One of the issues that parents in the millennial age face is screen time. Kids today are exposed to TVs, mobiles, iPads, video games, so early in their life, and it is very easy to get hooked on to these things, that the importance of outdoor play is something that has to be enforced on them. Unlike us, they don’t wait for evenings so they can go outside and play. They can take out their controls and start playing on their screens at any point of time. Unlike us, they have so many options for entertainment, they are not “allowed” to get bored! Play time for kids literally means screen time in many cases!!
We only had our friends, a small space in our society common area, and sticks and twigs to play with, maybe a ball or two. With such limited resources, the creativity in kids comes out on top, and they create different wonderful activities to do on their own. We didn’t need fancy cricket equipment to play with. A tennis ball, and a stick of wood to act as stumps was enough! Not so with kids today… They get everything they want the moment it comes out of their mouth. So, they don’t know the meaning of waiting to deserve the special equipment they are getting.
You know, let’s not be so harsh on the parents! Nowadays, generally both parents are working, and with today’s corporate life, they get back home only late in the evening. After a rigorous day in office, they just don’t have strength left to again take their kids out for a game. If the kid pesters for it, the easy solution is TV or YouTube videos. Parents, we know how difficult it is to manage jobs, and home, and kids all together. So, please do not feel guilty if you take a shortcut here and there. It’s absolutely fine!
But, let’s face it. We need to imbibe this habit of physical exertion in kids some time sooner or later, right? They should be on their feet, and running around, however much that annoys you, and not sitting in a corner, playing games on your mobile! If you are not able to do it on your own, there are a few other things that you can initiate to make this work.
Playtime for kids that would involve fun as well as fitness
- Enroll them in a playground where activities are taken. This way, you only have to manage the logistics, and even there, we get cab facilities today. So, take full advantage of those!
- If the kids have elder siblings, give the elder sibling a responsibility once in a while to take his baby brother/sister to play.
- Take them out to a playground where there are slides and swings. You can sit on a bench and relax while the kid plays on his own. Only a little supervision is required here.
- Take them with you, when you have to run errands. If you have to go to a superstore, the kid can cycle alongside you. Drive your bike at a slow speed to match his/hers, and let them take the experience of cycling on the road. You can also take this opportunity to explain the rules when biking on the road.
- If they are a bit older, and able to navigate in the society on their own, you can take their help to pass messages and carry things to and from your neighbors. Give them tasks to do, and trust that they will do it right. This will also help them with taking responsibility. Kids actually love that, you know!
- Have a limit on the daily screen time. Decide when they are allowed to watch TV and play on tablets. Put a firm stop on it, when the time is up, so they know they cannot dispute on that.
- Allow them to get bored! This is highly important. You do not have to provide them with entertainment every minute of the day. Let them get bored. Let them get tired. It’s at such times, that their creative juices will start flowing, and they will come up with something fun, creative and amazing!
- Let them get dirty! Another important thing to remember. Your kids are not dainty dolls to be preserved as they are. They are going to get dirty. It’s fine. Clothes can be washed. Keep a separate set of play clothes, which are comfortable to wear, and it wouldn’t matter if it gets a bit too dirty.
- They are going to get hurt. Let them get over their cuts and bruises, on their own. Do not overreact, and treat it as something important. If the kid thinks every cut and bruise is bad, he will have an aversion to risk, the rest of his/her entire life.
- Once the kid reaches the age of 5 or 6, enroll him/her in different sports or any physical activity (like dance, for example). Check out where their interests lie. Encourage them to follow it.
- Give them daily responsibilities like winding up their playthings, setting the table for dinner, cleaning up afterwards. Do these activities along with them and engage in a dialogue with them, so they will have fun while doing it. You could play word games, or simply check out what happened during the day.
- Get them excited about traveling. If I’ve learnt something in life, it is that travel broadens your mind like nothing else does. Not books, not schools, not anything else. Plan trips with them. They could be small weekend trips. They could be even half a day trips to the local park or a historical place. Go for bird watching. Go for a nearby farm, and let them play in the mud. I bet you, they will enjoy it like anything!
Do not let them get addicted to screen
All these things above should be done, so that the kids do not get addicted to screens, and rather, enjoy the fresh air outside.
Actually, you know, this is good for you as well! After spending the entire day in office in front of the laptop, it will do you good to be in the fresh air outside, even if you just sit on a bench. Go on, take that break, and get the amazing joy of watching the pure joy on your child’s face as she rises high in the sky on that swing!