I always get this question via email or via my social media account: “What activities can I let my child do at home? I want to be able to also teach my child’s caregiver about these activities so they don’t have to just watch television most of the time.” I would reply by saying that: “there are so many things you can do with your child, and these things do not necessarily have to involve any technology or gadget.”
Before we even had children, Mike (my husband) and I decided that we would not expose our children to gadgets until they become preschoolers. Why? Aside from the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages exposing young children to screen media (an updated recommendation was recently released that discussed certain limitations), we believed in the value of play and the many benefits it can do to our children. This translated into informing our kasambahay and relatives about our decision to apply such principle and I’m glad they respected our decision.
I believe that being gadget-free is possible in any home if everyone gets on board. Our basic rule at home is to let our children play. It was not difficult to implement this because we have set-up a play room where both Ellie and Julia can safely explore. We are also blessed to have a garden and a backyard where our children can just be outdoors. We also have a park in the village where our children can visit in the afternoon. I’m proud to say that my children can spend hours playing on their own, indoor or outdoors and those activities are enough to keep them busy.
What are these gadget-free activities that I do with my children at home? Let me share it with you and hopefully, you can try it at home.
- Play with boxes: I keep a couple of grocery boxes at home and just put it in our play area. Children can do so many things with boxes- make a tower, build a fortress, turn it into a train, etc. Having an open-ended material such as a box can encourage him to be creative, to think beyond the “box” and to come up with stories which is good for his language development.
2. Drop Everything and Read: Books have always been part of our household. We exposed them to books ever since they were small. It has always been part of our routine. Mike and I both want to raise children who are curious, who are focused and who are good listeners and we know that reading is a good way to achieve these goals. It’s funny that whenever my children would see books at home, they would drop whatever they are doing or stop from whatever they are doing, and just sit down and browse that book. I love that we can read 10 books in one sitting and how we would even at times, stop them from reading because it’s time to leave or it’s time for bed.
3. Play with blocks. I love it whenever I watch Ellie and Julia play with blocks. I love listening to the characters and the stories they come up with as they build blocks. At times, I wouldn’t ask them to pack away the blocks after they play and I would encourage them to keep their creations until the next day. By doing so, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and at the same time, they can continue on whatever they worked on for that day. Try it and see your child’s reaction when you do it. You can also write: “Don’t pack away yet.”
4. Play with puzzles. I’d usually start with a 2-piece puzzle for Julia and 3-4 piece puzzle for Ellie. This a good activity to keep them focused and to develop those finger muscles. I also use the puzzles to expose them to simple concepts such as: animals, everyday objects, etc.
5. Play using Props: We have a corner at home where we put a variety of costumes and props that Ellie and Julia can wear or use anytime if they feel like it. They sing, they dance, they reenact some scenes from the stories they read. I also set-up a play mat like this train activity mat where they would usually come up with stories about the trips they will go to as they ride the train.
6. Cooking Activities: We make colourful pastas, bake lollipop cakes and make our own pizza. These cooking activities are good opportunities to exercise those finger muscles and at the same time, expose them to math and science skills (measuring, predicting what will happen if you mix one ingredient with another, etc).
7. Lots of Outdoor Play: When Ellie and Julia go outdoors, they either play with the sand box or with the water table. They also water our garden plants and look after our pet turtles.
I’ve seen the benefits of these activities on Ellie and Julia. They are more focused, more independent (they can play for hours), curious, do not complain that they are “bored”, able to express themselves confidently, and able to get along well with others. More importantly, as a parent, you get to spend quality time with your children as you are fully present with them whenever you do these activities.
I believe that technology is good but there is a right time to expose our children to it. In addition to this, our kasambahays have been “trained” to not resort to gadgets as the babysitter but instead, support our children’s play by playing with them.
I’m looking forward to adding more activities to my gadget-free list. Hope you can share yours, too. 🙂
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