Promote Activities that Stimulate Your Child’s Imagination:
In my prior posts, I emphasized the importance of parent’s blocking out time each week to spend quality family time with their children. We also discussed the dangers of too much time immersed in television, video games and social media. Though there is a time for those things, parents need to be wary of the amount of time that children spend on these activities.
Certainly, there are times when setting a child in front of a movie or cartoon that they enjoy can be just what the doctor ordered: entertaining the child while allowing the parent(s) to get things done. However, it is extremely important that we not fall into the trap of allowing our children (or ourselves, for that matter) to spend hour upon hour spaced out in front of the television or playing video games.
Young children do not know how to set limits on their behavior — they need to be taught! This is the role of the parent. Unfortunately, with so many households where both parents work and/or single parent homes where the only parent works full-time, many children are growing up with their primary source for entertainment and instruction being the television or computer. As mentioned in my last post, the average American child spends 7.5 hour each day immersed in television or video games. Don’t let that be your child!
Not only can too much sitting in front of tv or video games lead to health problems like myopia (near-sightedness) and obesity, but it can also impede your young child’s emotional/mental development and stifle his or her creativity.
My recommendation is that you limit children to an hour per night on week days (both during the school year and in the summer, when they should be encouraged to play outside) and perhaps a couple hours during weekend days. “HOW???“, you ask. Well, it’s not easy, but here are a few suggestions that have worked for me:
- Start Young — the younger the child is when you begin limiting their intake of digital stimulation, the better. The television is not called the “electronic drug” for nothing. The best way to prevent addiction is to prevent it from ever becoming an addiction.
- Provide Structure — Provide a schedule for your child. It will be much easier for you, as the parent, to obtain consistent results if your child knows what is expected of them and has a schedule to follow. Such a schedule should include (at a minimum) the following:
- daily chores: age-appropriate, of course, but even young children benefit from learning to help around the house.
- work (chores, homework, practice for music lessons, etc.) before play
- fixed times and time limits for television/computer/video games
- planned family times (e.g., meals together, activity nights, etc.)
- fixed bed times
- Direct their forms of Entertainment — When their chores and homework are done, and outside of the hours allotted for electronic entertainment, you cannot be expected to entertain them the remainder of the time, but you can encourage them to spend their time constructively. You may think that a child should be able to determine this for themselves, but often, without direction, all they can do is sit around thinking about what they’d like to be doing 🙂 Here are a few things you can direct them to do:
- Play outside if weather permits. We have an obesity epidemic in our country today, even among our children, largely due to inactivity and lack of exercise.
- Read a book. Reading is scientifically shown to be so much better for mental stimulation than, say, watching the same story on television. The mind and imagination are so much more active while reading than just passively watching.
For young children, allow me to recommend this newly released book, written and illustrated by a young lady in my local church. It’s great for young children and teaches a valuable lesson about humility and forgiveness:
[amazonjs asin=”1940728010″ locale=”US” title=”The Moose and the Goose”]
- Find toys that appeal to your child’s interests. For example, one of my sons loves the Star Wars movies and the Star Wars LEGO video games, so I’ve gotten him some Star Wars action figures and LEGO sets that he absolutely loves playing with. We also got a Star Wars themed Monopoly game for our family game nights, which appeals to him much more than I think the classic version would. It amazes me how once your child begins exercising their imagination they can spend hours entertaining themselves and can actually learn to prefer these activities.
These are just a few suggestions from a single father (me) to you! I’d love to hear your suggestions and what has worked for you, as well. Please share your comments below and let me know if you’d like to receive my monthly newsletter.