Over the year’s parents have come to me with their concerns of children not wanting to do anything and being stuck on the phone or the laptop all the time. Engaging children is an art and yes, they will get distracted but bringing them back to the task at hand is easy if they are invested in it. ‘Invested’ is the key word here. Kids who are interested in what they are doing and learning can get into the ‘flow’ state easier than adults can. Ever watched a child interested in a slug or a snail. They can spend hours doing this without getting distracted.
Technology is not a problem. The way our children use it may be. We can use technology to learn, meditate, communicate, exercise and for so many things that are positive. The key issue is with parents who use technology as an easy bait to distract children in their early years. At the restaurant. At the mall. On the drive to wherever we need to go. When we use technology as a babysitter we send a message that it is okay to use technology when I want to keep you distracted. If a parent uses technology for self-distraction. In the bathroom. In the bed. At the dinner table. This again tells our children that it is okay to use technology this way.
While you are trying to limit the use of screen time for children you will need to get them involved in other activities that have them engaged and so the need to go to technology does not arise. To start with you need to be a role model for them. Make sure you are not using technology as a means to distract yourself. Set parental controls on devices that children use. Create technology-free zones, don’t let children sleep with their electronic devices around them, and most importantly talk to children and educate them about using technology responsibly. More importantly than all of this is for children to see you model the very behaviour they wish to see in their children.
Spending time with children is a key to bonding with them. Children need attention and leaving everything aside and spending time with them makes them feel secure. Here are 7 things one can do with toddlers to engage them sans technology:
- Storytelling: children enjoy stories it helps with their imagination and using stories to send out a certain message is the best way to drive home the thought.
- Visit the mall: the visit to the mall can be converted into a fun activity where children can learn to buy things on a budget or for younger kids just identify the products. Give children a list of things with pictures that need to be purchased and let them go around the mall and pick up the items. You can also choose to attach a reward to the activity.
- Board games: board games can be fun. Most board games teach you strategy and how to move ahead in the game. It’s a great family bonding exercise too
- Visit the local museum or aquarium: visit places like the museum or an aquarium helps children to learn new things and expand their minds, it also helps them connect the dots in case they are learning something similar in school
- Gardening: Gardening is known to be therapeutic; it also helps children learn about plants, soil, and how to maintain different plants.
- Cook or Bake together: Take time out and cook or bake together. Children can be great helpers in the kitchen and learning how to cook is a skill every child should have.
- Pretend play: children love to imitate their favourite characters. Use pretend play to engage them and teach them different things through this activity.
If parents are committed and set aside 2 hours every day to spend time with children doing different activities they will look forward to this time. To excite children, ask them what they would like to do the next day and plan the activity accordingly.