Perhaps you’ve followed the debate. Too much screen time rots kid’s brains. That’s why Steve Jobs and other tech leaders won’t let their kids use connected devices. On the other side, we hear that with proper supervision access to the internet and digital games improves learning. Or, this is the same debate we had about TV and that didn’t pan out to be a problem or did it?
This is a pointless debate. The plain fact is, when kids are using devices they are not playing. When they are not playing, they are not developing optimally. It’s that simple.
We have allowed these seductive machines into our homes, and now we have to face the consequences and pay the piper. We have permitted tech to become a convenient baby sitter. We feel inadequate to compete with the addictive qualities inherent social media and digital entertainment. The battles over limitations wear us down, and we make a rear-guard effort to distract the kids with scheduled activities.
Bringing Back Play
There is good news…and some bad news. The bad news? Both you and your kids have gotten out of the habit of play, and it will take some effort to develop new playful habits. The good news is that you have eons of evolution on your side. Play is fun, it is rewarding, and it can is found anywhere. More good news? There are just two basic changes you have to make. Here they are.
The most powerful way to have more play is more kids. There is nothing more interesting or compelling than playing with other children. There is more good news in that when you have friend’s kids at your house your friend can reciprocate giving you some kid-free time in trade. So, your number one tool is more social-life for your kids. Now comes the hard part.
Opening up to having more play around the house is the hard part because we tend to be out of the habit of play. And play consumes both resources and your time to monitor and set limits.
Most of us don’t have play-friendly spaces in our homes. Play is messy and often noisy. We know that when the play is over, there will be a lot of clean up even when the kids “help.” Creating spaces that support play takes planning and allowing the children’s needs take up a seeming disproportionate share of your home.
Now for some excellent news. There are excellent examples that will provide you with all the ideas and solutions you need to make the changes to a playful home and backyard. Where can you find these models? Your local early childhood education center embodies decades of experience in setting up a playful environment. Such centers have mastered providing just the right stimulus for play in a manner that requires the least amount of teacher input and effort. Of course, you don’t have to turn your house into a nursery school; all you need to do is adopt small scale versions of the best ideas.
Your job is threefold. One is the planning and implementation of playful spaces inside and outside. Second is creating a network of friends with whom you can trade playdays. Finally, you will need to get the ball rolling by watching the way the children play and support their play with added resources and limit setting as required until the activity is self-sustaining.
Simple, right? Well yes, but a lot of work initially and with practice being a playful home becomes easier and easier. The real miracle is that the issue of screen time, and your concerns about that, will have vanished.