Our children live in a generation where every form of technology is available to them. Computers, Playstations, iPads and televisions offer programmes that can entertain our children 24 hours a day.
However research shows that children who watch more than two hours of television a day have a significantly increased chance of developing emotional, behavioural, academic and social problems. Common sense tells us that time watching television replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally beneficial activities.
As parents, we need to think of alternative ways to keep our children entertained. Here are our top five:
1. Organise Play Dates
Young children need daily opportunities to socialise with their peers. When children play together they are learning to discuss, negotiate, empathise, share and cooperate. Social interaction also greatly extends a child’s vocabulary.
Encourage your children to engage in pretend play, by having a ‘dress-up’ box available, with a variety of props. When children engage in pretend play they are ‘practising life’, that is, they are learning how to deal with real life social situations and solve problems through experimenting in the safety of a pretend play scenario.
2. Encourage Physical Activity
Worldwide research shows that preschool children need at least one hour of structured physical activity (such as gym or dance class) and up to six hours of additional unstructured physical activity every day (such as playing in the park). Physical activity increases overall health, bone density, muscle strength and gross motor skills, and has a strong positive effect on brain development.
3. Read to Your Child
Reading to your child every day is considered the greatest way to increase your child’s vocabulary and to ensure their success as a future reader and writer. Reading is a “bonding experience” between parent and child, which increases a child’s sense of safety and security. Children who have a strong bond with their parents do better at school, in relationships and life.
Do you know how well your child is reading and writing now? Book a complimentary MindChamps literacy assessment to find out now!
4. Make or Build Something
Children love expressing their creativity through making objects and pieces of art. Leave craft materials on a table for your child to ‘discover’ so that it is a self-directed activity. Remember, it is not the product that is important, it is the process. The ‘process’ here is the high order cognitive function of creative problem-solving.
5. Do Puzzles
A great variety of educational puzzles are available in every stage of challenge. Jigsaws are particularly good for developing memory, concentration and cognitive skills. And depending on your child’s experience, you can buy or hire jigsaws with anything from 4 pieces to 4000 pieces!
If we fill our children’s days with television watching, we run the risk of raising children who don’t know how to entertain themselves, are passive, unfit and lacking in creativity. When our children are very young, we are the greatest influence on what lifestyle habits they develop. Active healthy children become active healthy adults.