The battle against the screens

When I was a kid, my parents couldn’t get me to STOP playing outside. There was pretty much no Internet, and technology distractors like TV and video games were primitive enough that they weren’t nearly as addictive as they are now. We would just go out and play with the local kids on the street.

Nowadays, times have changed. People have less kids, we are definitely less friendly with our neighbours, and you don’t see kids playing outside or even really playing with their neighbours. Services like YouTube, Netflix, and Twitch are so captivating that why wouldn’t kids just want to sit inside and indulge all day. They don’t have the self-control that adults do (at least most of us). It falls to the parent to set proper boundaries and guidelines so the child does not end up an anxious, anti-social, reserved kid when they get older.

It’s tough, and I get why parents fall so easily to the temptation of giving their kids their phone or iPad, or let them watch TV all day. North American lifestyle is very busy, with long work hours and commute times. Single-income families are dwindling and people are having kids later in life, so Mom and Dad don’t have as much energy when they get home as they used to.

But it doesn’t mean you should give up! The social development from rough-and-tumble play in my opinion is the most important thing to work on for a child. It teaches them basic social skills and how to interact with others. If they don’t get on the path learning it from a young age, it can compound into bigger social issues when they get older.

I try my best to play with my 4-year old almost everyday. And I can proudly say that my daughter is way more outgoing and friendly than other kids her age that we know. It could just be her personality but I feel like she has made some great developments from the time I’ve put into just simple play or taking her out to places with other kids around to play with.

Here is a list of things you can try to keep your kids busy and away from the screens:

  • long walks (weather permitting). If they get bored, you can try turning natural things into games/adventures. Like if you see a big rock, see if they can climb out. Or pick flowers/collect rocks/sticks. Or race to see who can make it to that tree the fastest
  • LET THEM BE BORED. I heard at a birthday party from a parent that “creativity comes from boredom”. I tried it out, turned off all the TVs, and when she finally gave up asking, sure enough she was playing some dress-up adventure with her dolls 20 minutes later. Don’t underestimate kids’ ability to keep themselves entertained
  • water fight/pool/sprinkler party (weather permitting). I found just getting a big bucket and filling it with water, then giving my kid a cup was one of the funnest times we had
  • set limits and routines. Instead of just letting them watch TV until whenever, we would say you can watch x many shows or something like that. She understood clearly the expectation and there was less of a fight when it ended
  • use screens as incentives. For example, you could say something like “go clean your room and then we can watch another show” or “go color for 30 minutes and then we can watch another movie”
  • hide and seek
  • throwing/hitting each other with stuffed animals
  • acting out their favourite movies/stories
  • wrestling. I know this one may sound weird if you’re a mom, but you’d be surprised how much kids like just climbing/wrestling/grabbing/poking/etc. you if you have the energy to keep up. I would just start it up by giving her a gentle shove and things would normally take off from there
  • baking/cooking
  • workbooks
  • work out together. Obviously she can’t life weights, but you would be surprised how much fun they have trying to mimic your workout with whatever they can find
  • having more kids! This is by far the easiest way. If you have a bunch close together, generally they will be able to entertain themselves

It’s a daily battle, but beating the screens is key to getting your kid to develop socially which is arguably the most important access in success in all areas of your life.

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