By Larraine Roulston:
Today’s media-entrenched children reap the benefits of technology but also encounter several of its negative effects. In this digital and emotional world, establishing a workable balance in order to raise healthy childrenis imperative.Too much television and other variations of screen time can result in obesity, shorter attention span and ADHD, and can hinder language development. On the other hand, children who engage in independent play sessions benefit from a healthier environment that also can provide relief for working parents of preschoolers.
In order to cultivate a child’s self-directed play, it helps to have a selection of toys organized in an engaging and orderly fashion. As an example, blocks always can be kept in the same container, games and puzzles on a low shelf, some items on a tray, a selection of dress-up clothes in a cardboard box, and books displayed in a basket. A special low table (with accompanying small chair/s) displaying paper, paste, stickers and crayons offers a special place for crafts. Keep all play things within easy reach. Observe the favorite toys and tuck away others. They can be rotated from time to time. Too many varieties will result in clutter and overstimulation. Periodically, allow a large cardboard box in the living room to become a fort or castle. Canada’s world-renowned astronaut, Chris Hadfield, spent many youthful hours in his cardboard spaceship, as seen in the last link below.
Independent play makes choosing an activity and storing it when finishedeasy. Becoming self-directed also helps a child to remain focused, allowing you to perform your own tasks or to sit back and observe the developing mind.
Resist the urge to interrupt. When a child is busy exploring his or her environment, think of the expression “let sleeping dogs lie.” Let your child know that you are there to help when asked. If you see difficulties, hold back in order to allow sufficient time for your child to puzzle it out, which is all part of the joy of learning.
Trust the child’s judgment about what is chosen and the duration of time spent on each activity. A long span with an imaginary friend or short periods jumping from one toy to another may just be the mood of the day. Whatever the case, allow him or her to use that inner compass. Play is. Perhaps this is the reason that infants love to bang pots and pans with a wooden spoon, and handle other safe kitchen utensils, as these activities emulate the work they see in the kitchen.
Self-directed play gives parents a break; it takes a child away from watching television; it builds confidence, creativity and self-discipline; and it encourages problem-solving.
Having a small stool on hand also provides independence. It can give a child the opportunity to accomplish things such as reaching a sink to wash hands for him/herself.
As for screen time, perhaps just an hour each morning will do. Or on a weekend, a treat such as a movie event with popcorn for everyone’s enjoyment is appropriate. If, however, you require assistance to break viewing habits, by Janet Lansbury is worth checking out.
There is an environmental bonus as well. A child spending time in simple play has a lesser carbon footprint than does a child using much of today’s technology.