paint or markers -- Picasso and Matisse are fun to start with.
- Disco Dance or Play music.Skip the TV noise in the background and play music during dinner time or when you have an inside activity with kids. There are so many studies on how beneficial classical music is for brain development. If you are not a big fan of it you can start with current music favourites. Kids also like the music from their parents' era as well -- even if they don't like to admit it. Disco Dancing can create a great fun time too.
- Community events or Local markets. Check the events in your area as there are usually many things happening at the local library, your school or a community centre. Local markets are always fun to visit and see homemade things. They can be so inspiring for the kids. If not, you can always organise a fun evening with neighbours or friends to hang out in the backyard.
- Liza Shieff