Bring Back the Wonder….

There was an article in my local newspaper recently that stated, ” More parents are using IPad, other tech gadgets to keep young kids occupied, entertained while at home, out and about.” The author, Rasha Madkour, writing for Associated Press, goes on to quote many parents who wouldn’t go out without their iPads or phones at the ready to occupy their kids if they get bored or antsy. I am talking 2, 3, 4 year olds sitting mesmerized by a video, a game or some other app on a tech gadget.

Upside, they learn technology that is part of our culture and in many cases part of the schools they will go to. Older kids can read books or learn skills on these devices that increase their ability level while being interesting and keep them quiet and occupied while the adults do what they want to do.

But are there downsides and how serious are they? I would say there are and they are affecting the development of children’s brains and their ability to use their imaginations away from their gadgets. Being bored is a creative motivator. Many a game, invention and idea have their roots in boredom. Just the ability to engage without a gadget to direct you, is a skill that is transferable throughout life.

Many children do not get to wonder very much any more; wonder with their minds, wonder with their bodies, wonder about their world. If they do they are often given the answer, immediately quenching the thirst and get frustrated when the the answer is delayed. What about wondering, and allowing that wonder to engender ideas and suppositions, explorations and  discoveries?

We know that  movement supported by proper nutrition organizes mental processing, influences body chemistry (including lowering stress responses), and helps mold the structure of the brain. By removing movement from our children’s lives, we sacrifice a crucial factor in their development. Schools have lessened recess time, “No Recess” is the usual punishment for behavior that is actually screaming for movement, If we place a child in front of a gadget and help them be still  instead of encouraging them to go outside or even inside to play, move, run, jump; are we fully serving them or making it easier for ourselves?

Sometimes we need quiet, it has been too much. I understand.I am not saying no electronics or even that electronics are “bad” (although I could go on for days on the detriments for young children especially!) But, I would recommend swaying to the less rather than more side. The benefits are huge. If children were not expecting immediate entertainment from an external source, perhaps they would learn to make their own. To wonder and then figure it out.You might be delighted with what they come up with!

When my girls were younger our living room was divided into several lands – Little Land, Doll Land, Gnome Land. Couches were moved forward or sideways and they would be engaged for long hours either together or alone in these worlds. When friends would come over they would play in these Lands, make up new games, explored crafts or run around outside creating stories and plays that they remember many years later. TV was not generally an option in our home. Creativity led to some interesting moments and mistakes were made, learning occurred.

Children need to be hands on to learn to manipulate things, put them together and take them apart. This leads to the ability to integrate brain function, academic strengths, as well the development of fine and gross motor skills. Children need to be with others to learn How to be with others. If communication is all electronic, or time is spent engrossed in an LED screen being entertained, then how do they learn to communicate well with others, get their needs met, the importance of meeting the needs of others, compromise, etc. If immediate gratification is expected at a push of a button, how do they learn self control, modulation, and taking turns?

Again, it is not that electronic gadgets are wrong to use. Just look at what your goals are and if satiating the potential boredom with a gadget meets those needs. Sometimes it will, but not always.

By giving your children practice at entertaining themselves, you give them the skills to be self-sufficient wherever they find themselves – even with the power out or batteries die. They will draw on those skills even when they are older and use more of the electronics in their lives. It might be uncomfortable for awhile, hard to keep them “controlled” but less time than you might think, creativity, imagination, independence and learning life’s lessons will be a natural part of your lives.

Here are a few ideas on how to get started, adjust to the needs of your family and child:

  1. At a restaurant, instead of handing over the iPad, play an observation game – how many red things do you see, blue, round, pointy? Get creative.
  2. Do the same sort of thing with sounds if you child is not sound sensitive.
  3. Put things on a table, everyone looks at them, then change something (everyone can close their eyes or you can be subtle about it) who can notice what is different?
  4. If you are out somewhere and letting the kids run around is not an option, play movement games by copying moving one body part or another, put sounds to it, etc.
  5. 5. At home, create areas of play with dolls, sock puppets, boxes, paper clips, rubber bands, crayons, markers, what ever works.
  6. Start with short periods of time and increase these independent time. Do not reward with electronics, reward with time with you. Let the electronics be separate.
  7. Begin to limit TV, gadget time a bit at a time. You don’t have to explain, it just what you think is best. As kids get older you can tell them you think they are creative and smart and you want them to use that. Plenty of time for the rest later.
  8. Employ music – but not always passively – how does it make you feel, what colors could you draw to it, what story can you make up with it.
  9. Tell stories about yourself, places, people in history or your family. Make up stories about a place or an animal you see…

Wonder… remember how to Wonder….

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Comments

  1. Well done. I’m going to use some of those suggestions! Denise

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