Engaging and Fun Activities to Distract Children from Screens

While technology has brought the world closer to us, early exposure to it can harm a child’s holistic development. This article discusses how to engage young minds away from screens.

Using screens for extended periods in today’s digital time has become very prevalent, regardless of age group. Excessive screen time, whether from a teenager scrolling through social media, reading, or a child watching cartoons, is a major issue for families. As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is recommended that for children under the age of two, there should be extremely limited screen usage, with video chat being the exception. For preschoolers, parents or guardians must limit screen time to one hour of high-quality content every day, and use must be monitored as the child grows older.

And as the summer holidays approach, this presents a perfect time to engage young minds in activities that can keep them away from screens. The Mayo Clinic reports that excessive screen use is linked to a range of harmful outcomes, including sleep issues, obesity, and developmental delays in social skills and language. Adding to that as per the journal JAMA Pediatrics, toddlers who spend more time on screens are not only more likely to experience the concerns mentioned above, but they also have fewer talks with their parents or caregivers. They talk less, hear less, and engage in fewer back-and-forth conversations with adults than children who spend less time in front of computers. To combat this, here are some fun and creative ways to keep your children entertained and learning away from digital devices:

Arts & Crafts Creativity : 

Arts and crafts can help improve children’s communication skills.  Create a craft nook in your home with supplies for painting, drawing, and producing DIY crafts. Arts & crafts, ranging from handmade playdough to scrapbooking encourage creativity, emotional expression, and fine motor skill development. This also provides an opportunity for children to share their thoughts with others through their craft ideas. As they get older, this will help them communicate more effectively, both verbally and non-verbally.

   2. Outdoor Adventures : 

While children spend most of their time either in school classrooms or studying inside, outdoor adventure gives them a chance to get away and stretch their muscles. Vacations provide them a time to explore the outdoors, go for bird-watching, or family hikes, or organize a scavenger hunt in your local park.  Such activities reduce the screen time and also help children learn more about nature and the environment. It can also elevate a child’s advanced motor skill development such as coordination, balance, and agility.

   3. Reading Sessions :

According to a 2023 pan-India survey by the Development Intelligence Unit (DIU), more children in rural communities across 21 states use smartphones for entertainment than for studying. The survey was conducted with 6,229 parents of schoolchildren aged 6-16.

Thus rather than giving phones, it is important to promote a love for reading by setting aside time each day for storytime. Visit your local library to pick out books together, and encourage older children to read aloud to their younger siblings.

4. Sports and Physical Activities :

As is well known ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. NEP 2020 also highlights the need for it and accepts it being as vital to other subjects like Science or English. One can enroll children in local sports clubs or simply play catch, badminton, run race, or play basketball in your backyard or clubhouse. It also enhances mood, reduces stress, improves fitness, sleep, and muscles, and helps socialize.

   5. Science Play: 

Children learn anything through trial and error. They have a curiosity to learn about things, let them experiment this summer on it under your guidance. This can be done by simple steps such as turning your home or garden into a lab by making a volcano with baking soda and vinegar or a DIY lava lamp, why oil floats on water, making bubbles. This can help teach them that science activities are not only fun but educational, it will also promote problem-solving, creativity and divergent thinking among young minds.

When in doubt, stick to tried-and-true classics like building a house of cards, making paper-bag puppets, doing a blindfolded taste test, or playing marbles, Also, encourage youngsters to use their hands in activities that include touching and manipulating different objects. Allow children to make shapes, create natural art, or play with water.

And, while all of this is important, it is crucial to remember that children learn by example, so limit your screen time and engage in more physical activity. According to the Vivo Switch Off Research report, 93% of parents are dissatisfied with their relationships with their children, which they blame on excessive smartphone use. 77% of parents report that their children complain about their excessive use of smartphones. This necessitates the need to switch off the phones and go for family outings or game nights for all members of the family to set an example that fun exists beyond screens.

Article by Mrs Damayanti Bhattacharya, Principal, JML School and Bloomingdales Pre-Primary

This article appeared in Tots India an online portal on 24th May 2024

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