Raising a child in this digital age is no easy task. Nowadays, parents resort to the use of digital media in order to pacify and engage their children and get a few minutes of peace. However, most parents fail to realize how harmful these digital media tools are for the mental and physical health of their kids. Technology and media may be an effective outlet to keep children quiet but it should not be the only method of pacifying your child and his/her emotions. According to scientific studies, children who spend their whole day using mobile phones, tablets, watching television etc. end up developing social interaction problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression to name a few.
Hence, it is important for parents to find alternative methods of engaging their children and keeping them busy instead of just handing them your phone and tablets. Of course, every parent needs a breather every now and then, because let’s admit it, parents are also humans and they, too, get tired.
So here are a few easy methods of engaging your child outside of digital media while at the same time getting your peace of mind as well:
This type of play is also known as independent play, which is essentially chosen, initiated, explored and executed by the child himself/herself. This type of play is important for the child to learn because once they engage in self-directed play, they will become less dependent on you and much less demanding. Then the parent can basically relax and do their own tasks of the day (check email, read, have a cup of tea etc.). Self-directed play is really good for a child’s confidence, social and emotional health and problem-solving skills.
Make sure your child’s environment is safe
If you want to be able to leave your child unattended so you may get your own work done in your house, you must make sure that your child’s environment is engaging and childproofed. You may use gates to cordon off the off-limit rooms and give access to only the safe-play rooms of the house so the child may wander as they please and be safe at the same time. It may also be wise to use child-locks and drawer locks so you can go about your daily tasks without having to worry about your child fiddling around and poking their nose where it should not be. Moreover, create an environment, which keeps your child occupied and interested. For example, you may use tables and chairs of their size so they make the space their own or put their toys and games in different parts of the house so they are free to wander around and not be restricted to one room, which may become monotonous for the child.
Be innovative with games and toys
Do some research and figure out different types of games, puzzles, toys etc. that are innovative and creative. Look for out-of-the-box types of play and develop certain interests in your child so they may self-explore and discover their own likes and dislikes. You may give your child advanced level of puzzles, building games, cognitively challenging games etc. to keep them occupied. In the beginning, play the games with them and show them how it works and then gradually, let them do it on their own. Eventually, the children will start having fun on their own and not be dependent on the parent for entertainment.
Encourage play of imagination
Encourage your child to use their imagination in play. Teach them ways of creating and innovating their own thoughts, which builds a child’s cognitive skills and broadens their mental capacities. Using your imagination is a task in itself because it requires the child to challenge their own thoughts of reality and build their own version of reality. Engaging your child in imaginative play basically lessens their dependence on digital media and tangible goods – they learn to keep themselves occupied and not get bored.
It is always better to keep the playing space of your child organized so the child knows where all their toys are. Instead of putting all the toys in a big basket, categorize the different toys and games into smaller baskets and boxes so the child can visibly see where what is. This way, the child is more prone to spend more time in playing because they can vary between games and toys of their choosing. If they are all in one whole box, the clutter and chaos of the toys will most likely put off the child after a point and lessen the time of play. However, one must still monitor the child and keep an eye out.
Practice what you preach
If you do not want your child hooked onto digital media all day long, you must also make a conscious effort to not be on your own phone all day long. If your child sees you on your phone all day, it will be much less effective for you to make them understand that they, too, cannot use the phone so much. If you are encouraging them to find alternative ways of engagement, you, the parent, should also find alternative ways to spend your time (excessive use of digital media can be just as harmful for adults as well!) and be a good role model. Children, as a rule, follow the ways of their parents and integrate the actions of their caregivers. So make a conscious effort to reduce your use of mobile phones, tablets, television etc.
Build a relationship with your child
Often, as parents, we tend to get so caught up in raising our children ‘right’, that we forget to be their friends as well. Instead of giving your child the phone to keep them quiet or to stop their nagging, take time out to talk to them – about anything and everything really. Build a bond with your child, converse with them and play with them – it will mean the world to your child. Don’t just be a parent, be a friend too. Interacting with your child on an emotional basis can have wondrous effects on the child’s self-esteem and they will start responding to you much more as well. The relationship you build with your kid during their childhood will define the sort of relationship you have with them throughout their life so do not take it lightly and put in that effort to be there for them – emotionally and physically.
Even though digital media has a lot of benefits attached to it, it is important for parents to understand that the child must learn to explore and discover themselves outside of the realm of the media and become healthy individuals - mentally and physically!
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